Your ankles may be among the smaller parts of your lower limbs but its importance in optimum workout performance cannot be overemphasized. When you’re running, walking and lifting heavy objects, your ankles and its surrounding muscles, joints and tendons are placed under significant stress. The stronger your ankles, the better you can perform your exercises and the lower your risks for injuries (e.g., sprains, strains, and Achilles tendonitis).
You must then ensure that your ankles are provided with as much attention as, say, your chest, back and legs. Here are balance and strength exercises that you can do during your Workout Anytime gym exercises for these important joints.
Balance exercises are important for proprioception, the body’s ability to know its place in space. For example, if you are getting into a movement or position that increases the risk of an ankle injury, you will be alerted to the danger, thanks to your improved proprioception. You will agree, too, that proprioception contributes to improved athletic performance.
Also, the better your balance, the more effectively you can control your body and its movements. This is especially useful in soccer, basketball and rugby where the body’s balance in motion is of utmost importance.
There are two basic types of balance exercises that you can easily do.
- Standing on one leg – Stand with your legs nearly together, lift up one leg and hold it for 30 seconds. Return to starting position and do the same with the other leg. Work up until you can stand on one leg for 60 seconds at a time.
- Balance and catch – Stand on one leg and play a game of catch with a partner. Throw the ball to your left, right, up and below. Stand on the other leg and repeat. Perform 3 sets of 30.
For ankle strengthening exercises, you can use a resistance band (e.g., Thera-band). Just place the band around the topmost part of your foot. Be sure to curl your toes, too, at the end of each movement so that your foot’s internal muscles can be given a workout.
These exercises should be performed in 3 sets of 20 in each direction for best results:
- Plantar flexion
You should also perform seated and standing calf raises, which will strengthen your Achilles tendon and calf muscles. You have to add plyometric workouts, too, which uses jumping-style movements to strengthen your calf muscles and make your movements more explosive; scissor hops, standing squat jumps, and bounding are great examples.