Many aspiring traceurs make the critical mistake of focusing too much on the "flashy" parts of the game. They spend most of their time working on blocking, flips, tic tacs, cat grabs, etc. Any professional athlete will tell you that strength and mobility are just as important.
By now, many of you frequent our Ultimate Parkour Guide and have read our tutorials on blocking and delaying rotation. Now it’s time to ensure you are a robust athlete and moving well. Two important pieces of the puzzle are your ankle range of motion and ankle strength.
Ankle damage is serious business. Spraining your ankle can result in permanent strength loss and frequent bouts of pain. Worse, it will sideline you for at least a month. Assuming you recovering before returning.
Unless you are a professional, your ankles are probably not as strong as you think. I bet you are also missing range of motion as well. Below are three examples of traceurs and tricksters with ankle limitations:
"I have developed an ankle impingement. In a nutshell, it is a minor sprain that never goes away. Given the option, I would go back in time and train my ankles the way I do now."
Flexible lower legs and strong ankles improve all areas of your game. You will prevent injury and you will move far more efficiently. This allows higher verticals and smooth transitions from move to move.
Ankle Range of Motion
Let’s test to see if you have the full range of motion in your ankles. Carl Paoli of GymnasticsWOD.com leads us through the first test.
Pat Flynn of ChroniclesOfStrength.com leads us through the pistol test.
There are two things that restrict the ankle range of motion. The first is the ankle capsule itself, and we call the restriction an impingement. This is often referred to as “pinchy” ankles. The second is the lower leg muscle tissues.
Physical therapist Kelly Starrett breaks down proper ankle mobility exercises with the following videos. Note how he addresses the capsule and seeks flexibility by working the tissues.
The next step is to start building your strength. This next video breaks down basic parkour ankle conditioning techniques. Below are more videos that are relevant to all sports.
This next video is for basketball players, but you can adopt many of these drills for your own purposes. Most of them do not need any equipment, and others only use rubber bands.
When will I know when my ankles are strong enough?
It’s not so much a goal of strength as it is a goal of mobility and good positioning. If you are to move efficiently and strongly you want to ensure the full range of motion. You also want to ensure your muscles have the conditioning to withstand your practice.
Do not spend time performing calf raises with 200 pounds on your back. The goal is to express the full reaches of ankle positions. Also, the goal is to be able to keep this good form when fatigue sets in. Here is a further discussion on proper ankle positions.
The tissues of the lower leg are tough and often tight. Regular mobility and flexibility work will keep them supple and flexible. This work pays huge dividends.
Do other athletes use this technique?
Yes. Poor mobility and strength in the lower leg and ankle restrictions haunt athletes of all types. Most professionals have coaches to tell them to do it. You probably don’t have a coach, so self-discipline is key.
Are there other conditioning techniques I should use?
Yes. You should be conditioning everything from your toes up to your shoulders. But not everyone has the time to sculpt their body like a perfect athlete. If you only have time to focus on a few things, aim to better your legs, core, and stamina.
Put Knowledge Into Practice
It is easy to blame ankle pain on the environment. You might think the object you are landing on is too shaky, there isn't enough room, or you didn't time your landing right. But, tight lower legs, and poor range of ankle motion are almost always to blame.
Like any skill, maintaining healthy ankles takes time. Honestly, it isn’t that fun. But strong and supple ankles will ensure you are moving strongly, safely and efficiently. Strong and supple ankles will take your game to the next level.