Do This Mobility Drill For a Better Squat


Ankle immobility is a major reason some lifters have trouble reaching adequate depth, staying balanced, and remaining stable during a squat. Specifically, the inability to move the ankle into enough dorsiflexion causes these problems.


Above, we see what happens if the ankle doesn’t dorsiflex enough during a squat. It causes the heel to peel off the ground. (Imagine tipping the letter “L” to the right.) In this case, the forefoot is the only part able to apply force into the ground. The weight shifts forward, the knees receive excess stress, and posterior musculature is under-stimulated.


A squatter demonstrating good dorsiflexion resembles the above diagram. We see that the shin still moves forward, but now the feet stay flat on the ground. Dorsiflexion of the ankle is what allows this to take place, and now the lifter can apply force throughout the entire foot, making the squat safe and effective.

How to Mobilize Your Ankles

To exaggerate the dorsiflexion you need, put two weight plates on the ground (the same distance apart as your squat stance) in front of a power rack. The thickness of the plates will depend on your current ankle mobility. Five or 10-pound plates should provide enough thickness, and you can even experiment with a mat or thin board to get the same effect.

Step onto the plates so that the plates elevate your toes and keep your heels on the ground. Holding on to the rack, pull yourself into a deep squat.

From here, experiment with hitting different positions: Sit at the bottom. Lean front to back and side to side. Bounce around. Even squat up and down. Doing these movements while your ankle is in extreme dorsiflexion will help mobilize the ankle.

Stay on the plates for 15-30 seconds at a time. When you step off the plates and back onto the flat ground, your ankle dorsiflexion will be super-compensated to the point where you’ll be able to glide to the bottom of a squat with ease.

Key Points

Make sure to keep your heels in contact with the ground while you’re on the plates. If you let them come off the ground at all, you defeat the purpose.

Force the shins forward to exaggerate closing the ankle joint angle. If you sit too far back onto your heels and allow your shins to angle back (as will be most comfortable), you won’t be forcing dorsiflexion.

Start with a thin plate or object to stand on, and work to a thicker one as mobility improves.

This drill will be especially helpful to anyone who squats in weightlifting shoes. Weightlifting shoes elevate the heel, and therefore don’t require the ankle to move through as much range of motion as a flat-soled shoe does. This drill creates the opposite effect of wearing weightlifting shoes by pitching the forefoot up rather than the heel.

Use this drill on days you squat, in between your first few warm-up/work-up sets. Amplify the effects of this drill by also including things such as tip toe walking, ankle rolling, and static calf stretching.


A 10-Minute Legs Workout That Will Leave You Sore And Satisfied

Up for the challenge?
Lumina / Stocksy

If your go-to legs workout just isn’t making you feel the burn like it used to, this 10-minute challenge will bring new life to leg day. Developed for SELF by certified personal trainer Lisa Tanker, it hits all of the major muscle groups in your lower body for a well-rounded but tough-as-hell routine.

“This workout is made up of simple but very effective moves,” says Tanker. “Squat and lunge variations are great for strengthening the legs and glutes, which are muscles you need for every day activities from walking to standing.” By keeping major muscle groups like your quads, hamstrings, and glutes strong, you’ll be less prone to falls and injuries, she explains.

Plus, working your lower body not only has strength-building benefits, but it also plays a big role in how many calories your body burns at rest. “The leg and glute muscles are some of the largest muscles in the body, so working these muscles is great for boosting your metabolism and burning calories,” says Tanker. The more muscle mass you have, the more energy your body uses at rest, which translates to more calories burned when you’re doing nada. Since the muscle groups in your lower body are large, they’re big contributors.

The best part? You can work toward these benefits in just 10 minutes, using minimal equipment. Here’s your game plan.

Here’s How To Do This Workout:

Workout summary:

  • Step Up With Knee Lift — 10 reps each side
  • Reverse Lunge — 10 reps each side
  • Plié Squat — 20 reps
  • Curtsy Lunge With Side Kick — 10 reps each side
  • Glute Bridge — 20 reps
  • Rest for 45 seconds, then repeat this circuit one more time.

If you want to incorporate more cardio into this legs workout, do five burpees between each exercise (here’s what proper form looks like). You can also hold a 5- to 10-pound dumbbell in each hand during the first three moves to give your muscles an extra challenge.

Equipment needed: A small step or box (optional: set of 5- to 10-pound dumbbells)

Here are some helpful GIFs to get you started.

1. Step Up With Knee Lift

Whitney Thielman

  • Stand in front of a box or step, about one foot away.
  • Step up with your left foot and drive your right knee up towards your chest. “Make sure to bring the opposite knee to 90 degrees and really squeeze the glute of the standing leg at the top of the step,” says Berry.
  • With control, step your right foot back to the starting position and follow with your left foot.
  • That’s 1 rep; do 10, then repeat with the other leg.

2. Reverse Lunge

Whitney Thielman

  • Start in a standing position with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Inhale as you step backwards with your left foot. Land on the ball of your left foot and keep your heel off the ground.
  • Now bend your knees creating two 90-degree angles with your legs. Aim to have your back knee hovering about three to six inches off the ground. Keep your shoulders directly above your hips and your chest upright.
  • Now push through the heel of your right foot to return to standing.
  • That’s 1 rep; do 10, then repeat with the other leg.


3. Plié Squat

Whitney Thielman

  • Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing outward.
  • Bend your knees to drop into a squat, so your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Drive through your heels to return to standing.
  • That’s 1 rep, do 20.

4. Curtsy Lunge With Side Kick

Whitney Thielman

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Step your left leg diagonally behind your right leg and bend your knees to lower into a lunge.
  • Push through your right heel to stand, and sweep left leg out to side.
  • That’s 1 rep; do 10, then repeat with the other leg.

5. Glute Bridge


Whitney Thielman

  • Start on your back with your knees bent and arms in low V by your hips. Your feet should be about hip-distance apart with your heels a few inches away from your butt.
  • Push through your heels to lift your hips up while squeezing your glutes. Try to create one diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Pause for 1-2 seconds, then lower back down.
  • That’s 1 rep, do 20.
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