No one going into the gym thinks about working on their ankles. When it comes to strength training, most people ignore this particular body part. But if you’re a runner and a fan of HIIT, you aren’t doing your body any good.
Your ankles have a lot of muscles and ligaments that help to absorb forces. It propels your body when you walk, run, jump, hop, and change directions. If you have weak ankles, this will decrease your performance and expose you to unnecessary risks.
What Causes Weak Ankles?
A good reason for weak ankles is a previous injury, such as an ankle sprain. In some sports, your risk of getting ankle injuries increase. For example, a study profiled high school athletes and found that sports that involve jumping near other players as well as rapidly changing directions while running have higher chances of ankle injuries.
Other sports with direction loads that change rapidly as well as high landing can lead to ankle injuries. Some examples of these include gymnastics and certain dancing styles. Regardless, these accidents can lead you to have weaker ankles as time goes by.
Aside from injuries, weak ankles result from the lack of exercise. Even if you train other body parts, you won’t get strong ankles without training it with routines that focus on expanding its range of motion.
Benefits of Ankle Strength
If you build your ankle strength, its primary benefit is lowering the risk of injury. But it also enables you to make efficient moves using your legs while creating or absorbing more force using the ground. This helps sports-specific movements stronger and more powerful.
Here are some specific advantages you should consider:
1. Prevents Painful Sprains
Most experts classify the most common ankle injury type as “inverse”. This means your sole twists inwardly. Around 80% of all ankle injuries are of this type, and it can happen when you take a misstep while you move.
When you run or walk and your misstep rolls your foot under your ankle, it’s considered an inverse ankle injury. If you have strong muscles that surround your ankle, you can prevent your ankle from getting sprained. After all, when it starts twisting, these muscles fire back, which prevents it from going any further.
2. Combat Achilles Injury
Aside from sprains, another common injury that results from twisting the foot inward is the Achilles. When your foot rolls inwards, the surrounding tendons get intense stress. If it happens repeatedly, it will cause micro-tearing.
The micro-tear, also called tendinitis, will damage your Achilles. It will also compromise your posterior tibial, the tendon responsible for keeping your calf muscles and bones together inside your foot.
How Can You Build Ankle Strength?
Contrary to popular belief, building the strength of your ankles isn’t as difficult. The key to getting stronger ankles is to add more ankle exercises to your warmup. You can also sprinkle some of these within your leg workouts.
Here are some ankle-strengthening moves you can add to your workouts. You can use easier versions for your warmups while the more challenging ones should be part of your leg exercises.
1. Calf Raises
You should start this exercise by standing with a good posture near a supportive object. If you aren’t working out at Koko Fit Club, a table or the back of a chair works too. Use your lower leg muscles to rise onto your toes before lowering them back down slowly.
To make some progress, raise your body on both legs. Slowly lower yourself down using a single leg. Make sure to use your legs alternately and perform 8-15 reps of this exercise.
2. Single-Leg RDL
This exercise requires you to stand using one leg. Raise your opposite knee and make sure it’s bent to a 90-degree angle. If you find the single-leg balance challenging, start with the knee raise instead and hold it up to 30 seconds.
After that, hinge your hips slowly and allow your chest to fall forward. Do this while your butt and hips are pushing back. Then maintain your foot to knee to hip alignment. Make sure that your knee won’t fall in.
The feeling of this exercise is similar to when you’re working your glute or hamstring. But the difference is that you’re doing this to your leg stance. This will help control your up and down motions.
You can do ankle stretches in a split stance or with your feet up on a wedge. Hold the stretches with your knees straight. After that, bend your knee lightly to ensure that the different areas of the calf get trained as well.
If you’re still unsure about your ankle workouts, make sure to contact a certified personal trainer. You can also read our other articles and learn more about physical fitness.