3 Exercises For Ankle Dorsiflexion

Maximise your squat and pistol depth.

In our previous squat mobility video we addressed the importance of hip flexor strength and control to be able to squat full depth, without a butt wink. Below are 3 exercises that can help you maximise the mobility of another major joint for the squat and pistol; your ankles.

Why ankle dorsiflexion?

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Dorsiflexion is how far you can get your shins towards your feet (or vise versa). The more dorsiflexion you have, the closer you can get your hips towards your base of support (your foot). The further away your hips are from your feet during a pistol squat, the further your weight is from your base, causing you to fall backwards.

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Watch our pistol squat video here.


1. Soft Tissue Work

The main soft tissues that can limit dorsiflexion is a squatting pattern is the ‘heel cord’ or Achilles tendon and calf structures (most notably the soleus calf muscle). If these tissues lack mobility, then dorsiflexion is limited.

  • Use a firm object like a kettlebell or barbell to rest your Achilles tendon on. It should feel like mild-moderate pressure.

  • Slow pump the foot while maintaining calm an even breathing.

  • Add weight to this by stacking your other leg on top.

2. Banded Stretch

To encourage proper movement within the ankle joint, a mobility band is used to traction the joint, just below the two ankle bones or ‘malleoli’. This helps glide the talus so that you can access more ankle dorsiflexion.

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COMMON MISTAKES: Mobilising the ankle with a flat foot is one of the most common mistakes when doing this exercise. It can give you an illusion of increased dorsiflexion, when it is actually a compensation usually coupled with poor knee position.

  • Secure a mobility band to a stable structure like a squat rack and feed your ankle through the other end so that the band is underneath your ankle bones (malleoli).

  • Maintain a short foot position (arches up) and guide your knee forward into dorsiflexion.

  • Mobilise back and forth under control, aiming to be deeper into dorsiflexion each time, keeping your hips faced forward.

3. Activate

Flexibility means nothing until you can control it. The tissues involved have to be able to control their length for you to be able to use them in function.

  • In the same position as the banded stretch above, place a weight on your knee (heavy enough to push up against).

  • While maintaining your foot arched, drive downwards activating your lower calf muscles (without actually moving. This is called an isometric contraction).


Give these a go and let us know how you get on! Don't forget to share the love to somebody working on their ankle mobility!

Author: Laurent Pang