Importance of Ankle Mobility
A great analogy for how the body works was recently mentioned on social media, and the credit unfortunately escapes me at the present time, so forgive me for it. At least I won’t claim it 🙂
Anyway, here goes: your car is powered by its engine, not by its wheels. Your hips (in this analogy) are your engine. Your feet/legs are your wheels. If your hips don’t work optimally, well, then, the rest of the body won’t work too well either: knee alignment issues, postural issues are two that come to mind and can snowball into larger problems (as if they weren’t big enough in an of themselves).
If your feet (tires and wheels) are fine but your ankles (axle) is faulty or stiff, it will slow down the spinning/movement of those wheels (insert mental picture of cartoon character running fast with wheels instead of feet).
So, about them ankles… Poor guys, they’re carrying the load ALL DAY. A relatively small joint and complex set of bones that is often taken for granted until it is injured. Jump during a game of basketball, collide with another player and land wrong, twist your ankle and Bob’s your uncle!
I remember once injuring my ankle in martial arts practice. I was standing on a soft mat, doing side kicks against a padded shield a massive friend of mine was holding. He was pushing back against my kicks to make me work harder and with the Chaos Theory being what it is, one time he pushed too hard, I wasn’t too steady and fell back twisting my ankle.
I didn’t let it heal, went back the following week, re-injured it (but worse this time) and then injured the OTHER ankle in the process.
After a couple of X-rays showing nothing but swelling, my ankles were taped, immobilized/stabilized and I was given crutches, which I promptly discarded because they were of no help and more work for me.
So, I hit the jackpot, the double whammy: injured ankles with their mobility removed. Pain and zero range of motion. I walked like a penguin for a week.
No kicking, running, barely walking. For two years, I wore combat boots to keep the ankle stable (I didn’t know what I know now, and if you want great reference articles, here’s a great one).
And this is a great example of how one joint can affect the rest of your body, both directly and indirectly. Directly because of the instant compensations occurring in the rest of the body, causing dysfunction (posture, muscular imbalance etc.) and indirectly because since you don’t move well, you end up not doing much in terms of physical activity. E.g. if you’re on the track team running the 100m sprint, you are becoming dysfunctional and deficient from a performance standpoint in relation to your teammates, upon rejoining the team.
In a recent workshop I attended, Grey Cook spent a lot of time discussing ankle mobility, how to correct it with a variety of exercises involving Indian clubs, how to screen ankle mobility and where we should be at to be considered functional.
How does an Indian clubs drill help ankle mobility? It’s all in the stance and the use of the single or dual clubs (or single weighted vs dual weighted short ProBars).
Rather than talk about the solution just yet (we have another article coming for you on that), it is important to discuss and assess your own ankle mobility. Sprinting recycles nearly everything that makes up complete integral performance: movement function, posture, power, energy redistribution. Sprinting with bad ankles is like driving with the parking brake on.
Do that for a while, not only do you grind your brakes (your knees will take a toll), but your hips (engine) are also compensating and a slew of postural dysfunctions will occur.