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Inflexible ankles preventing good squats


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Hi guys,

 

I just recently started (about 3 weeks in) working on the Angry Birds workout as my first strength training routine. There has been definite progression in all of my fields other then squats. My problem there is that I was squatting down as far as I could go with my heels on the floor and still just breezing through all of the squat levels without major issues. I could tell something wasn't quite right but couldn't figure it out until I had my husband watch me do them. He nicely informed me that I wasn't squatting nearly enough to get the real benefit of the exercise (which was what I was afraid of.) 

 

Here's my problem, I actually can't get my butt to go down any further without completely losing my balance. Looking up the issue has brought me to believe that my ankles are not flexible enough and are preventing my knees from being able to shift far enough forward. Does that sound right? 

 

I'd like some advice on how to fix my ankle problem (if that is what it is) and also what I should do about my squats in the meantime. If real squats won't work (for now), is there another good bodyweight exercise that I can do that exercises the same muscle groups? I'd like to keep improving my lower body along with my other areas.

 

Thanks!

Wollio


Lvl 3 Human Warlock Ranger


STR 5 | DEX 3 | STA 3 CON 6 WIS 2 CHA 5


"Happiness is anyone and anything at all


That’s loved by you."


-You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown


 


Battle of the Willpower Wastelands (Current Challenge)


The Need for Speed (Ch 2)


Strength for the Journey Ahead (Ch 1)


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Your best resource for mobility-related problems is mobilitywod.com. Kelly Starrett is a highly accomplished physical therapist, he's exercise-focused, and his stuff is largely free.

Check out this post to get you started:

http://www.mobilitywod.com/2012/08/squat-quick-test-is-it-your-ankles-or-hips/

Then google "mobilitywod ankle squat" or "mobilitywod dorsiflexion". Those should give you more posts with other ankle exercises/stretches. If you hit them every day for a few weeks, your problem should be solved.

As for substitutions: there's really no substitute for a good squat. Substitutes do exist (like lunges), but they just won't get you very far. Don't be afraid to take a couple weeks off strength while you work on your other business. If mobility is your weak point, I'd suggest stopping squats altogether and using the extra time to work on flexibility at the end of your workout. Once you have a rock-solid squat, you'll bounce back quick; until then you're not getting stronger anyway.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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mobilitywod would have been my suggestion for resources as well. 

 

But I wouldn't necessarily get rid of the squats. If the rest of your form looks good, you're not doing anything wrong or bad, you're just not getting the full benefit of the squat that you could be. The derision for squats that don't go below parallel is mostly directed at guys who load up ridiculous amounts of weight on the bar and then squat a quarter of the way down, just so they can say they can squat 800 lbs and look like a badass using the big plates. So I would keep squatting while actively working to address the problem. The benefit of doing this is that one of the best things you can do for mobility is to move. Squatting more will help improve squatting mobility, particularly when combined with targeted mobility work.

 

Some people with this issue squat with plates under their heels. This is perfectly acceptable as a temporary measure, but work towards not needing them.

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Hi guys,

 

I just recently started (about 3 weeks in) working on the Angry Birds workout as my first strength training routine. There has been definite progression in all of my fields other then squats. My problem there is that I was squatting down as far as I could go with my heels on the floor and still just breezing through all of the squat levels without major issues. I could tell something wasn't quite right but couldn't figure it out until I had my husband watch me do them. He nicely informed me that I wasn't squatting nearly enough to get the real benefit of the exercise (which was what I was afraid of.) 

 

Here's my problem, I actually can't get my butt to go down any further without completely losing my balance. Looking up the issue has brought me to believe that my ankles are not flexible enough and are preventing my knees from being able to shift far enough forward. Does that sound right? 

 

I'd like some advice on how to fix my ankle problem (if that is what it is) and also what I should do about my squats in the meantime. If real squats won't work (for now), is there another good bodyweight exercise that I can do that exercises the same muscle groups? I'd like to keep improving my lower body along with my other areas.

 

Thanks!

 

Well, even partial squats have benefits and you work up from there.  So keep at it.  You are not suffering "no benefit".  You're just ready to move on, right?!

 

I think, before you give up on your ankle mobility, you should assess a proper squat, first.  When you lose your balance - are you tipping forward (my guess) or backward?  If you are tipping forward, it's not ankles.  It's because you are shifting your weight to your forefoot and not keeping it in the heels (do your heels lift off the ground?).  This is really hard for a lot of people to master, so yeah, assisted squats help.

