The more I work with athletes - and the more athletes approach me with mobility issues - the simpler the exercises I prescribe become.
There aren't any secrets to increasing mobility.
Move the joint.
Through as large of a range of motion as you can.
Do it all again.
Why should we care about our ankles?
Your feet interact with the ground - which is where we utilize external forces to to produce force and coordinated movement.
Right above the feet, are the ankles.
Being able to move the ankles through necessary ranges of flexion, extension, and eversion/inversion is critical to creating effective forces with the ground - leading to coordinated movement up the chain.
Let's Bust Some Myths Quick
I've seen many people on social media or prominent golf blogs write about how "fixing" your ankle mobility will:
Cure your early extension
Create more consistent ball strikes
Put less stress on your spine
[1.] The dreaded early extension
Your ankles aren't causing your early extension.
The golf swing is VERY complex.
If anybody ever tries to sum up a swing flaw into one singular physical characteristic - they're being very misleading at best (and a straight up liar at worst).
Your early extension is MOSTLY being driven by coordination patterns that you have self-organized into in the past and now are fairly engrained.
You could do ankle mobility exercises every day for 3 months and your early extension would still be there.
The golf swing is a skill.
You RARELY get better at skills by working on things that aren't that skill.
That's a weird sentence, but I hope it makes sense.
[2.] More Consistent Ball Strikes
Your ankle mobility is not determining how you strike the ball.
If you tested PGA Tour players I would guess MANY of them have what practitioners would call "limited" ankle mobility.
But yet, they strike the ball better than everybody in the world.
Jon Rahm is notorious for having limited ankle mobility due to a clubbed foot.
He seems to strike the ball just fine.
Your body will self-organize around internal and external constraints.
If a skilled mover (which we all are as humans!) has limited ankle mobility, they will organize around that constraint to find a more effective way to strike the ball.
Every single golfer has internal constraints whether it be at the ankle, the hip, the spine, or the pinky toe.
Get better at the skill of ball striking if you suck at ball striking... not ankle mobility.
[3.] Lack of ankle mobility puts extra stress on your spine
The spine is quite a few chain links removed from the ankles.
This means that even if limited ankle mobility is affecting the chain, our skillful bodies have many places where they can compensate prior to reaching the spine.
And compensations aren't automatically a bad thing - we all compensate in our motor patterns.
Just like swing flaws, injuries and pain are unbelievably complex - yours is not being caused by lacking ankle mobility.
The exercise I want to introduce to you today is quite simple.
They're ankle circles.
You quite literally move your ankle in as big of a circle as possible.
However, don't let the simplicity overlook the intent necessary to make this an effective exercise.
Three major keys regarding the exercise below...
This exercise should be completed for HUNDREDS of reps.
Not 2 sets of 10, or 3 sets of 5 circles... no, hundreds.
To the point of where fatigue starts to set in.
It's a simple exercise. It's very low impact. Therefore we want to elicit a stimulus through VOLUME and INTENT.
Intent is critical with this exercise. With every circle you should be striving to move your joint in as BIG of a range as you can.
Not just going through the motions.
Trying to push the boundaries of how far you can move the joint.
We can't just do this exercise one time and expect to see results.
It's a long-term process.
Increasing the mobility of a joint takes time.
Keep feeding the joint move movement.
And watch it's capacity for movement grow!
WRAP IT UP
The ankle joint is important for your golf swing and life.
Gaining appropriate levels of mobility will help your movement ability.
Use this exercise if you feel negatively limited by your ankle mobility.
And join the SCRATCH community if you simply want to be told what to do to get stronger and more mobile.
Founder and Head Coach - SCRATCHGolfTraining.com
Carter is a strength and conditioning coach out of the Milwaukee area working with athletes, in-person and virtually. Having helped hundreds of athletes, ranging from the middle school to the professional level and beyond, Carter brings a breadth of experience and knowledge to every athlete he works with. He launched SCRATCHGolfTraining.com in the summer of 2021 to help empower golfers to greater performance and longevity.
Carter believes ALL golfers are athletes, and they should be training accordingly.
Become a SCRATCH Athlete today, and start training like the ATHLETE you are!