Athlete of the Year and Ankle Mobility

This is Alexa. Former high school athlete of the year and current Queen's U nursing student.

 She's also my cousin, I helped train her in high school.

Alexa came back to Toronto for reading week and we got to hangout, catch up and workout!

It was great, but I definitely noticed a few changes. Alexa had warned me that her strength and muscle tone has decreased from the golden days at Clear Cut Fitness but she still tries to hit the gym at school. 

While her strength had definitely decreased, her work ethic, effort and motivation were 110% as usual. She wasn’t discouraged by her weaker state and less toned muscles - which makes it easier for her to get it back in shape through hard work and consistency.

Our Workout

When programming workouts you always have to consider a client’s goals. In her case, Alexa wants to move healthy and gain a bit of muscle back.

We worked on the basic movement patterns, you know, squats, pulls, presses, core and addressed a few unique issues that we've worked on in the past. Especially her ankle mobility.

Alexa was strong AF in high school. The video at beginning is her absolutely dummying 145lbs for 6 reps. We worked up to 185lbs for 1 rep. 

Like most athletes, she's also pretty coordinated with movement and has a good ratio of fast twitch muscle fibers. Her body is built to deadlift: long legs, long arms, regular torso length.

While those qualities make her a great deadlifter, they also mean she’s not the best squatter. Usually, great squatters have a long torso and short legs. Having said that, you can absolutely build impressive strength in either lift no matter what build you were genetically gifted with. Different builds and body types have mechanical advantages for different movements and exercises.

^^^ This is Alexa's squat before warming up. As you can see, not the deepest or most comfortable Squat. In fact, it almost looks like a set of good mornings. On top of Alexa's natural biomechanical squat disadvantage, she was a dancer for years. Anyone who coaches dancers knows that their calves are forever tight and contracted. Tight calves make a squat even more difficult because she doesn't have full ROM in her ankles. Ankle mobility plays a huge roll in a squat (not so much in a deadlift). Poor ankle mobility prevents your knees from translating forwards thus limiting your Squat.

Don't worry Alexa, help is on the way.


How We Fixed Alexa So She Can Squat Safe and Strong

First, we did some ankle mobility drills. 

Foam rolling the calves help warm up the area so it becomes more pliable. Then we dynamically stretch the calves while stabilizing other joints in the body.

We did this by performing these Seesaw Planks. They force you to stabilize and activate the core while stretching and contracting the calves through their full ROM.

 We also have Alexa a small heel lift (about half an inch). Raising the heels can help squat mobility by decreasing the amount of necessary ankle mobility. Take a look at any Olympic lifting shoe. The heel is raised significantly. If it works for Olympic weightlifters, it'll work for us.

This is Alexa's squat pattern after foam rolling, 2 sets of seesaw planks and adding the heel lift.

The point is that no matter what limitation you may have, we find a way to work with it or around it. All in the name of making you a more fit and healthy you.

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