Banded Ankle Joint Mobilization

*Updated 4/15/18
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Overview

The ankle joint for many people is pretty stiff and could use more mobility.

I am not a huge proponent of banded joint mobilizations or self joint mobilizations with external loading, but the ankle is a joint where the benefits are great and the risks are very minimal (aggressive banded mobilizations of the shoulder may not be so good for everyone, for example).

There is a common banded mobilization that is done that is described in the video that we can build off of.

Need more hip and low back mobility? Start with Day 1 of our Hip/Low Back Mobility Program for free:

Where You Should Place the Band

The first thing we can do to modify how that mobilization is performed by most people is making sure that the band we use is actually over the bone intended. Pretty often people place the band too high and put it on the shin when they are intending to put it on the talus.

As seen in this photo, the band is commonly placed too high.

As seen in this photo, we want to place the band lower:

The other modification we can make to this drill is adding in a vertical vector to assist in distraction of the joint, which can make this a more powerful and useful drill.

How to Perform the Mobilization

In order to perform this mobilization as intended, the side you are mobilizing should be placed on something about 8-12" in height. In the video, a stack of weight plates is used.

When performed this way, the band (when attached near the ground) applies force backward and downward, which will subtly create distraction (or separation of the bones) of the ankle joint so long as you don't load weight into that foot.

If you lean into the front leg, you will compress the ankle joint. The purpose of this particular joint mobilization is to decompress the joint. That requires you to avoid putting a lot of weight in the front foot.

Use a dowel rod or other object to take some of the load off the front foot.

Lean into the dowel rod as you rock forward and backward so that you can shift your weight forward without loading into the front ankle.

Reps and Execution

The first thing we can do to modify how that mobilization is performed by most people is making sure that the band we use is actually over the bone intended. Pretty often people place the band too high and put it on the shin when they are intending to put it on the talus.

As seen in this photo, the band is commonly placed too high. 

When to Do this Drill

This drill can be performed daily or before a squatting session.

Anytime you do mobility work before exercise, it's likely best to not aggressively stretch for extended periods of time. So if you use this drill in that context, don't spend more than a few sets of 10-20 reps on this drill.

Other Things You Can Try

Many times this mobilization isn't enough to make the change needed in ankle range of motion.

The other things you can consider are:

1.  Stretching the calf muscles (but you should understand the anatomy first)
2. Learning to load your ankle dorsiflexion
3. A self-joint mobilization
4. Mobilizing the big toe
5. Improving your toe dexterity
6. Midfoot rotation

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