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Ankle flexibility affecting squats

Training discussion on Ankle flexibility affecting squats, within the Bodybuilding Forum; I have just started doing weighted squats at gym after having a program review at the start of the week. ...


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Old 05-04-2006, 08:09 PM   #1
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Default Ankle flexibility affecting squats

I have just started doing weighted squats at gym after having a program review at the start of the week. I've been doing unweighted squats in a class since the start of the year, once or twice a week.

I have been told quite a few times by different trainers to "Sit up more" when I am at the bottom of a squat. I always try to squat as low as I can, below parallel. But my form ends up poor, because I end up bending at the hip and lowering my chest when I get to the bottom, although I keep my back set. If I don't do this I feel like I'm going to fall over backwards.

This week I've tried to think more about why. It's actually my ankles. I discussed it with my trainer today. Once I get to a certain point while lowering into the squat, my ankles just say "I'm not going any further". Because my knees then can't go further forward, I think my butt ends up further back than it would be, and it's either stop squatting down, or lower my chest, or fall over backwards.

Can anyone give me any suggestions on stretching or exercises that can improve the flexibility of my ankles? I asked my trainer how I can improve the flexibility and he said by stretching and I said "How? My calves?" and he didn't really seem to know. He told me just to do partial squats and it should gradually improve. He said I could thank my parents for it.

I'm wondering if my ankle flexibility has actually been decreased by what I've been doing at gym, for example warm-up skipping three sets of two minutes, once or twice a week, or maybe my running style on the treadmill...I don't know. Since my new program I am walking for cardio on a bit of an incline instead.

I do stretch my calves every day I go to gym.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

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Old 05-05-2006, 10:07 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spunky
He told me just to do partial squats and it should gradually improve. He said I could thank my parents for it.
LOL. Now that's some funky advice. How can performing any exercise in a partial range of motion improve your flexiblility? Don't do partial squats.

How low we go is going to be different for all of us. You're certainly not going to be able to go lower by not going lower! As far as your ankles they would have to be unusually tight to be affecting things this greatly. A tremendously flexible ankle is going to be an unstable and injury prone ankle. My point being that there is a natural and limited range of motion for the joint and even the most stretched calves will not let you travel past this range of motion safely. But if your calves are tight, then by all means stretch them. Also, the greatest flexibility factor in squats is usually hips.

Keep in mind that you just started doing them. It can take a while to get your form perfect for you. I actually have a problem when trainers recommend starting with bodyweight squats. Bodyweight squats and weighted squats are really two different animals. It should be obvious that having a weight on your shoulders is going to change the forces on your body, your center of gravity and alter the biomechanics. IMO, bw squats don't do squat to prepare you for weighed squats. When I started out, I had a trainer tell me that I shouldn't do weithed squats until I could do a cetain number of one-legged squats. Same thing. They're very different. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with bw squats, just that they don't help you much with form.

What is your stance like? You should start with feet shoulder width or slightly wider (from what I've seen, most women end up slightly wider) with the toes pointing slightly outwards. If your knees are unable to travel forward past your toes and you heels are coming up then you are probably correct about calve flexibility.

Read this but keep in mind what I said about starting stance.

ttp://www.bodybuilding.net/training-articles/how-to-squat-925.html

http://www.bodybuildingforyou.com/articles-submit/john-catanzaro/full-squat-exercise.htm

Hopefully the others will come along with some more specific advice

Last edited by EricT; 05-05-2006 at 03:31 PM.. Reason: Fix Typos

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If you act sanctimonious I will just list out your logical fallacies until you get pissed off and spew blasphemous remarks.
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Old 05-05-2006, 10:51 AM   #3
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Anyone can become a personal trainer at a gym. Doesn't mean that they necessarily know what's best for you. There are a few p.t. certifications that are a joke you could "earn" online. Here are some things I've heard from personal trainers over the years at a gym:

"Squatting below parallel is bad for your knees"
"Don't do more than two muscles per day or else you'll overtrain"
"For a killer chest routine, do cable crossovers-3 sets low, 3 high and you'll hit the muscle from every angle"
"You have to do every exercise with perfect strict form or else you'll never grow"
...And on and on, so on and so forth.

