Are your ankles affecting your squat?

1891244_880767821941415_6467677369343282556_n-2Tight ankles change the mechanics of your squat position. Tight calves, achilles or plantar fasciitis can also negatively affect your squat, but we are going to focus on ankles today.

Lack of dorsiflexion can make you weaker and more injury prone. Having tight ankles forces you to use your quads more and your glutes less.

A quick and easy way to increase ankle mobility, and give your heels a stable surface to push off of when squatting, is to put your heels onto a five pound plate. Or you can get off your wallet and go get some oly lifting shoes.

There are literally a thousand ways to mobilize your ankles, but most of our immobilities are centered between our ears. “Huh… what is he talking about?”

I’m saying that most of us choose to take the lazy route and not do anything to improve no matter how much we need it. Let’s assume that we have moved past obstacle one, our lazy nature, here are a few great videos that you can follow along with and see what is holding you up.

I would start with Dorsiflexion Test to see where you are at. This is just a snip-it, but start with your toe five to six inches from the wall. While keeping your heel completely on the ground, see if you can touch your knee to the wall.

If you cannot touch your knee to the wall, try the exercises in Ankle Dorsiflexion to start to mobilize. This video has you put a PVC or dowel on the inside of your big toe and then bring the outside of your knee around the PVC. But you can get a lot of the same benefit by placing the PVC on the outside of your pinky toe and bringing the inside of your knee around the PVC. Do each of these ten times, on each leg and retest.

Kelly Starett has a few great videos that tie everything together in your lower leg, and show you how to improve mobility for squatting. Check out Heel Cords of a Cheetah and Heel Cord Love’n.

There are also a few great exercises in Dorsiflexion for Improved Squat Performance and How to Improve Ankle Dorsiflexion & Plantar Flexion for Sprinting to work through.

If you do not know where your immobilities lie exactly, but know that there is something going on, get with one of your coaches and we can help you properly diagnose where your problem areas are and point you in the right direction for improvement.

We can all be as mobile as we want, but how badly do we want it?

What part of the front squat do you struggle with?

10404177_863593560325508_1897217743595871228_nLike many elements in our CrossFit journey, the front squat takes practice. Practice with the mobility to get the bar into the proper position, the strength to keep tension throughout the lift and in patience to not try to do too much too fast.

The following pictures in this sequence illustrate where you should be technique-wise throughout the lift:

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Position 1- “Front Rack”- The back of your arms should be parallel to the ground throughout the lift; think about keeping your elbows shooting up through the ceiling. Something that will help you keep your elbows up, and prevent you from feeling a burning sensation in your wrists, is to release your ring and pinky fingers from the bar so you only have your thumb and two fingers on the bar. Your fingers only serve the purpose of keeping the bar in place, all of the weight should be supported by your shoulders.

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Position 2- Initiate the squat. Break at the hips and sending butt back. Notice how Peter’s angle between the bottom of his arms and his body in this picture from the first. The more you can keep your torso vertical, the less pressure it puts on your shoulders and wrists. Think about keeping those elbows shooting to the ceiling while tracking your knees over your toes as you squat.

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Position 3- Bottom of the squat. As always, you want your hip crease to be deeper than your knees, as Peter is doing here. Work to keep the back of your arms parallel with the ground throughout the lift. If you notice your chest sinking forward as you squat, it is because you lack the proper hip and/or hamstring mobility to support keeping your torso vertical. When you hit the bottom of your squat and start driving up be sure to keep your knees out. Think about forcing your knees out as if you were doing banded squats.

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Position 4- The return. Work on returning on the same path you came down on by using your glutes and hamstrings. If you were to trace the bars movement pattern throughout, it would be moving on a straight line down and up.

If you lack the mobility in any of these four positions, get with a coach and ask how you can improve your mobility to better front squat.