Squatting and ankle dorsiflexion

Closeup of woman bent over to pick up barbell with weights on either side

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Do you have trouble reaching parallel or lower when squatting? Maybe you find your trunk leaning forward the deeper you descend into your squat. Your ankle mobility may be the reason, or perhaps the weight is a little too heavy, but that’s a topic for another time. 

Ankle dorsiflexion during squatting is how your knee can go over your toes. A quick test you can do to assess your ankle dorsiflexion is to place your foot 5 inches from the wall in a half-kneeling position. If you can touch your knee to the wall, you should have sufficient mobility to hit depth in your squat.

If your knee does not touch the wall, you may want to consider adding some ankle mobility work to your warm-ups or using a heel lift when you squat. Adding a heel lift from .5 inches to 1 inch (using small plates or lifting shoes) decreases the amount of motion needed in the ankles, allowing you to reach a lower depth with less compensation in the hips and back.

The pictures below demonstrate a squat without a heel lift and with one. As you can see, the knees can travel over the toes more, and the trunk is more upright with a heel lift.

Young woman squatting with weight held at her chest

Young woman squatting with weight held at her chest and heels elevated on a 45 lb. plate

An easy mobility exercise to do before you squat is a weighted dorsiflexion hold: Start in the half-kneeling position and place a 20 to 35lb weight on the top of your knee. Then move your knee as far over your toe as you can without letting your ankle lift off the ground; hold for one to two minutes. You should feel a stretch in your ankle and calf.

Young woman in kneeling lunge stretching in the gym

Give these a try and see how they feel. If you are having trouble or are unsure of your squat form, be sure to contact any of our trainers!

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