Part two: Applying Sports-Specific Exercises for Ankle Rocker Functionality

In this third installment, we’ll continue to explore the significance of ankle rocker functionality in sports and how specific exercises can help improve it. Additionally, we’ll address some common misconceptions and concerns associated with these exercises.

Sports-Specific Exercises for Ankle Rocker Enhancement:

Dumbbell Power Step-Up: The dumbbell power step-up exercise emphasizes the importance of generating vertical force instead of pulling oneself forward. Athletes should push directly up and down, maintaining proper body alignment. This exercise replicates the vertical force production needed in sports movements.

Dumbbell Step-Up (Non-Vertical): In contrast, the regular dumbbell step-up involves a more forward-pulling motion, which is less sports-specific. Coaches should encourage athletes to opt for exercises that promote vertical force production rather than horizontal movement.

Vertical Lunge: The vertical lunge exercise focuses on pushing vertically down during the lunge phase. Athletes should maintain a low position to prepare for effective force generation and power output, which is crucial for sports performance.

Single-Leg Safety Squat with Bands: This exercise helps stabilize the hips while emphasizing vertical force production. Athletes lift the opposite knee to engage the hip and ensure that forces are directed vertically.

Sports Back Squat: The sports back squat, with a shoulder-width stance and knees pushing forward, replicates sports-specific positions. This squat variation takes into account ankle rocker function, hip positioning, and the mechanics needed for various athletic movements.

Addressing Concerns and Misconceptions:

Knee Pain: A common concern is whether pushing the knees in front of the toes during exercises leads to knee pain. Contrary to this belief, ankle rocker functionality actually reduces knee pain. When the ankle functions correctly, the knee gains more mobility to move forward and backward, acting as a better shock absorber. Improved ankle function can even reduce the risk of ACL issues.

Sports-Specificity: Some may argue that sports-specific exercises like the sports back squat may not be suitable for all athletes. However, it’s important to recognize that these exercises cater to a wide range of sports and can be adapted to individual needs. Athletes should gradually transition to more sports-specific exercises as they progress in their training.

Ankle Function and Glute Activation: Ankle rocker functionality plays a significant role in glute activation patterns. Athletes with well-functioning ankles are more likely to achieve correct glute firing patterns. This is crucial for linemen and other athletes who need to maintain lower stances and proper positioning.


Ankle rocker functionality is a key determinant of sports performance, impacting an athlete’s ability to generate power, maintain proper body alignment, and reduce the risk of injury. By incorporating sports-specific exercises and coaching techniques that promote vertical force production, athletes and coaches can unlock their full potential and elevate their performance on the field, ice, or court.