Off-Season Tune-up. Ankles

Author: Alex Ackerley
The limited Ankle range of motion we employ all season while cycling, can lead to reduced off-bike mobility. The body employs an efficient “use it or lose it” policy with all our facilities. If your calf muscle only needs to be 12cm long. Why should the body waste valuable metabolic energy and resources building and maintaining 14cm of tissue? When the overwhelming stimulus of cycling says “stiffer ankles are better,” well that’s just what you’ll get. While that may be good for your short term goal of power transfer to the pedals, it’s not good for your long term health and mobility that can cause additional problems that cause more down time in the future.

When it comes to life off the bike, stiff ankles are not desirable. Studies have found (and most Physiotherapists will tell you) that reduced Ankle Dorsi Flexion (ADF, see below) can increase your likelihood of knee injury.

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Ankle Dorsi Flexion or ADF occurs when the angle at the front of the ankle decreases. Plantar flexion occurs when the tissues of the calf contract and shorten, so we don’t usually suffer from a loss of plantar flexion.

A Greater Concern

Of perhaps greater concern still is (particularly for cyclists) is that decreased ADF is also linked to a decrease in the recruitment of the Quadriceps muscles during a squat. It’s reasonable to surmise that this will also lead to decreased quadriceps activity in split squat positions and by extension walking up stairs and even up hill.

Whether you’re planning to lift weights this off-season or not, you can see that you may want to investigate your ADF.

The good news is, there’s a simple test you can perform. I’ve also added a few simple steps to increasing your ADF. With minimal equipment.

If you pass, good for you. But you may still benefit from maintaining and improving your ADF. If you fail, you should add the below protocol in order to clean up your ADF especially if you plan to hit the weights room.

Here’s where some advanced methodology comes in. Most of us have done static stretching for our calves, did you ever notice an improvement in your mobility afterwards? And if you did, did it last?

Static stretching alone is inferior to the integrative approach outlined below.

  • Release. Unstick adhesions and trigger relaxation of erroneous protective mechanisms.
  • Traction. Pull that released tissue into a greater length than it was previously capable of.
  • Integrate. Teach the nervous system how to utilize that greater range of motion in order to keep your “system” updates.

The Release Video

Traction Video

The Integration Video

Sure, this will take longer than just a few minutes of static stretching after a workout. But here’s the beauty of it. Once you can reliably pass the ADF test, all you need is The Integration piece once every week or so in order to maintain it. And over time, the change you illicit from each session will endure for longer and longer.

This 3-phase mobilization works all over the body in different joints. All you need is to know the specific movements to access the tissues you want.

Next up, I’ll be addressing off-season knee health before working our way further up the body.

This blog article has been provided by Alex Ackerley. Alex is a rehabilitation and mobility expert with many years of top rugby playing and specializing in cycling mobility and performance. If you want a free cycling mobility assessment you can click here. You can also subscribe go get more of Alex’s great content.

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