When it comes to the lower body, most athletes focus on large muscle groups and joints, like the quads, hamstrings, and hips. Ankle mobility—crucial for performance—is often forgotten.
You need ankle mobility to produce power for lifts like cleans and snatches and to accelerate during sprints and plyometric drills, says William Kelley, DPT, a physical therapist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
One way to gauge it is through the knee drive test: Stand in a staggered stance facing a wall with your front foot four to six inches away from it, using your hands for support if needed. Bend your front knee and try to touch it to the wall—without raising your front heel. Repeat on the opposite side. If you fail, you likely lack ankle mobility.
There are a few other signs to look out for: your heels lift at the bottom of a squat, your lower back is often sore, or your calves cramp regularly. (The calves and hips often compensate when your ankles are tight.)
The bottom line:
To improve ankle mobility, foam roll your calves for 30 seconds each and perform the 3D band-assisted drill and isotonic weight transfers for 1 minute each, per leg, before every workout. Attempt the knee drive test weekly to track your progress.