Mobility is great. It’s taught us to be accountable for our own body and recovery and that, with a little time, we can put ourselves in better, safer positions to prevent injury.
But just because you stretch your notoriously tight shoulders before an overhead-dominant workout doesn’t mean you’re going to come in the next day with a difference in your shoulders range of motion. Because, you don’t just need optimal range of motion: you need strength in that end range. You need to fix weaknesses and make sure your left shoulder is as strong as your right one.
Too many people are wasting 30-60 minutes around their workouts working on gaining mobility that never brings any kind of lasting result. Enter Active Life RX, which is leading a movement of better performance and injury prevention through movement assessment and improving muscle imbalances.
Over the next few months, we’ll be taking you through some of the Active Life RX assessments and introducing you to different ways to get stronger. You may be skeptical. You may think we are crazy. But we implore you to give this a shot. This stuff is used by CrossFit Games athletes, basketball players, track and field athletes and everything in between. Everyone can gain an advantage from learning more about their body and ways to optimize the way it works.
IS THE PROBLEM YOUR ANKLES?
First up, assess your ankles. Many people think they have a problem with their ankles and they don’t. Or they have no idea their tight ankles are causing their hip or knee problems. If you’re having difficulty in the bottom of your squat, foot pain, or Achilles issues, adding strength and mobility to your ankles could go a long way.
“No one is measuring [progress] whether they are working on their ankles or not,” said Active Life co-owner Dr. Sean Pastuch.
Pastuch and fellow co-founder Dr. Jeremy Todd have an easy assessment video (shown above) to see if the ankles are a problem for you or a waste of your time to spend stretching. Passing grade for women is in the 4-4 1/2 inch range on each side and 5-5 1/2 for men.
“You need 34.5 degrees of dorsiflexion for someone to not injure their knee or hip,” Pastuch said. “This is an easy way to test that and, if you fail, re-test every six weeks for progress.”
If you passed, congratulations- you can stop reading this article. If you failed on one or both of your ankles, here’s how you go about fixing it.
ECCENTRIC ANKLE DORSIFLEXION
You can do these as a simple 3×8, 2-3 times per week BEFORE you do any kind of lifting or training.
These are all done for 25 meters: walk on your toes forward and backward, walk on the outside of your feet and inverted (this is super awkward). Then, put your shoes back on (the first four are barefoot) and walk on your heels for 25 meters. Repeat the whole sequence three times and do it 2-3 times a week. Like the eccentric ankle, this is done before your workout.
BANDED ANKLE DISTRACTION
You’ve seen these in all sorts of variations: just loop a band around a rig and try to create some space in the joint. These are fine, as long as you’re using your improved range of motion to gain strength.
Light front squat holds, back squats holds, just sitting in an air squat for a prolonged amount of time works (in flat shoes). The whole point is- mobility is not enough. Follow up these drills with a couple sets of any kind of squat hold and you’ll slowly start to notice a difference. Make an effort to walk barefoot once a week for 20 minutes or so. Take your Olympic lifting shoes off for your super light warm-up sets. Commit to making a real change.
“The distraction stuff is not good enough by itself,” Pastuch said. “It gets you in a better position and if you go and reinforce it, over time the static holds you are doing can lead to the strength that you want. It puts you in a position to do something else better.”
“You do this stuff, and can say, ‘OK I gained momentary range of motion- now how do I enforce it? And you do that by gaining strength.”
Click here for more on Performance Care, or to sign up for a Bulletproof program –like ankles– with daily strength workouts tailored to you.