Often times I see athletes in the gym or speak with clients in the clinic that are spending precious time performing mobility drills that aren’t improving their pain or increasing their performance. If your shoulder feels tight while performing an overhead squat, you must have a shoulder mobility limitation, right? There are numerous studies that have linked dysfunction in one part of the body with pain and dysfunction in another part of the body. Without an assessment, we are blindly spinning our wheels in the hopes of improving our performance.
I am very excited to start this assessment series to share with coaches and athletes some of the things I see in the clinic that contribute to pain and dysfunction. This assessment is geared to the pain free athlete to help them move more efficiently, decrease risk of injury, and improve performance. If you are injured or experiencing pain, you should seek medical attention before athletic activity. I encourage everyone to perform assessments and reassessments as part of their daily routine to ensure that the applied mobility is beneficial.
Assess Your Squat Flexibility
I want to kick off the assessment series by breaking down the deep squat. We will start by assessing closed chain dorsiflexion, which is the position the ankle is in during the bottom of the squat. Dorsiflexion describes the movement when you bring the top of your foot and your shin closer together.
When this motion is limited or stiff, an athlete may toe out excessively. They’ll have trouble keeping their knees over their toes or their heels may lose contact with the ground which will force them forward. If you’re not as flexible and it’s difficult for you to move your knee forward align with your toe, you’ll compensate by putting more strain on your knees and hips. Besides pain in your knees and hips, these imbalances could lead to pain in your back as well. Depending on where you feel limited around your ankle, this assessment will give you an idea as to whether you need to improve flexibility. You might need to work on mobilizing a joint or specific muscle around your ankle. The goal is to have no pain and fluid movement when going into your deep squat.
Finding Your Ankle Limitation
• Find the issue that’s affecting your deep squat
• Start four inches from the wall and perform in half-kneeling
• Drive your knee forward and keep it in line with the second toe
• Neutral arch and heel in contact with the floor
• Repeat on opposite leg
• Do you feel a stretch in the calf or above your heel?
• Or do you feel more of a restriction in the front (joint)?
Stretching Out Your Feet & Ankles
• Self-myofascial release techniques with foam roller
• 5 to 10 passes from heel to knee on outside/middle/inside of the back the leg
• 10 to 20 repetitions on each side of half-kneeling ankle stretches
• 10 to 15 repetitions on each side of elevated foot stretches
• 10 repetitions of squatting while elevating balls of the feet
• 5 repetitions of goblet squat
This post was written by Jonathan Burke, DPT, the Clinic Director at Therapydia NOLA. His primary professional focus is sports medicine and treating musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Jonathan is certified as a CrossFit Level 1 trainer and coaches at a local box in the New Orleans area. Additionally, he’s Manual Therapy Certified, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, and Functional Movement Systems Certified.