Increase Ankle Flexibility for Squats and Deadlifts
Often, trainees are so inflexible in the ankles that they can’t can keep their heels on the ground while squatting or even deadlifting.
In this case, you may want them to stretch thoroughly their gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
Don’t let poor ankle flexibility limit your performance on squats and deadlifts.
First, take a marker of their flexibility by squatting down with an empty bar on your back. Once they reach the bottom position, pay attention to your body mechanics by assessing the angle of the shin in relation to the floor.
Then proceed to stretch their calves maximally. The standard calf stretches just won’t cut it. You will need the extra resistance provided by weight machines.
The best way to stretch your calves is to use two calf machines:
Typically the standing one and the seated one.
First get under the pads of the standing calf raise machine. Then lock your knees and lower your heels as low as possible while keeping your knees locked. This will insure that both the soleus and the gastrocnemius are fully stretched. If you unlock the knees, the gastrocnemius will not have a full stretch. Hold the stretch for a full 15 seconds count. Bend you knee to lower the shoulder pads and take a five second break during which you increase the weight by 2-3 plates. Repeat the stretch-rest-add weight process for another 3-5 reps.
Then proceed to the seated calf raise machine to give your soleus muscles a greater stretch. Use the same training methodology for the stretching: holding the stretch for 15 seconds, resting 5 seconds, adding weight etc. for a total of 5-6 reps.
By this time, your calves should have achieved their maximum length for the day.
Then go back to the squatting rack and test the marker again. If their knees are moving farther then before your stretching routine, then their calves were certainly limiting your range of motion.
In any case, looser calves will allow someone to squat with a more upright trunk posture, thus reducing the stress levels on both their knees and lower back.
Coach Charles R. Poliquin