I’ve often said that exercising correctly usually offsets the need for corrective exercise. To demonstrate what I mean by that practically, I’ve started this anti-corrective exercise solutions article series to show you exactly how I address the issues trainers commonly look to corrective exercise for. The issues many trainers seem to be under the impression that corrective exercise has the lockdown on solving.
In my first installment to this series, I showed you my anti-corrective exercise solutions for tight hip flexors.
Here I’m showing you how I go about improving ankle dorsiflexion mobility and building strength throughout in order to help people move better and potentially reduce injury risk without using common corrective exercise protocols.
Definitions and Disclaimer
For the sake of this article series, I’m defining corrective exercise simply as specific protocols intended to address muscle imbalances and functional deficits in mobility and stability.
That said, my term “anti-corrective exercise” doesn’t mean I’m against corrective exercise, nor am I trying to undermine anyone associated with using or teaching corrective exercise. I’m simply for finding simpler ways that can achieve the same benefits as corrective exercise in a faster, more efficient manner, while getting my clients and athletes stronger and fitter.
In my anti-corrective exercise solutions for tight hip flexors article, I provided a more detailed explanation as to my motives for writing this article series as it relates to corrective exercise. You’ll see that “I come in peace.”
That said, I don’t prefer to use the term “corrective exercises” with clients and athletes because it implies they’re somehow broken. However, when speaking to other trainers and coaches, I understand why it’s become a common term. In this case, if you prefer, you could consider the exercises I highlight below and in this article series as express correctives. To me, it’s just purposeful exercise. That’s why my Strength Zone Training slogan is “Building Muscle with a Purpose.”
How to Improve Ankle Mobility While Building High-Performance Calves
Your calves are made of the gastrocnemius complex and the soleus. Research shows that doing calf raises (ankle plantar flexion) with a straight-knee creates superior gastrocnemius muscle activity, while doing these raises with a bent-knee creates superior soleus muscle activity (1,2,3,4). So it makes sense to do at least one calf exercise in each knee position to maximize your training time and efficiency.
These four exercises improve ankle mobility and stability because you’re building calf strength that translates to better movement performance.
Top 2 Straight-Knee Calf Exercises for Improving Strength and Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobility
These two exercises require you to perform a heel raise in a manner that involves propelling yourself forward as well as upwards on each step. The plantar flexion action is more similar to that of walking and running. Therefore, these two moves also work on improving mobility of your big toe ( 1st MTP joint), which makes them even more bang for your mobility buck!
Dumbbell Leaning Calf Raise
Captain Morgan Calf Raise
Top 2 Bent-Knee Calf Exercises for Improving Strength and Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobility
It’s important to notice that both these bent-knee calf exercises involve positioning your working side foot closer to you. This increases the range of motion demand, making it more productive than a traditional seated calf raise for improving ankle strength and dorsiflexion mobility.
Dumbbell Half-Kneeling Calf Raise
Dumbbell One Leg Seated Calf Raise
If You’re Not Testing Properly, You’re Not Training It Optimally
If you’re a trainer or coach that works with clients or athletes, you already know that almost everyone has some type of strength imbalance.
The question is: How do you know which asymmetries or imbalances to address and which to leave alone?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just programming a handful of unilateral exercises and hoping for the best. That might actually make the problem even worse.
Instead, you need a way to identify which strength imbalances are actually a problem and give you a simple solution to solve them that works with any assessment process that you are already using.
The Strength Symmetry Evaluation does just that.
The Strength Symmetry Evaluation (SSE) is the first evaluation tool that allows you to quickly and easily identify and optimize sub-optimal strength imbalances in your clients and athletes that lead to poor performance and increased injury potential.
1. Hébert-Losier, K., Schneiders, A. G., García, J. A., Sullivan, S. J., & Simoneau, G. G. (2012). Influence of knee flexion angle and age on triceps surae muscle activity during heel raises. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(11), 3124-3133.
2. Tamaki, H., Kitada, K., Akamine, T., Sakou, T., & Kurata, H. (1996). Electromyogram patterns during plantar flexion at various angular velocities and knee angles in human triceps surae muscles. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 75(1), 1-6.
3. Price, T. B., Kamen, G., Damon, B. M., Knight, C. A., Applegate, B., Gore, J. C., & Signorile, J. F. (2003). Comparison of MRI with EMG to study muscle activity associated with dynamic plantar flexion. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 21(8), 853-861.
4. Signorile, J. E., Applegate, B., Ducque, M., Cole, N., & Zink, A. (2002). Selective recruitment of the triceps surae muscles with changes in knee angle. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 16(3), 433-439.