How The Trail Foot And Ankle Should Work During The Downswing

Dr. Greg Rose and the team at TPI recently published an article on the importance of ankle function in golf.   The article focuses on the importance of mobility first to improve poor movement patterns in regards to the ankle.  Dr. Rose did a wonderful job explaining in this article the importance of ankle mobility for ideal movement patterns and how to assess it.  My goal for this article is to educate you on how poor ankle mobility particularly dorsiflexion and eversion of trail foot on the downswing can cause poor performance and how to improve it through exercise.

I’ve noticed a common theme teaching and coaching golf and the differences between good and poor players and how they use the ground.  The mobility of their ankles can determine the difference between maintaining good posture angles and the transfer of pressure that is needed for power and ideal impact position, especially with irons.  Video and BodiTrak shows the importance of good ankle mobility and eversion of the trail foot just after the transition move at the top of the backswing when the lead arm is close to parallel position with the ground.  If there is limited ankle mobility, the heel will experience excessive lift right before impact resulting in loss of posture, path problems, and often poor impact position and performance.

Swing drills alone will not improve the swing characteristic (loss of posture) if the player is experiencing limited dorsiflexion and eversion of the trail ankle on the downswing.  It is important to first screen the ankles for limited mobility first so we can address the source of the problem if we want to maximize their performance.  Below are the exercises that I use to address limited ankle mobility at our Performance Center.   I recommend finding a TPI Certified Professional in your area that can screen you to see if your swing characteristics are caused by limited ankle mobility or poor movement patterns.

While long sitting perform 5 – 10 repetitions in the following order: 1. Eversion / Inversion 2. Toes Opposite Direction Side to Side 3. Planter Flexion / Dorsiflexion 4. Circles Clockwise 5. Circles Counter Clockwise 6. Toes Same Direction Side to Side

In a half kneeling position, use shaft of golf club to massage out calve and soleus muscles focusing on the sensitive or tight areas for 30 to 45 seconds. Next, stretch those muscles pushing the knee forward while keeping the heel on the ground. Repeat on opposite leg.

Perform downward dog yoga position and then bend one knee while rocking side to side trying to keep heel as close to the ground as possible. Hold stretch for 30-45 seconds and repeat on opposite leg.

Lie on the ground with leg extended and ankle on top of the stability ball.  Roll the ball back and forth by bending the knee working on flexing the foot (dorsiflexion) and pointing the toe (planter flexion) when the leg straightens. Perform on each leg for 30 to 45 seconds or until fatigue.

Lie on the ground with a circular band for resistance around the feet.  Perform bicycle crunches for 30 to 45 seconds trying to keep the band on the feet to improve ankle dorsiflexion and abdominal oblique strength.

In a standing position place a circular band around the middle of the feet, then raise one leg to 90 degrees. Hold the 90 degree position for a couple of seconds trying to keep the band on the foot to help with improving dorsiflexion and single leg balance.  Perform 8 – 10 repetitions on each leg.

For more analysis of how physical limitations revealed by TPI screening can influence the golf swing, here’s another body-swing connection analysis I performed with a client.

Sean W. Saunders is owner and Golf Performance Coach at SWS Golf Academy and SWS Performance in Springfield, MO. He is a PGA Professional, TPI Level 3 Fitness, and BodiTrak Certified.

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