Being able to squat deep is important for athletic development and aiding in preventing injuries. One of the more common issues stopping people achieving this is their lack of active range of motion at the ankle. There are a few different causes but 3 simple drills can get you moving better, with more symmetry and without the risk associated with poor mobility.
Before we get into the first drill, how do you know if your ankles are restricted or the weak link in an otherwise pretty decent chain? Head over to my Youtube channel and watch my video on the OHS screening which will make things very clear, very quickly.
Using weight to mobilise the joint
Using band tension to mobilise the joint
What you'll see in the video is a medium thickness resistance band placed around the ankle joint, providing a rearwards traction. Being on a slightly raised platform allows the band to also pull downwards a little. Your foot should stay flat and go through as much range as you can, tracking straight over the foot.
I've got pretty good ankle range so you can see my knee pass way over the toes but you may find that your heel wants to lift up before you reach that point. For athletes with particularly stiff ankles I use 12-15 forwards/back motions each leg, usually preceded by some soft tissue work or dynamic stretching.
Using movement to mobilise the joint
If your lack of ankle range is simply caused by tight muscles in the calves (usually soleus) then a quick fix each time you intend to squat is to stretch during your warm ups. If you use dynamic stretching then you can also move the ankle joint through range. This will increase synovial fluid to lubricate the joint surfaces and can be effective to increase range in your squats.
For more ways to stretch pre training session check out my video on dynamic stretch sequences.