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Rest Day

David and Fox use their exceptional ankle mobility to compete in a inebriated 'pistol-off"
Ankle Mobility
Christian Fox

When a joint lacks range of motion, whether due to injury or inflexibility, another joint above or below it will attempt to make up for the range of motion deficit. In referring to the ankle we see this commonly in all the squat variants, and particularly in the Front Squat and Overhead Squat, whether as their own movements or as the receiving position for the Clean and the Snatch. Most of you should know that limited hip flexion ROM (tight hamstrings and adductors, perhaps) would cause undesirable movement in another joint(s), your lumbar spine. As you move deeper into the squat and hit the end of your hip flexion ROM, your back begins to flex in an attempt to get lower. This isn’t good, right? Right! Let’s take a look at limited dorsi-flexion (toes toward the shin) ROM at the ankle. It could start to be made up for at the knee, but then the bar starts to travel back too far. Think squatting with perfectly vertical shins and an upright torso. You’d fall backwards, right?. So what happens next is the hip starts to flex (fold forward) in an attempt to keep the bar balanced over mid-foot. What happens here? In a Front Squat you probably lose the bar forward. In an Overhead Squat you’d probably lose the bar forward or compensate even further up at the shoulder and have the bar way back behind you, over the mid to low back instead of over the scapulae. To pull off this circus stunt of a squat would require sick shoulder strength, stability, and ROM at the shoulder. More than likely it’d be a missed lift.
Of course in both of these situations, when you run out of hip flexion ROM due to the increased demand caused by limited ankle ROM, you could still make up for it at the lumbar spine…Still not good.


Check out the angle at the ankle. Can you do that?
            So, how can you get more ROM at the ankle? Glad you asked. Here’s one way. Get in front of a wall (a wall with a ledge like at SBK or a doorway works well), place your heel close to the edge and the ball of your foot on the wall. You may need to lean back significantly to achieve this position. Use your arms to pull you in, leading your hips into the wall. Attempt to be as tall as possible and not bend over at the hip. Use leverage to create an acute angle at the ankle. You can use PNF for this stretch (contract 5 seconds, relax and pull into stretch 15 seconds) and you can rotate your shin over the ankle to hit different areas. Try this stretch both with a straight knee and with a slightly bent knee. Spend 2-4 minutes each leg. Your squat is worth it. Cheers to good squatting!

Some of you are in various stages of a "Mobility Challenge". How's it going so far? Why does good mobility seem to be the last thing on so many athletes's lists?

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Reader Comments (12)

Mobility challenge going well for me, I am much looser in my adductors, glutes, hamstrings, etc. I realize that with volume in the strength cycle, I can't increase or even maintain that mobility without several intensive sessions of stretching a week. My left ankle is still limited in it's range of motion after the bad sprain back in March. that forward flexion makes me feel it, it runs right down my foot and off to the outside. I'll keep working on the stretches.

I already feel the difference in comfort and efficiency in my lifts as a result of the mobility work, and I am confident that it will contribute to some new prs.

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Nice, Jim. I want to hear more of this stuff.

That's a great photo. A great photo of David demonstrating balance, mobility, and strength (and humor, sipping from his beverage) in the bottom of his pistol. I'd like to point out that while I don't look nearly as graceful coming out of my own pistol, I had lapped David at least 2x, possibly 3x, in the drinking part of the challenge.
September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFox
The mobility challenge is going so-so for me. Partly because I've discovered that I'm in much worse shape than I thought; it's hard for me to hold most positions. I'll keep doing it and get even more serious.

I think the reason why mobility work is so low on most people's lists is that it is tedious and painful. And no immediate reward, no numbers, nothing (unless we are smart about doing some kind of pre- and post-test with a lift or something like that). To do it requires a slightly strategic mindset, which most of us don't have.

Speaking of mobility, DMak, Michele, Joe, Jenn M and I are on a 30-day KStar mobility WOD challenge. The challenge requires daily performance of the Starrett WOD. If you fail, you do Jerry as punishment. I failed on Monday, so I did Jerry this morning (in 24:30 - my first ever Hero WOD RX'd. Probably the only one I'll ever do RX'd)
September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra
Since I've finally made enough linear progress in the strength intensive to be squatting heavy (for me) every single time, my hip flexors have tightened up considerably.

It was bugging me righteously until I started playing along with K-Star. Knock wood, it's much better - that is, the tightness is gone. So the proof of concept already happened for me.

Sometimes the daily stretch feels "random" to my body because he's proposing stretches related to the mainsite WOD, which isn't my programming. For this month, I'm ignoring that disconnect and just doing what he says - my goal is to build up a vocabulary of mobility work, so that I can hit my own hot spots in the future.
September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichele
you can't see mobility in the mirror.
September 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergabrus
I dropped four pounds in the first 3 days of my Paleo challenge (and I'm pretty much eating my face off.) Today is day 5.

Strength Cycle A, session 9

Beat my work weight PR from last cycle tonight.

LBBS 45x5, 75x5, 95x5, 117.5x2, 125x3x5Press 33x5, 40-ishx5, 45x3x5

Cleans suck all the ass. Over it.

Work weight 75x3x3 with a failed final rep.

Then we strongarmed 50-lb beer kegs, two reps each side.

Cashout: row 1000m + active sulking.
September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichele
I think chopra is right, flexibility is the least "sexy" thing to work on and requires the most time and effort, in my opinion. I think the mobility challenge is a great way to get things started but then people will need to refine their goals and needs and adjust the program accordingly. Following the blog for a month is a phenomenal start and can work as great way to tackle things while painting with a broad brush. Over time, what your Goats are need to be identified and addressed 3-5x per day.

My theoretical heirachy of training would be something along these lines;

1. Flexibility/mobility2. Relative Strength/Control (calisthenics, body awareness)3. Contra-lateral balance4. Absolute Strength (slow lifts)5. Power Production (Quick Lifts)6. Metabolic Conditioning7. Sports

Flexibility can be a barrier to success in all other components. Basically, if you can't get into a orthopedically proper position, the effectiveness, efficiency and safety of your training becomes compromised.

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Osorio
have been doing mobility since i started the strength cycle. i needed to, my squats sucked! they're getting a little better but i HAVE to keep doing mobility.

the reason it's last on people's list = it's hard. really hard.
September 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter.DMG
what's contra-lateral balance?
September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJMD
Static stretching poses the stiffest challenge.

I agree with all that hs been said thus far regarding the challenges regarding flexibility development. I'd like to add that when you're as tight as I am, there are so many areas to address that it's easy to become overwhelmed. It doesnt help that since we deal with movements that cross multiple joints there are lots of potential inflexible muscles to work on, some that may not be so obvious to someone without a working knowledge of kinesiology.
September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharmel
What Charmel said. Currently on my list of things I'd love to spend 5-10 minutes a day on:-freestanding handstands-muscle-ups-ankle mobility-hip flexor mobility-periformis/psoas mobility-shoulder mobility-handstand runs

Right there, that's 35-70' of accessory stuff that just overwhelms the crap out of me whenever I think about it. So i just don't do it. Bad, bad, bad.

PS: Hi from Paris! Yesterday Nick and I did 2 rounds of ~400m run, 35 squats. A guy asked Nick if he would change legs with him. Today we walked 6-8 miles. Linus walked 6-800 meters. He is a walking fiend. Miss you all.
September 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

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