Oct 25, 2017
Ankle Strength

Ankle strength and mobility are essential for almost any athlete. A lack of strength can make an athlete more susceptible to injury, and inadequate mobility will negatively affect their ability to run, jump, and cut. Consider having athletes do the following exercises and stretches so that their ankles will be strong, flexible, and ready for the demands of their sport.

This blog in Muscle & Fitness offers three exercises:

Toe Tug

Take an exercise band and loop it around a sturdy object that will not move. An athlete should sit on the ground with their legs straight forward and loop the other end of the band around the top part of their foot. Make sure the band is anchored straight in front of them and that it’s tight when their toes are pointing forward. Then have them pull their toes towards themselves while keeping their legs straight. They should pull as far as their ankles will allow and release slowly until returning to the starting position. Aim for two sets of 20 on each leg.

The Monopoly Game

Place around 10 small objects, such as marbles, on the floor, and place a small cup nearby. Have athletes use their toes to pick up the objects one at a time and transfer them to the cup. Do at least two sets with each foot. This will help strengthen the fine motor skills in their ankles and feet. You can also turn this into a competition by pairing up athletes and seeing who can get all the small objects in the cup the fastest.

Negative Calf Raises

Athletes should stand on a step or a small solid box with their toes on the edge and their heels hanging off. Then they push up with both feet into a calf raise, lift one leg off the step, and lower the other leg so that their heel drops below the step. Make sure they lower their heel slowly. They will definitely feel this working their ankles, calves, and Achilles’ tendon.

This blog in Healthline offers some great stretches:

Achilles Stretch

This is very similar to a calf stretch. The athlete should stand near a wall, or other support, and place their hands on the wall at eye level. Then have them place their left leg a step behind their right. While keeping their left heel on the floor, they should bend their right knee until they feel a stretch in their left leg. By bending their back knee slightly, they will be able to stretch their Achilles tendon. After 15 to 30 seconds, have them switch legs, and repeat the stretch two to four times.

Towel Stretch

While sitting on the floor with their legs extended straight out in front, the athlete should wrap a towel or band around the toes of both their feet. They will then pull back slightly on the towel until they start to feel a stretch at the very bottom of the feet and the back of their lower legs. Encourage them to hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds and repeat it three times.

Inward/Outward Towel Stretch

Athlete’s will sit in the same position as the regular towel stretch but will wrap the towel or band around one foot at a time. They will then slowly turn their ankle inward or outward while firmly holding onto the towel. To deepen the stretch, they can pull the towel slightly against the direction of their foot. Each stretch should be done three times on each foot for roughly 30 seconds.

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