Ankle mobility is a crucial piece of a squat. When the ankle does not move correctly, we start seeing changes in everything - knee and hip motion, trunk stability, and depth.
Very often, the problem is ankle dorsiflexion mobility. Dorsiflexion is the movement that brings the toes and knee closer together, so it is very obvious that we need this motion as we squat. Yes, different types of squats need different ankle mobility, but they all need some amount of dorsiflexion. If you want to learn about dorsiflexion of the ankle, how to test dorsiflexion, and how to treat limited dorsiflexion, here's our blog "Unstick Your Ankles".
Squatting is not 1 dimensional. We are going to talk about how we can unlock some of the 2nd dimension and move better in the frontal plane.
What we want to discuss is lateral tibial glide, or the ability of the tibia to laterally move over the ankle. This is the tibia moving over the ankle. I want to make that distinction, because this movement could look very similar to pronation of the foot. The difference is that pronation is the foot moving under the ankle. We want to test the tibia on a stable foot/ankle complex.
As we descend into the squat, a common cue is "push the knees out". We aren't going to dissect cues today; if you want to argue, head over to Instagram and start a fight there. I'm not interested in that fight.
As we descend into the squat and maintain hip external rotation, the knees are going to stay out. That's a good thing! This position will help limit abnormal stress on the inside of the knee and is a great way to promote stability.
As the knees and hips drop down, the knee has to move forward and outward over the toes. Think about the knee moving forward over the toes and following the pathway of the outside toes. To do this, the tibia has to "lean" over the outside of the ankle. This is tibial lateral glide.
When tibial lateral glide is limited, we are going to see the feet twist outward, heel lift, foot pronation, or the knees coming together. None of those are ideal for performance and injury prevention.
The test is very simple, but you'll need a super friend to get an accurate assessment. Make sure your super friend stabilizes the foot securely when testing. It is easy to get this one wrong.
The video goes through a great test for tibial lateral glide.
So what's the fix? In my opinion, we need to get hands-on treatment to be as specific as possible. If you don't have access to a good physical therapist that can help you squat better, you can use this self-mobilization that we describe in the video.
It takes a little bit of effort to get set up and some finessing to complete it correctly, but if you can get it done it is a very useful mobilization.
The video above goes through it very well, so make sure to watch the entire thing.
So, to recap - squatting is fun. We need good ankle mobility in all planes of motion to squat correctly. That means in the sagittal plane (dorsiflexion) and the frontal plane (tibial lateral glide). Limited Tibial Lateral Glide can present as the feet twisting outward, heels lifting off, knees dropping inward, or missing depth. You can improve your mobility with this mobilization.
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