A Game of Inches

I’m going to begin this article by asking how many people have watched the film Any Given Sunday?

The answer to this question should be “everyone”, because it’s an awesome film! But for those of you who have missed it, here’s the main speech by the great man himself, Al Pacino:

This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest movie monologues ever, and has stuck with me in everything I do (crazy how a film can do that!) Big Al is absolutely right, life is a game of inches, and nowhere more so than in training.

When performing the big compound exercises such as the squat and deadlift, most people are pretty switched on these days when it comes to foam rolling, mobility work and stretching. However, even when paying attention to all of the aforementioned, if their lifts aren’t quite where they want to be, whether it’s not quite hitting depth, knees caving in, or if they can’t increase the weight shifted, this is where the game of inches comes in.

You can foam roll your quads, do hip mobility and stretching until the cows come home, but if your ankle mobility sucks, you’re always going to be playing catch up.

I’m a big advocate of starting from the ground up, and feet and ankles are the first things that come in contact with the ground. Like with anything, they have to be able to perform the job they’re asked to do or your performance will suffer.

What Do I Mean by Ankle Mobility?

When talking about ankle mobility, I mean dorsiflexion. Dorsiflexion is just the movement of your shin over your toes.

If someone has poor ankle mobility, the body will find a way to work around this. This usually happens with your feet turning outwards and knees cave in due to the ankles’ lack of dorsiflexion.

Now, a point to note, your toes will naturally point out, as that is how most people set up to squat and stand naturally. However, it becomes a problem when they turn out beyond the natural stance and cause the knees to cave in.

To spot this, just look at this example of someone’s squat from the back: