How to Build Strong Ankles
Strong athletes have strong healthy ankles! When it comes to movement and force production, our feet are the first thing that comes in contact with the ground. Because of this, ankle and foot health is essential in order to help the whole body move in an effective and efficient manner. Being the base and the place we produce force for jumping and running, ankle strength and stability should definitely have it’s place in your weekly training program. 3 basic pillars of maintaining a healthy ankle include appropriate dosing of strength, mobility, and plyometrics. This will not only improve your ability to produce force in your exercise performance but also in your everyday activities!
When it comes to performing just about any movement, it costs us some “energy dollars” from our overall energy bank account. Say for example, for every step we take costs 20lbs of energy on your ankle muscles, specifically your calf muscle complex via the Achilles tendon and surrounding tendons. When it comes to taking multiple consecutive steps at a fast rate (ex. running), you can imagine how fast and how much energy dollars we would end up having to use. One way to make sure we don’t ever run out of money (so we can continue doing all the activities we enjoy!) is to build up our energy bank account! What if you could perform a single leg calf raise with 100lbs for multiple reps? Then each time you take a step and it costs 20lb of muscle energy, wouldn’t it seems like chump change? Each step, stride, or jump we take all of a sudden becomes a submaximal effort, and is less taxing as your body requires less energy to complete the task. These 2 exercises below are some of our favorite options for improving strength at the ankle complex!
SL Calf Raises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx9uhWJVrwY
Farmer Carries on Toes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFxgeZeNPqk
Having limited ankle mobility in any direction may sometimes hinder your body from performing at their most optimal position. All muscles have an optimal length where they are strongest and able to produce the most amount of force. However, if you are already limited in these positions, your tissues may be forced to try to contract in a shortened, or weaker, position. When it comes to athletic performance, ankle dorsiflexion (foot pointed up) and ankle plantarflexion (foot pointed down) are going to be 2 of the most important positions you want to have access to. If you are an athletes and want to get the most out of your training, add these 2 ankle mobility drills into your movement prep before a leg day or a run for the best results!
Bench Assisted Dorsiflexion (Ankle DF): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_BG3eed6a0
Hero Stretch (Ankle PF): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbFJ_fEfknE
As an athlete you’re most likely performing some sort of plyometric movement (ex. jumping, running, cutting) that requires elasticity and tendon involvement during force production and force re-absorption. While many HIIT workouts may include some form of high-intensity plyometrics, it is important to perform them outside of these workouts with intent and not under fatigue. By focusing on producing force from the Achilles tendon, you can improve it’s elastic capabilities and “springiness”, which ultimately is another form of building up your overall “energy bank account.” To improve Achilles tendon reactivity, try these exercises while focusing on spending as little time on the ground as possible!
Double POGOS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks3JgoDLE6w
Hopefully this gives you a solid starting point of building up some strong resilient ankles. Improving ankle and feet capacity is one of the best ways to minimize risk of ankle/foot injuries in the future. If you are dealing with any kind of nagging ankle or foot pain get in contact with us! We’ve helped HUNDREDS of athletes get back to the activities they love pain free!