Join the club big boy.
I rolled my ankle hard about 4 months ago and kept squatting (like a total ass). And wouldnt you know it, my right leg became way dominant. Not only did my ankle mobility go down on the left but it does not recruit muscle as much or as fast at all. I know its just trying to protest itself but fuck. On video i can see myself leaning to the right hard on squats, its comical.
So I talked to a few people and looked into the issue and the best thing you can do is to switch to entirely unilateral movements for a while. At least until you get some semblance of parity.
I know it seems drastic to shirk squats (trust me, I leave the gym feeling like i’ve cheated on a faithful girlfriend that makes me rhubarb crumbles on wednesdays). But if you think about it it makes sense. Every bilateral lift you do is making your right leg stronger and your left leg weaker. you are essentially doing a unilateral lift with primarily your right leg any how. and in the long run your squat will eventually plateau hard as the strength dichotomy between the two legs gets larger. Then you put your back out or get a patellar separation and then you’ll really be looking for a way to get the baby out of the blender.
What I’ve switched to still allows me to go heavy and will likely transition easy into squats.
- Bulgarian split squats
- raised lunges/split-squat (front leg on a short box, allows you to put your butt right on your ankle and get full ROM)
- single leg squats (either ah la pistol [stand on a short box or platform if you dont have the flexibility] or step-ups with your other leg coming off the SIDE of the box instead of off the back, lift the toes of the foot on the floor up to avoid cheating with that leg)
- single leg RDL and single leg hamstring curls (or single leg extensions if you can/want)
After these lifts you can do stuff like single leg press on the leg press sled but you shouldn’t need to. Another important part for me is doing some standing on one foot balance shit in the warm up. no actual balance balls or anything like that. and then on certain days i do single leg plyos like hurdle jumps and box jumps. I’ve been told that this single leg plyo and agility is the most important for me because it will help facilitate propreoception in my left foot/ankle/leg again. And if you can propreocept fast then you can squat big. I also do strength ankle/calf work too but you may or may not want to do that as well.
The good part about these lifts is that with big enough DB’s, chalk and straps you can get some heavy-as-petting sets of 3 and 5 in on split squats and raised lunges. using the barbell on the back is a bit unpredictable but you can rock it for the raised lunges if you have the room in the rack. x-vest makes the step-up and pistol shit way more ergonomic and less annoying.
Alternating lunge variations are cool to but I am not a fan of the smaller range of motion they get compared to raised lunges, step ups or pistols. I want to make sure i still train the fullest ROM.
The cause of your issue isnt the same as mine (injury while walking, believe it) but it is still likely or has become an issue of poor nervous system recruitment in the leg due to god knows what reason, so id say the plyo and agility shit would likely help.
Another thing is that the imbalance in your legs is very very likely a part of imbalances in other areas such as your hips or back. If you have slightly misaligned hips (anyone who keeps their wallet in the back pocket and sits for more than a while. or anyone who sits for ages at all) this can lead to huge muscle imbalances in athletes. same with a slightly off spinal posture.
So what i’ve noticed is that a strong, experienced sport chiropractor is invaluable. and if you cant find that then even a good osteopath will do (they might be a bit out there though). Cop some ART or DTT massage if you can afford it or its covered on your insurance.
The weeks after I get adjusted by the chiro I am far stronger in both legs but more so the weak one. It might take a couple months of good adjustments but it will be worth it in the end and is a good tool to keep you strong into the future.
I’m going to be on my single leg only plan for another cycle (december 16 - march 1). After that I’m going to test my single leg vert and my single leg max on the selector machine press thingy (I know ghey, but the leg press machine is so akward). If they are anywhere close at all ill slide back and front squats back into the mix along with the strongest unilateral lifts.
Hope your leg gets better soon (relatively speaking, a cycle or two away). Have fun hoarding the heavy DB’s. and try to take your shoes off if you dont wear chucks or weightlifting shoes, or some such similar.