Issue Date: May 2011 Web Features, Posted On: 5/18/2011

Functionally Fit: Closed Chain Dorsiflexion Training
By Brian Schiff

As he wraps up his tight-ankle series, Brian demonstrates two effective body weight training exercises to improve closed chain ankle dorsiflexion.

If you're just beginning the series, check out Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobility Screening and Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobilization.

In the previous two columns, I have addressed screening and soft tissue mobilization/stretching exercises. In this final column, I want to share two effective body weight training exercises I use to improve closed chain ankle dorsiflexion.

With the exercises I am sharing today you must keep in mind the goal is to facilitate ankle mobility in conjunction with hip and knee flexion. I feel using gravity and a person's body weight is a great way to accomplish this and train in a proprioceptive manner. You will see the knee go beyond the toes, and that is the idea for these specific exercises since this position occurs naturally and is required for certain motions in life and sports (stepping off a curb, descending stairs, sprinting, etc.)

Obviously, in the presence of anterior knee pain these specific exercises should be modified or done with extreme caution. Aside from that, keep in mind that limited ankle dorsiflexion is an important injury risk factor that often leads to a valgus knee moment, poor patellar tracking and lateral knee pain. This is why screening for asymmetry is so vital to begin with. Here are two exercises that can be used to attain more dorsiflexion:

Forward Reaching Lunge

Begin standing with both feet together and then step forward with the left/right leg reaching the fingertips forward and to the floor. During the descent, be sure to focus on keeping the heel as flat as possible and in contact with the floor. Pause one to two seconds at the bottom and then return to upright. Perform one to two sets of 10-15 repetitions and repeat on the other side (if needed).

Single Leg Forward Reach

Begin standing on one leg and slowly reach forward and down toward the ground in the same manner as the reaching lunge. Allow the free leg to move behind you and keep the stance heel on the ground. Pause one to two seconds at the bottom and return to the full upright position each time. Perform one to two sets of 10-15 repetitions and repeat on the other side (if needed).


Notes: If clients struggle to get down this low, simply start by using a tall cone or other object they can reach toward while maintaining heel contact with the ground. Be sure to watch for pronation and compensatory hip internal rotation and/or adduction.

If you have clients struggling to descend stairs, consider tweaking the second exercise by having the clients reach the opposite leg forward instead of the hands/arms as this will keep the trunk more upright like it is during normal stair ambulation. These exercises are designed to follow sequentially after the exercises included in part two of the series.

Brian Schiff, PT, CSCS, is a licensed physical therapist, respected author and fitness professional. Currently, he serves as the supervisor at the Athletic Performance Center in Raleigh, NC. Brian presents nationally at several professional conferences and seminars on injury prevention, rehab and sport-specific training. For more cutting edge training information, subscribe to his monthly Training & Sports Medicine Update at www.BrianSchiff.com.

Topic: Functionally Fit

Magazine Archives:
  • Functionally Fit: Tall kneeling kettlebell chest press
  • Functionally Fit: Straight arm pull
  • Functionally Fit: Single leg stick
  • Functionally Fit: Bowler squat
  • Functionally Fit: Single leg ball squats

Thursday, August 11, 2011 1:03:14 AM by Anonymous
Hi, Brian, could you let me know the link for a standing hip internal/external rotation exercise you published? Your work is very interesting.
Becky Behling
Saturday, February 22, 2014 9:55:44 PM by Anonymous
That's a sharp way of thiiknng about it.

Leave your comment
Choose an identity
Blogger Other Anonymous
CAPTCHA Validation
Retype the code from the picture
CAPTCHA Code Image
Speak the code Change the code

Copyright © 2015 Fit Pro All rights reserved.