My son is a 15 year old competitive gymnast. He is being impeded by the fact that he has very poor ankle dorsiflexion. When asked to squat he can barely squat down. If asked to go further down, his knees collapse in, feet pronate, and heels come up. What are some good ways for him to improve dorsiflexion? I should add that 2 years ago he was evaluated by a sports medicine doctor, had xrays done and was refered for physical therapy. He was found to have no flexibility problems in back, hip flexors, etc. Slight tightness in calf muscles though nothing serious. He did make some progress with physical therapy but has since lost the exercises he did and can't remember them. We have moved far from that doctor since then. He currently can get nowhere near parallel to the floor. In fact almost as soon as he starts to squat his knees go in and heels up. He has been stretching his gastrocnemius, soleus with no improvement. He has just started the exercise with the band around the ankle and knee coming to the outside of a dowel that is commonly listed to help with this problem. I just wondered if there was anything else out there someone has found to be helpful.


1 Answer 1


For critics of what I said, here is a real paper by real scientists on just this topic:


From the paper:

Conclusions Calf muscle stretches provide a small but statistically significant increase in ankle dorsiflexion, particularly after 5–30 minutes of stretching It is unclear whether the change that occurs with calf muscle stretching is clinically important.


In other words, attempts to increase dorsal flexion through stretching may not amount to much in the real world (be clinically important) although they are detectable (statistically significant).

You can improve the flexion a little bit but if there is something structural about your body which prevents you from assuming a position, then stretching, trying, practicing, hoping and praying is not going to change your anantomy.

My original comment:

Try the full squating motion without any weight. Start standing and squat until you can no longer keep in form (whatever form you're aiming for, heels n floor etc. as you described). At the point you deviate from the target form, stop and go back up just a little to the point where the form is once again correct. Then go down very slowly, stopping just at that point where the form is just about to go bad again. This is the position we'll call the "stretching position" Keep this position for 30 seconds. Rest one minute then go into the stretching position again for 30 seconds. Stop and do no more for a full day. Do this once a day.

In a few days or weeks you may notice you're able to go further down in good form (bad form doesn't count). Continue this regime until you can go all the way down. Do not do more or more often. If you CAN do squats in good form, this will get you there.

However, it may be true that because of your particular anatomical structure, you're not able to assume the position needed to do squats in good form, and especially you're not able to do them safely in good form, without permanently injuring yourself. This is more common than you might realize if you hang out in the gym or with athletes. Those are people who by definition were not excluded from squating because of their particular anatomy. So in this case, it might not be advisable to listen to an expert if by expert you understand an excellent squater or coach who works with a lot of squaters.

Take this last point seriously. I cannot do overhead presses because of the way my shoulder and scapula are. If I persisted when I was getting the pain signal, I would be a person with a shoulder problem now. No big deal, it's just one movement and there are other movements which together work the same shoulder muscles as well. Ditto with squats. Take seriously the notion that not everyone can do every motion. Anyone telling you squats is a must do for some purpose or any purpose does not understand how muscles move limbs. Leg extensions, squat machines, hip flexion machines, lower-back machines or deadlifts, calf raises and leg curls collectively work all the muscles a squat does and more directly than a squat does. You do not need to do squats to have real and explosive leg strength.

One of the big names in running- it may have been Frank Shorter or Jim Fixx -ran with a somewhat weird gate that professional coaches tried to talk him out of. He ran that way naturally because of his specific anatomy. He tried to change for short while, then went back to his weird way, winning everything in sight. I am telling you this because you have to have the autonomy to withstand well meaning coaches' and experts' strong opinions about what you should do if something never feels right to you. You have to have the confidence to be the final arbitrator of what is OK for you and end it there.

Good luck.

  • 1
    You answer is a lot of fluff with some bad advice, can you back up your advice with quality knowledge and references and cut back on the fluff?
    – John
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 13:42
  • 1
    I am not sure where the bad advice in my answer is, perhaps you could be more specific?
    – Kirby225
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 14:47

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