The Importance of Hip and Ankle Mobility For Athletes: Part I

Before I start anything, you should really read a little bit on the joint-by-joint approach to training. Check out this. Pretty much all sports which require running results in numerous knee injuries. In my case, I had numerous ankle injuries. Obviously injuries in general want to be avoided.
Mobility isn’t done nearly enough. How do I know this? I know quite a few athletes at my gym and I pretty much never see them doing mobility work. Is this applicable to everyone? Nope, but it never hurts to try right?
In the joint-by-joint approach to training the ankle requires mobility, the knee requires stability and the hips require mobility. If you are lacking mobility at the ankle or hips, you will regain this mobility in the knee. The knee is obviously a joint meant for stabilization, if it’s providing mobility, you will increase your chances of injury.
Let’s look at a few assessments you can do on yourself to assess whether your mobility is any good in your hips and ankles. We’ll start with the ankles. Generally speaking, athletes with ankle mobility issues will experience a loss of ankle dorsiflexion. [youtube]uFnsEEc-JFo[/youtube] A study on basketball players showed that ankle dorsiflexion range of motion should be ~36.5 degrees in order to prevent knee pain. There are numerous reasons why individuals lose ankle dorsiflexion ROM, I could easily write another article on that issue. To put it simply; shoes, posterior lower leg tightness, and hip positions lead to this limited ROM.
Let’s get to the test. It’s really quite simple. You’re simply going to stand infront of wall with your right foot closer to the wall than your left. Keeping your hips level, you will bring your right knee to the wall. You will want to keep going away from the wall until your heel begins to come off the floor as you dorsiflex your ankle.
As the study above notes, an ankle range of motion (ROM) less than ~35 degrees can be harmful. If you have access to a goniometer, by all means, use it. Otherwise, you can make an estimate. You would also like to see your ankle mobility to be symmetrical.
In this video, Bill Hartman goes over a couple excellent ankle mobility drills. He first goes over the actual assessment (which can be used as a mobility drill as well). Then he goes over how soft tissue work can be incorporated to increase ankle dorsiflexion ROM.
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There are a couple other ones I like to use. Knee break ankle mobilizations are excellent. In this exercise, you will elevate your toes, and simply let your knees drift over your toes are far forward as you can:
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You can do this unilaterally or bilaterally.
Rocking ankle mobilization is another good one I like to use. You will feel an excellent stretch in your calves doing this.
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If your gastrocnemius is tight, keep your knee extended. If you want to target your soleus, flex your knee while performing the drill.
In the next installment of this series, I will cover parts of the hip!

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