Ankle to Knee Alignment (A2K)
In my experience as a personal trainer I have found that a lot of issues that people have with mobility stem from stabilisation of the feet and mobilisation of the ankles. This usually leads to stabilisation problems in the knees and mobility problems in the hips. As you can see, when there is a problem with one link in the kinetic chain it generally has a flow on effect up the chain to another area.
To increase the mobility in these joints there are a number of exercises that you can do, and Steve Maxwell has done a fantastic job of compiling the – The daily dozen is a joint mobility program consisting of 12 exercises that you can easily do anywhere, any time and EVERY DAY to increase the mobility in your whole body. If you think of these movements as your daily warmup and try and do them every day for a week or two I guarantee you will feel the difference in the way that your body moves.
The topic at hand today though is Ankle to Knee (A2K) alignment in the specific context of exercising or physical work.
A2K alignment refers to the alignment of your knee and ankle when viewed from the front and from the side. Lets look at these two alignments separately.
The Front: When viewing a squatting or lunging movement from the front, your ideal alignment is that your knee should travel in the direction that your toes are pointed. The reason for this is that your knee is a hinge joint and only has maximum mobility in one direction. To check this alignment you can watch yourself in a mirror face on while you squat or lunge. Ideally your knee will always line up with the direction that your toes are pointing and will not deviate medially (toward the midline) or laterally (towards the outside). These deviations can be caused by flat feet, weak arches, weak gluteus muscles or a number of other reasons, but the important thing is that you can recognise the problem and correct it yourself.
The Side: I don’t recommend turning your head to the side to watch yourself in a mirror but if you aren’t lifting any weight and are just checking alignment it should be ok. Your ideal A2K alignment from the side is that your knee should NEVER ever travel forward over your toes. I try and get all of my clients to lunge UP and DOWN instead of forward and backward, this stops you from transferring your weight forward too much and over your toes. A really good way to remember how to do this properly is to maintain a mid foot balance in your feet with 80% of your weight through your heel and only 20% on the balls of your feet. If your bodyweight (and knee) travels over past your toes your weight will automatically distribute to the ball of your foot. We don’t want this to happen.
In a perfect lunge both front and back knees will be at 90 degree angles, your body will be erect and spine lengthened with your bodyweight distributed equally between front and back legs. There will be perfect alignment of the knees from the front and side, and if you interlace your fingers behind your head and pull your elbows back slightly you will have good crown to coccyx alignment as well.