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I've been trying to do a full squat, heels on the ground, for a while. It's become apparent that my ankle dorsiflexion is the weak link in the chain - my hip mobility is good, thigh strength OK, back strength and flexibility is fine, but I have trouble getting my knees far enough past my toes.

The best exercise I've found is to stand on one leg and bend my knee as far forward as it can go, loading the ankle tissues. About half the time, I can feel a stretch there, but the other half of the time, it feels like nothing is happening.

I've tried propping the ball of my foot up and doing the same stretch, with slightly better results but nothing feeling as predictable as, say, the stretch when touching my toes.

When I try the classic calf stretch (lean against a wall, one leg forward, one back) I only feel things happening in my calves, which is great but it feels like it's not working the ankle much.

So, one and a half questions here - is that calf stretch actually working ankle dorsiflexion more than I think? And, are there any other ways for aggressively targeting ankle dorsiflexion (bands, rolling...)?

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A quick google search found these three suggestions.

  • Self-myofascial release for the calf and plantar fasica
  • Stretching of the calf
  • Ankle mobility drills

The search also suggested doing these barefoot, something I would heavily agree with.

What does your squat form look like? Bending your knees that far forward in a bend, is not particularly healthy, especially when practiced frequently. A deep squat still calls for good form. Have you tried pistol squats, goblet squats, split squats, or lunges? Is your squat wide enough? Are your glutes and hamstrings engaged enough? Are you attempting to do these with weights? I find it easier to go really deep in squats if I am weighted. I like to do squats barefoot, in order to feel exactly what I am doing, but that may be just me.

The stretch against the wall thing is not really my favorite, but you will find better results if you keep both of your legs back, and then lean against the wall as close as you can, with your body straight. I would suggest a downwards dog stretch to be more effective.

Hobbling your ankles with a band, and then taking small steps to feel where you might be going wrong could be helpful, but don't stop there. There are a lot of options with a band. Also try balancing on a pillow or balsu ball with one leg. Try throwing a ball to someone while balancing on one leg, and eventually work your way up to doing medicine ball tosses on one leg, or twisting your torso from side to side while holding the medicine ball and balancing.

Plyometric or hiit workouts in general should help because of the amount of jumping they often involve. For that matter, break out a jump rope!

You could try laying on your side with your leg in the air, as if to do a leg raise, and then do ankle rolls with your leg suspended.

Being completely warmed up, and doing lots of ankle rolls are really what I think it comes down to.

Good luck!

  • This is encouraging, thank you so much. – Ben Sep 16 '16 at 14:04

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