When I’m working with my face-to-face clients, many of them have had injuries or moved poorly because limitations in range of motion.
Left unaddressed, poor movement leads to a cascade of injuries further “along the chain” in the body. One of the main culprits for many, is bad or asymmetrical ankle mobility, which causes problems in the knees and lower back.
Fix your problems at the source – treat the cause, not the symptom.
So I thought I’d show you a really effective 3-part Release-Open-Anchor sequence I use with my clients, both face-to-face and online, to claim back some useable ankle mobility.
STEP 1. RELEASE
STEP 2. OPEN
STEP 3. ANCHOR
And ankle mobility is just one area I address in my series of mobility Quick-Fixes. You can use the same principles for all the joints in your body.
I learned this 3-part process from UK S&C coaches Danny Hague and Darren Stratton, and it very quickly improves mobility, both in the short-term and the long-term.
The reason it works so well, is it addresses three elements of mobility;
- Muscle length due to trigger points – those knots in your muscles
- Range of motion due to the joint capsule itself – where the bones are positioned relative to each other
- Neuromuscular control – what your brain tells your body is usable range of motion
These Quick-Fixes can be used before a training session as part of your warm up, helping you to move correctly and anchor great movement habits in the rest of your session.
This anchoring of neuromuscular control is a big player in giving you mobility that your body can really use. And creating the best movement possible is fundamental to both injury reduction and performance enhancement. It’s well worth your time and effort.
Over the next two-weeks I’ll release a video demonstrating each of the steps in turn, along with some extra supporting info on how and where to use it in your in your training program. Everyone on our email list get all this straight in their inbox! ;)
ANKLE MOBILITY QUICK FIX STEP 1:
RELEASE – CALF / SHIN TACK AND STRETCH
STEP 1: RELEASE
The calf / shin tack and stretch exercise is the first step in the Release-Open-Anchor sequence that forms my ankle mobility Quick-Fix. By releasing the trigger points that build up in a muscle, you can restore it’s full working length and allow it to provide a decent range of motion for better athletic movement.
WHEN IT’S NEEDED
I like all my clients to be able to get their knee at least 10cm over the front of their toes in bare feet, without their heel coming of the floor.
And I don’t like to see any difference between left and right ankles. If either of these criteria can’t be met, then improving ankle mobility is a priority to reduce the likelihood of injury.
WHEN TO DO IT
Perform this, and the rest of the sequence coming over the next couple of weeks, before your training sessions as part of the session warm up.
You can also fit them in between other exercise sets during rest intervals, or even as part a dedicated recovery session.
Because these movements are dynamic, they enhance any following movements rather than sabotaging stability, strength or power.
HOW TO PROGRESS IT
If your foam roller isn’t giving you enough pressure despite putting all our body weight on it, change it for a harder one or a harder implement.
I actually do this exercise over a dumbbell handle, as I find softer implements don’t give me enough these days! Go on, try it… you’ll like it. ;)
The next two steps in this process will be published over the next two weeks. These steps will be emailed to you directly, so you won’t miss out!
ANKLE MOBILITY QUICK FIX STEP 2:
OPEN – ANKLE BAND DISTRACTION
STEP 2: OPEN
Now that the soft tissue has been released and giving more room to move, our attention shifts the the joint capsule itself. We want to encourage the bones that meet to form the joint, to move in a way that allows us to use the new muscle length.
WHEN NOT TO DO IT
If your ankle range is uneven on each leg, then don’t perform this band distraction on the side with better range of motion. Focus on your worst side only, so it can catch up the good ankle!
Once both ankles have an even range of motion, and if you need more ankle range generally, then you can work both ankles in the band distraction part of the sequence.
HOW TO PROGRESS IT
The video demonstrates working the ankle facing away from the band anchor point. But you can also “distract” the joint in all four directions; facing across the band, both left and right, and toward the anchor point too. Feel free to explore the range of motion you have while the joint is “distracted” by the resistance band.
ANKLE MOBILITY QUICK FIX STEP 3:
ANCHOR – FLAG SQUAT & PRY
STEP 3: ANCHOR
Having paid attention to the muscle tissue and then the joint capsule, the final and significant part of the process is to anchor this new usable mobility in your motor memory.
Miss this step, or misuse this step, and your mobility can come undone!
You see, motor control, the neuromuscular part of the system has the final say. Even if mechanically your body has more room to move, if your brain says “No” then you can’t use it.
MY SON’S AWESOME ANALOGY
I was explaining this to my son, and he said to me,
“So it’s like when you’re using the computers at school on the internet, and they block certain sites?”
Spot on! Top of the class!
It’s not that you can’t physically reach those sites, it’s just there’s a “software” limit that prevents the “hardware” doing it’s thing. Just as the neuromuscular (software) system will block you from using your new range of motion (hardware) if it hasn’t been taught it can use it.
Habits, habits, habits!
DON’T WASTE IT, USE IT ASAP
So this final step in the process is actually a very important one, or a lot of your work will be wasted. Without anchoring the increased mobility generated in steps 1 and 2, it will be largely lost within about 10-15 minutes!
This is also why I like to program release-open-anchor quick fixes at the start of my sessions. You’ll not only move better for the rest of the session, but you’ll move over a greater range of motion and help to further anchor this and reset your software limits.
DON’T OVERUSE PARTIAL RANGE OF MOTION
Motor patterning is all about repeating quality movement and committing it to automatic habit. As well as the quality of the movement (posture, stability, balance, coordination etc.), the range of movement is important too.
We use load to better anchor the range of movement. This fires up the neuromuscular control element. The higher the load, the stronger the brain reinforces that range. So if you perform too many high-load partial reps, you’ll reduce your range of motion.
For example, fighters should consider not performing too much cycling. While pedalling, the range of motion at the hips is actually pretty small while the force used relatively high, for a lot of repetitions. As a result, you can end up with shortened hamstrings, and that teep to the face you’re so proud of will become a thing of the past!
Don’t get hung up on the exercises themselves, I’ve just given you a worked example of the ankle mobility quick fix from my online Pro Membership Program. You can use any exercises that fit the foundation principle of 1. Release, 2. Open, and 3. Anchor as described. And you can of course apply this principle to all joints in the body, such as the hip/hamstrings from my cycling example.
In the program there’s also a full set of range of motion (ROM) tests, and quick fixes for any highlighted tight areas. And this complete set of quick fixes are just methods of applying this same foundation principle.
Understand and apply the principles, and you can’t go wrong!