Fit Body Secrets: Ankle Mobility
Focusing on forgotten areas unlocks a fitter physique.
The fittest bodies pay attention to detail. Their routines don’t eschew necessary work with a myopic fixation on their next quantifiable goal. So if you’re setting out to train smarter, you must make room for mobility work. In fact, for holistic, total-body fitness, mobility is just as important as all of the other facets of your regimen, says New York City-based master trainer Josh Stolz.
“Let’s start with ankle mobility—your foot and ankle contain a relatively large percentage of bones in a relatively small area,” says Stolz, “so if there’s something that’s not moving correctly, it’s going to affect the rest of your body. More specifically, your foot creates internal rotation up into your hip, which lengthens the glute and allows you to propel forward. So if you’re lacking mobility in your arch and foot, you’re going to limit the movement up the chain, and that’s when your body gets out of balance and overworks certain areas.”
Stolz’s approach to mobility training breaks down to three phases: Melt, mold, and move. For each phase, he employs specific tools, too. How he explains it:
Melt: “I’m going to melt the connective tissue - basically roll it, massage it, and reduce the adhesions. This smooths out and helps hydrate the tissue.”
The Tools: ROLL Recovery R8, VYPER vibrating roller, Supernova
How They Help: The R8 may resemble a recycled Rollerblade, but it’s much more hardcore. “This tool allows you to move the tissue in multiple directions—I can rotate, I can add friction—and I can increase or decrease the pressure.” The VYPER vibrating roller is another gadget garnering serious buzz. “Vibration is being researched, but it is purported to increase range of motion and bone density. You can use different settings, too: 1 would be for recovery, post-workout, and 2 and 3 would be a faster movement better suited for pre-workout.” The Supernova is like a lacrosse ball for masochists, but Stolz likes it because of the notches, which allow you to create changes by manipulating your skin.
Mold: This phase furthers the hydration; Stolz favors the analogy of a sponge: “If I drop a sponge in water, it soaks up a certain amount of water. But if I squeeze the sponge, it pulls in more fluid, which, in terms of your body, hydrates tissue and also pulls in nutrients and oxygen.”
The Tool: Voodoo Bands
How It Helps: These bands offer an extremely easy way to increase range in motion—you can grip and pull, press, compress, and elongate tissue. They also help recycle and pull in fluid, oxygenate the tissue, and reduce pain by increasing the amount of nutrients coming into a specific area.
Move: “This is to stabilize the mobility you just obtained. In the Melt and Mold phases, you’ve increased range of motion and added more freedom of movement. Now, with Move, you want to be able to stabilize that extra range of motion to reduce injury risk.”
The Tool: Monster Bands
How It Helps: You’re likely familiar with this standard, but it’s incredibly useful for creating joint capsule flexilibilty. “Sometimes the joint capsule gets stuck, and that’s the root of the movement problem," Stolz says. "But since you can’t stretch or foam roll in there, you need a way to manipulate.”
Stolz begins this three-part series with an ankle mobility workout, which he demonstrates in this slideshow. “These moves can be done as a set,” he says. “And it doesn’t hurt to do them every day.” For this workout’s Melt phase, he recommends choosing one or two of the moves to start. And make sure you don’t rush. “When you’re rolling, think of covering one inch at a time for a minute or so,” he says. “A regeneration day should be slow.”
Get more fit body secrets:Hip/Knee Mobility
Photographed by Mike Rosenthal; Gromming by Marina Gravini; Art Direction + Styled by Ashley Martin