Who wants to land a pistol? Yes, strength is important when attempting a pistol because one of your legs is supporting your entire body, but you know what else is equally important? Mobility.
Maximizing ankle mobility should be step one toward landing (or standing, in this case) a successful pistol. The strength portion will come as you do everything else in the gym, but mobility is something you have to choose to work on.
In addition to helping you get ready for pistols, lack of ankle mobility has also been linked to shin splints, stress fractures, ankle sprains, and pain felt around the knee. Also of note, limited ankle mobility in relation to jumping could lead to ACL injuries. So beyond pistols, we’re talking overall leg health.
Here are some mobility exercises:
Start with a mini-massage, grab a foam roller and lacrosse ball. Because ankle mobility can affect so much up the leg, we need to loosen multiple points. Use the ball along the bottom of the foot, and up to the calf; the roller for the hamstrings – rotating the leg to address inner, outer, and back sides of the leg.
A mobility exercise we’ve done before is using a resistance band and the rig. Attach the band to the rig, and step into. The point of this exercise is to keep the talus in place while the fibula and tibia move forward, so the band on your body should be over the talus. Step forward until you have some resistance, then drive your knee forward over the front of your foot. Move back and forth a few times, and switch legs.
From there, it’s time for another popular Crossfit term, dynamic stretching! For this, you need something to stand on, and this depends on the amount of mobility you currently have; a little mobility – grab one of the 5# plates, a lot of mobility – a 45# plate. Set your plates so that you will be about two feet from the wall. Place the ball of one foot on the plate (keep a soft knee – not locked – with this leg), and your hands on the wall for support. This is the starting position for the next three movements. Remember to switch sides and perform each movement on both legs.
Lift the leg not on the plate until your knee is at a 90 degree angle. Extend that leg back, straightening after passing the standing leg, and lean forward – at the hip – toward the wall. This movement increases the extension of your knee, stretching your hamstrings and calf, and, ultimately, removing some tension from your ankle.
Keep that leg lifted, knee at a 90 degree angle. Rotate that leg across the body, then out to the side. This move helps lengthen the joint in your ankle.
Next, you’re going to repeat the above move, but your leg standing on the plate should have a slightly bent knee. This also stretches your calf, removing some tension in the ankle.
For pistol work, test out your mobility while getting comfortable in the bottom of a squat. Try squatting with your feet together, holding onto the rig with one or both hands. I’m not talking, “sit in a chair,” I’m talking ATG. (If you don’t know what that is, look it up; I’m trying to watch my language in these posts.) From there, trying lifting one leg up, and out. Don’t stand, just hold that position for a few seconds, then bring that leg back in and repeat with the other leg.
It’s also important to warm up those ankles before doing any big movement that require ankle mobility. One easy warm-up/stretch you can do while listening to the coach go over the WOD is a standing calf raise into a shin raise. Rise up onto your toes, hold for five seconds, then lower onto your heel raising your toes, hold for five seconds. Roll between the two while the coach is talking, and lean lightly on the wall or partner for balance if needed.
Until next time!