In this installment of the “Mirrored Joint Model”, we will take a deeper look in to the analogous joints of the wrist and ankle! If you’re struggling with the front rack because of limited wrist extension or your tight ankles won’t allow you to find the bottom of a squat, then this is your blog.
There is a vast difference in the causative factors behind “tight” shoulders and hips, and the causative factors behind “tight” ankles and wrist. To recap our previous blog, improving shoulder and hip mobility requires an approach that addresses:
1. dynamic positioning of the AF and GH joint
2. high tone iliopsoas and pec minor/lats
3. capsular restriction
4. motor control
The anatomy of the wrist and ankle is vastly different from the anatomy of the shoulder and hip, so it just makes intuitive sense that the mobility strategies would be equally different. Dynamic positioning was the dominant factor for improving shoulder and hip mobility, but muscular imbalance rules the roost for the ankle and wrist. Here’s why:
If we imagine our anatomy in a crawling state you see that our wrist flexors are analogous to our gastroc/soleus complex. From a size and strength standpoint these muscle groups have a tendency to become disproportionately strong and “stiff”. The volume and weight that we move with our wrist flexors and our calf complex FAR outweighs that which we move with our wrist extensors and anterior tibialis.
To illustrate this point, take a look at a cross sectional representation of the lower leg and forearm when we position them in a crawling orientation. This beautifully illustrates just how similar they are really are. Notice the position of the radius/ulna and the tib/fib. Notice the similar ratio in size between the muscle groups.
It is this muscular imbalance that becomes the dominant anatomical variable that must be addressed for limited wrist extension or ankle dorsiflexion. So how do we do this? Here’s a good general recipe:
1. Traditional Mobility- Banded distraction, SMR, stretching
2. Strengthening wrist extension in new ROM
3. Eccentric wrist flexor exercises
4. Movement patterns that incorporate new ROM
For wrist mobility it may look something like this:
1. Traditional Mobility Approach
2. Strengthen Wrist Extensor Group
3. Eccentric Wrist Flexor Exercise
4. Movement Pattern to Incorporate new ROM
And there it is, a principle based, mobility progression designed to create long term mobility improvement for someone with limited wrist extension. This same recipe can be utilized in the ankle to improve ankle dorsiflexion.