 

BUT also in squats, the first movement is a butt back movement.  It's not fold at the waist or bend at the knees - butt back.  Then push the ground away with your heels (push down through the heels).  Use your arms held out front if you need for balance.  Butt back.

 

Let me know if this makes sense, if not, I'll find a vid or something.  My guess is, because you are tipping, it's form.

 

Also, do you have access to something flat and solid about 1" high?  At a gym, we'd use 5# plates.  Put your heels ONLY on them and try squatting the way I described.  This helps some people learn. 

 

Let me know.

I AM going the distance

 

'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.

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Well, even partial squats have benefits and you work up from there.  So keep at it.  You are not suffering "no benefit".  You're just ready to move on, right?!

 

I think, before you give up on your ankle mobility, you should assess a proper squat, first.  When you lose your balance - are you tipping forward (my guess) or backward?  If you are tipping forward, it's not ankles.  It's because you are shifting your weight to your forefoot and not keeping it in the heels (do your heels lift off the ground?).  This is really hard for a lot of people to master, so yeah, assisted squats help.

The problem I'm currently having is falling backward on my butt if I try to squat any lower than I currently am. I'm pushing my weight through the heels, but if my thighs get any lower than about 110 deg off perpendicular from the floor (if that makes any sense at all) then I lose my balance and start falling backward. To add a little more information, sitting in a full squat position on the floor (heels to the ground) is actually laughable for me at this point, as unless I'm not almost completely supporting my weight with a chair or bar I fall on my ass. 

 

I first noticed that I must not be doing my squats correctly because I literally went through 30, 50, 70, and then 100 squats in 4 consecutive work-outs. Considering that the rest of the Angry Birds work-out I'm just now making it to level 2 or 3 after about a month, I knew it wasn't hard enough. I don't have access to 5# barbell weights currently, but I will be trying to find something to attempt the elevated squats and let you guys know how that goes while I'm working on the mobility piece of it.

Wollio


Lvl 3 Human Warlock Ranger


STR 5 | DEX 3 | STA 3 CON 6 WIS 2 CHA 5


"Happiness is anyone and anything at all


That’s loved by you."


-You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown


 


Battle of the Willpower Wastelands (Current Challenge)


The Need for Speed (Ch 2)


Strength for the Journey Ahead (Ch 1)


Countdown to an Epic Journey (Intro)


Follow the Horizon (personal blog)

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Interesting!  Your post helps. 

 

Okay, I'd stop worrying about depth at this point.  You need to work on the basic mechanics of the squat.  I seriously doubt it's a mobility issue but if it is, what I'm going to suggest will help you  with that too and help identify it. 

 

When we say weight in the heels, we don't mean all your weight.  You should still have some weight in the mid foot, just most in the heels.  Think of this:  stand up nice and straight with your feet shoulder width apart.  Pick up your toes.  feel the weight shift?  now just super lightly put your toes back - that's what it should feel like. or close.

 

Also, squats are about the core - if you don't fully engage your core, you might tip. 

 

Final idea is that you might need something out front to counter balance you while you learn - hold onto a door (you straddle the open door and put one hand on either door knob), a resistance band, etc.  Worry about form for now, not depth.

 

Find some air squat progressions.  Most people start with ball squats or something.

 

This is an excellent progression series (only part 1 is linked here).  This guy is amazing.  http://gymnasticswod.com/content/air-squat-progression-pt1

I AM going the distance

 

'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.

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Find some air squat progressions.  Most people start with ball squats or something.

 

This is an excellent progression series (only part 1 is linked here).  This guy is amazing.  http://gymnasticswod.com/content/air-squat-progression-pt1

^^This. Huge help, thanks!

Wollio


Lvl 3 Human Warlock Ranger


STR 5 | DEX 3 | STA 3 CON 6 WIS 2 CHA 5


"Happiness is anyone and anything at all


That’s loved by you."


-You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown


 


Battle of the Willpower Wastelands (Current Challenge)


The Need for Speed (Ch 2)


Strength for the Journey Ahead (Ch 1)


Countdown to an Epic Journey (Intro)


Follow the Horizon (personal blog)

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^^This. Huge help, thanks!

 

You are most welcome.  That guy is one of the top CF people in the country.  He's fantastic.

I AM going the distance

 

'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.

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