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:
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
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.