To properly execute a heavy attempt, every body part has to work in conjunction with another in effort to make the lift as easy as possible. From your head, to your shoulders, from your shoulders to your hips, from your hips to your feet, everything has to work properly. This is why mobility is just as large a part of training as being under heavy loads.
Often stressed is hip and ankle mobility for squatting. The same goes for the shoulders and thoracic mobility for benching. Vastly overlooked, is the foot. Collapsed arches, inflexibility, and/or lack of strength of the foot can cause a missed lift. This article will help you understand why you need to start rolling your feet, and hopefully will help better your training.
Our muscles are essentially one large sheath (admittedly, some muscles are deeper than others), running from the skull to the foot, which can continuously knot up on us due to activity of any kind. Rarely, if you feel pain in (for example) the knee, is the pain actually in the knee. Often times it can be traced to a knot in the hip region, be it the IT band, glute, or any one of the various quadriceps muscles. The same can go for your foot. If you have ankle tightness, it could be a any one of the various muscles attached to your tibia or fibula, but it could also be your feet.
Long story short: Rolling your feet can improve your ankle range of motion, allowing you to perform better.
When rolling out my foot, I tend to use either a golf ball (preferred due to the small size of the ball, giving more precision), or a lacrosse ball. Below are detailed steps to rolling out your foot in the most efficient manner that I’ve done:
Start at the middle of your foot and apply slight pressure.
Roll the ball with your foot towards the heel, all the meanwhile seeking out “knots” in the muscle.
Continue to move the ball over the outside of your foot, up towards the toes and over the metatarsal joints. If you’ve done it properly to this point, you should have made a small triangle.
I would suggest doing this a couple of times, aiming for 60 to 90 seconds of application. Of course, alternating feet between sessions.
A good test/re-test for this would be to simply see if your flexibility has improved in your ankles, and going by feel.Attempt to bend down and place the flats of your hands on the ground while keeping your legs locked out, or nearly locked out.
In closing, if you haven’t ever rolled your foot before, do so gently. Ease into it, as it can hurt quite badly. Beyond that, enjoy the benefits to your training and proprioception with squatting, overhead work, and various other modes of training.