One of the most common flexibility problems in CrossFit is limited ankle range of motion. Decreased ankle flexiblity is a likely contributor to a number of problems in the knees and hips and severely limits your overall athletic potential. In addition, a lack of mobility in the ankle is going to force compensations at other joints, which could lead to a host of other injuries. A big misconception is that the immature squat is always due to tight hip or lower back when in fact for most people it is due to tight ankles causing compensation via forward inclination of their torso because their knees cannot come forward. Here a few exercises and stretches you can incorporate daily to help improve your ankle range of motion and increase your overall fitness level.
1.Knee Taps to the Wall
This test is a useful tool to measure ankle range of motion. The goal of the test is to be able to touch your knee to the wall with the foot four inches away without the arch collapsing or the heel lifting off the floor. Place your foot between three to six inches away from the wall. Bending from the ankle, try to bring your front knee to the wall without moving your foot or having your ankle roll inward. See a video demonstration here.
2. Wall Stretch
Standing at a wall, place the leg to be stretched behind you. Keeping the knee of the back leg straight, lean forward until a stretch is felt in the back of the lower leg. Hold 15-30 seconds and repeat three times per side. It's important to keep your midline solid during this stretch and not break at the hips.
Holding the bottom of your squat is under utilized in Western societies. Doing it with the feet pointed straight is a good ankle mobilizer. I encourage everyone to work up to to being confident holding this for 10 minutes. What better way to improve your CrossFit training then by improving our most foundational movement. If we can develop better mobility and flexibility in our squat we can see improvement in so many other movements and exercises. Watch here.
4. Downward Facing Dog
This is one of the most commonly known yoga poses. Get in the top of your pushup and without moving your hands and feet, lift your hips up and back. You'll feel this in your hamstrings and all the way down through your calves. It’s great for stretching the ankles, but also is really good for overall flexibility. In addition to flexibility it will also strengthen your upper body and core musculature.