Ankle Dorsiflexion ERE Sequence

Keep Your Ankles Healthy

By Coach E

Ankle dorsiflexion is your ability to close the angle in the front of your ankle, by either bringing your toes toward your knee (open kinetic chain) or driving your knee forward with foot flat on the ground (closed kinetic chain).

ankle dorsiflexion

When it comes to exercises with our feet on the ground, insufficient dorsiflexion will lead to compensations up the chain.

For example, if you’re trying to sit your butt to your heels in a deep squat, if your knees can’t go past your toes you’ll compensate via posterior pelvic tilt (butt wink) and a flexed spine, which can set you up for low back pain.

posterior pelvic tilt and ankle mobility

Then, if you treat the low back pain via core exercises, you might get some temporary relief, but if you continue to squat without addressing dorsiflexion, you’ll continue to suffer as you haven’t addressed the root cause.

This is also why squatting with a heel lift helps you get deeper – because it compensates for a lack of dorsiflexion.

Now that you understand the importance of the range, let me show you how to improve it.

How to Improve Ankle Dorsiflexion

First up it’s always a good idea to address structural limitations and mobilizing the joint is important for the ankles (to help you out with this, be sure to grab the free lower limb joint mobility routine here).

Once you’re sure your joints aren’t restricting you, it’s time to build your range of control and you can do so with the technique below.

Ankle Dorsiflexion Exercise #1: Level 1 End Range Expansion (ERE) Sequence

ankle dorsiflexion exercise level 1

Perform 1-2 sets of 2-3 cycles per side and do it 3 days/week and your range should start to increase after a couple weeks.

UPDATE: Below you’ll find the Level 2 Ankle Dorsiflexion ERE Sequence.

Ideally, you should do Level 1 for at least 3-4 weeks at 2-3 times/week, progressing the # of cycles you do.

It’s best to do the most simple thing first before moving to advanced.

In this case, the complexity of Level 2 often exceeds a person’s capability as many don’t have the ability to actively/consciously invert/evert their ankles, making Level 2 more frustrating than anything.

ankle mobility drill for inversion and eversion

Ankle Positions: Inversion (Left) and Eversion (Right)

So while doing Level 1, I’d also prescribe basic inversion/eversion movements, which is exactly what I do in Lower Limb Control.

When you’re ready for Level 2, follow the same rep/set and progression scheme as outlined for Level 1.

Ankle Dorsiflexion Exercise #2: Level 2 End Range Expansion (ERE) Sequence

ankle dorsiflexion exercise level 1

About the Author

Eric Wong (aka Coach E) is the founder of Precision Movement and has a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo. He's been a coach since 2005 and spent his early career training combat athletes including multiple UFC fighters and professional boxers. He now dedicates himself to helping active people eliminate pain and improve mobility. He lives in Toronto (Go Leafs Go!) with his wife and two kids and drinks black coffee at work and IPAs at play. Click here to learn more about Eric.

  • Shane Kelly says:

    Hi Eric

    Lost a fair bit of dorsiflection after severe ankle injury 40 years ago. Wasted calf and thigh as a result and my good side has compensated since but starting to get back and hip problems on restricted side. Question is, do you think i could improve things after 40 years?

    Rgds,
    Shane

    • Coach E says:

      Definitely possible. Might need to get some help from a soft tissue/joint expert to deal with structural issues over and above the self-administered techniques I teach in Lower Limb Control, but once that’s been addressed, activating and building strength will cause tissue remodeling and things can only improve.

  • RobertLau says:

    Thanks Eric. I did a couple of body wt squats right after level two and was able to my feet straighter, especially my left one, and a little deeper than before all without left knee strain.

    • Coach E says:

      AWESOME Robert!… keep at it and it’ll keep improving!

  • karin says:

    Would these exercises be okay for people with spondylolisthesis?

    • Coach E says:

      Hey Karin – they should be fine as these focus on the ankles, as long as the position doesn’t hurt your spine.

  • rob says:

    would like to see the second level video. thx

  • Cathy says:

    Ditto everyone else’s comments! Would love to see the 2nd level 🙂

  • RobertLau says:

    Yes, I would like to see the second level video. I can see that my insufficient dorsiflexion limits my ability to do a deep bodyweight squat.

  • chez says:

    I would love to see the second level video too please 🙂

  • Ken says:

    I would like to see the second level video.

  • Stephane says:

    I would also like to see the level 2. Thank you.

  • Jason M Reynolds says:

    I would like to see the second video.

  • fei sha says:

    This is very helpful, thank you. I would like to see the second level video.

  • Jenny says:

    I would love to see the second level video.

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