At Activate Physio & Pilates we have the privilege of treating a vast array of athletes. Irrespective of whether they are weekend warriors, high level CrossFit or Olympic lifting competitors, there are several common mobility restrictions that are consistently found. These may appear minor, but have the potential to cause dysfunctional movement patterns and subsequent injury.

Chances are if you lift weights and continue to suffer from niggling injuries, or have reached a performance plateau, you may well have one of the following limitations:

1) Reduced dorsiflexion (DF)

This may come about from tightness in calf muscles or stiffness in the ankle joint.

A limitation in ankle DF will result in compensation occurring elsewhere in the body.  Such as excessive foot eversion, forefoot Abduction (turning out) &/or an increase in midfoot DF (resulting in flat feet). It will also limit squat depth, forcing athletes to point their toes out to prevent impingement in the ankle or excessive loading of the knee.

Reduced dorsiflexion test

To assess whether you have a restriction, mark a point 10cm from a wall and then try to touch your knee to the wall whilst keeping your heel grounded & hips square to the wall. An inability to do this suggests a lack of ankle mobility.

2) Restricted hip mobility

Studies have shown this to strongly predict future injuries of the lower limb, as well as be responsible for numerous hip & lower back pathologies.

Restrictions in hip mobility often presents in the form of sharp pinching in the front of the hips during deep squats, forcing the athlete to widen their stance. It will also limit squat depth or force the lower back to flex in order to achieve correct depth.

It is often reduced hip internal rotation that is responsible.

Hip mobility test

To test this, lie on your back with hip and knee at 90º & turn your foot outwards. 

Hip mobility 45 degrees

You should be able to achieve 45 º.


3) Limited Upper back extension

This results in excessive loading through the shoulders during overhead lifts such as Snatches or Cleans. It also loads up the lower back when performing squats as makes it has to hyperextend to compensate for the lack of extension elsewhere in the chain.

Functional thoracic extension

Functional Thoracic Extension

Restricted thoracic spine

Restricted Thoracic Spine



4) Tight posterior capsule of the shoulder

Often seen in athletes with shoulder impingement as restricted range of motion in the shoulder joint results in compensation. This is usually in the form of reduced internal rotation (IR) at the shoulder joint which results in rounding of the shoulders when in a high hang position prior to Cleans or when performing upright rows. Tightness in the shoulders also limits overhead squat ability, forcing the athlete into excessive compensatory extension through the back.


Tight posterior capsule shoulder test

To test shoulder IR, lie on your back with your upper arm at 90º abduction and elbow at 90º. Keeping your shoulder blade flat on the ground, let your hand drop forward until you start to feel restriction in your shoulder. You should be able to achieve 45º



Often the best treatment is preventative rather than reactive, so if you notice any of these restrictions during your next lift come and see the team at Activate.