Dmitry Klokov, 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medalist and repeated medalist at World Championship events in the 105kg class.
Gif from Dmitry Klokov warmup video
What is most amazing is that the ankle plantar-flexion (the direction into which Dmitry is stretching his ankles in the image) is not a range of motion required for any lift; yet Dmitry’s ankle flexibility equals if not exceeds the ankle flexibility of many swimmers. In fact, I have heard many cyclists argue that ‘stiff’ ankles are required, even optimal to maximize power transfer from the body into the pedals thus mechanics of the bike. If anyone could argue ‘stiff’ ankles are optimal, lifters would be the ones as it wouldn’t be hard to agree that when lifting and holding hundreds of kilograms above the head, rigid ankles provide a stable base from which to generate power. But rigid ankles don’t translate into optimal power transfer, and this is why an Olympic weightlifter spends time ensuring that his ankles are flexible in every direction.
If any athlete requires ankle plantar-flexion flexibility, it’s swimmers. In his book No Limits, Michael Phelps refers to the flexibility in not only his ankles but all his joints as one aspect of his physique which moved him towards success. Swimmers not only need flexibility in their ankles in order to position their feet for the kick, they need to be powerful in this position to generate propulsion with their kick. Top swimmers are capable of doing squats (unloaded) from a seated child’s pose (see images below):
How many swimmers stretch their ankles, and then train during dryland to have this level of power from a kneeling position? This ability to generate power applies directly to a swimmers ability to generate propulsion with the freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly kicks.
For the breaststroke, the following dryland routine trains flexibility and power, and it trains the athlete to drive the whip kick posteriorly, not laterally, slicing through the water.
Recently while watching the AT&T American Cup 2015 (US Gymnastics competition), top US gymnast Simone Biles during her floor routine started one of her tumbling runs from the kneeling position as shown by the male swimmer above, and just like him rose to her feet as if kicking the floor with a swimming dolphin or butterfly kick.
Weightlifters are training to develop such ankle flexibility, as are gymnasts yet neither of these athletes depend on this position nor power from this position to the extent that swimmers do. If weightlifters are training this flexibility, then all athletes – not just swimmers – need to seriously consider or reconsider their attitude, perspective, and the effort they make into training flexibility.
Any coach seeking peak performance from their athletes who doesn’t have flexibility as a primary aspect of their training routine is only fooling themselves that consistent peak performance is achievable.
Gif from Dmitry Klokov performing 160kg, 190kg, and 200kg Snatches.