Please, never listen to any one personal trainer..Get as many opinions as possible. And to be honest, back when I first started, the only people I asked advice from was the people who practiced what they preached. Personal trainers are best equiped to respond to "overall" physical fitness, not anything strength/bodybuilding related: for the majority...Not saying all!

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Old 05-05-2006, 01:43 PM   #4
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This Ankle Flexibility Test might be useful as well as this.

The second is a women's weight training article but I really only picked it because it had useful info pertinent to you.
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Old 05-06-2006, 05:10 AM   #5
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Thanks a lot for your comments guys

I just did the Ankle Flexibility Test from Eric's post. I didn't warm up or anything, but it didn't say if I should. I stretched my calves between the second and third attempt which gave me maybe half an inch more. At 19.25 inches my ankle flexibility is poor. You could say very, very poor.

My stance is as Eric suggested it should be. At gym they suggest our feet be shoulder width plus half apart, and it may help to turn our toes out slightly, so I do. I can bend my knees to about level with my toes, but they don't seem to go further.

My hips are pretty flexible I think. I had a look at the Hip and Trunk flexibility test on the same site. They had me do that test at gym at the start of the year. I'm not sure what I scored, but I recall my trainer's comment - "That's way too flexible."

I should mention that I was doing other squat type of exercises prior to my program changing at the start of the week. I used a machine that was only referred to as the Forza Squat. It's plate-loaded and you hold onto two hand grips (which move with you) and lower yourself into a squat. Then I would use a squat press machine, followed by a hack squat.

Perhaps I should also mention that we are taught that the angle of our back, in comparison to the floor, should not change throughout the movement, ie. we should still be tipped over when we come back up, rather than standing up straight.

I've done a more thorough reading of the "How to squat" article. I'm confused by this: "The shins should be a close to vertical as possible throughout the entire movement." If that is so, then what's my problem? They're verticle when I stand...flexibility of my ankle wouldn't affect it at all. In "squat.jpg" his shins don't look vertical, and I think shins in most pics of squats I've seen aren't...

0311, Don't you worry, I take everything he says with a grain of salt. I plan on asking two of the others. One of them is a former IFBB title holder. He should know some stuff!

I'll have to read the other things tomorrow, as it's zzz time. Thanks for your help!
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Old 05-06-2006, 09:12 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spunky
I've done a more thorough reading of the "How to squat" article. I'm confused by this: "The shins should be a close to vertical as possible throughout the entire movement." If that is so, then what's my problem? They're verticle when I stand...flexibility of my ankle wouldn't affect it at all. In "squat.jpg" his shins don't look vertical, and I think shins in most pics of squats I've seen aren't...
If you're going to go A2G, as we call it, then your knees are of course not going to be completely vertical and will go a little past your knees. As long as you are keeping your heels planted then I wouldn't worry about it. If your toes point out a little, make sure that your knees stay in line with them. As far as stance, don't just do what someone suggests, experiment and find one that works for you. I wouldn't go extremely wide (like a powerlifter) or extremely narrow.

On a side note, I go low enough for my calves to rest firmly against the back of my thighs and my knees only go over my toes about an inch...and I have pretty long shins.

Bar position will play a role in how much you round our extend your back. If you are using a fairly low bar position, try a higher one. Just don't rest the bar on your neck. Your back needs to remain natural (when people say "arched" this is what they mean, your back has a natural curve, but don't exagerate it) and you avoid extending it forward or rounding the upper back as much as possible so that the forces are compressive and not shear forces.

One trick is to pay attention to the way it feels on the way up. If it feels like it's "all in the back" then this may be a clue so try to concentrate and notice whether the abdominals are engaging. (That's not fool-proof....if your back is relatively weak, then you're going to feel it) The back should not be taking on the entire job of stabilization.

The bottom line, though, is that this takes practice.
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Old 05-06-2006, 12:51 PM   #7
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In short, you might want to stretch your lats and strengthen your core. Also try squating with your heels elevated about an inch then gradually lower the amount of heel lift.
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