Ankle Training Part 2: Training the smaller ankle movements

Posted: March 7, 2015 in Recovering from Injuries
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Once sufficient balance is established or re-established for those who injured their ankles, the next step would be to increase the ability of the muscles moving the ankle joint to tolerate fatigue. This is done by improving their strength and endurance. Since the ankles are both used for explosive movements, like jumps, and endurance movements, like running long distance, both types of activities should be prepared for. Majority of the population would benefit from preparing the ankle joint musculature this way. Take note that we may be referring to the ankle joint but the exercises that compose the training routine actually involves the whole body moving and working as one unit composed of smaller units working synchronously together. Emphasis is just placed on particular areas which might have been injured or is prone to injury.

Do it anywhere ankle exercises

1. Ankle eversionseversion

Stand on both feet flat on the ground. The distance between the feet should be around the width of your hip. Try to lift off the ground the out side part of your feet or the side of your little toe. You can do it one foot at a time or both feet at the same time. The inner part or the side of the big toe should of course be always touching the ground. This is a very small movement and if you watch yourself in the mirror, it may seem like you are just moving your feet to a beat of a catchy song. You should feel the outer side of both legs.

2. Toe raises (Ankle Dorsiflexion)df

Stand with both feet on the ground and like the first exercise, the feet should be hip width width apart. You may hold on to something or you can do it standing freely, although you may sometimes lose balance. Lift the toes up either both at the same time or one at a time. You would feel the front part of your leg just beside the shin bones.

3. Tip toes with (heavy) load (Ankle Plantarflexion)

www.valstrengthtraining.com Tip toes  Like the first two exercises, do this standing up with the feet hip width apart. Since the calf muscles (gastrocnemius & soleus) are very strong muscles, you need extra weight to overload them so that they can adapt to become stronger. However, if you are recovering or have just recovered from an ankle related injury, your body weight would be just fine then progress to carrying some load if you notice that your ankles are already strong enough to tip toe without difficulty.

Like most of the exercises suggested in earlier posts, these exercises can be done indoors and outdoors. Outdoors is where running is supposed to be done anyway. They are just presented here in a way that an individual who loves the outdoors can go out and enjoy and train at the same time in a creative and effective way. The first and second exercises can actually be done while standing, say while standing in a bus, or simply standing in line queuing. You can even do it while browsing your smartphone. Talk about multitasking! They can be done by themselves while you are, say standing while commuting in a train. It saves you time. Ankle eversion is not a big movement anyway. It is not attention catching like bigger movements like jumping, but it is also an important component of ankle biomechanics. The first two (ankle eversions and toe raises) are supplementary exercises that can be done outside of a training routine. It is better to do Tip toes with load with your other routine exercises.

 

To explain a little bit about the exercises- the Ankle eversion trains the peroneal muscles on the side of each leg. The Toe raises trains the Tibialis Anterior on the front part of each leg. These are smaller muscles designed for finer movement of the ankle joint and not necessarily for strong and powerful movements. They help in stabilizing the ankle joint in every step when walking and running and in most moments we are standing upright. The Tip toes train the calves- those drumsticks behind each leg. The calves are actually composed of two strong muscles- the gastrocnemius and the soleus. They are thicker and stronger muscles with a very strong tendon designed for both powerful movements like sprinting and jumping and also endurance activities like running for long distance.

 

Recommended training volume, intensity, and frequency:

Four to five sets of 20 to 30 repetitions per set is recommended for ankle eversions and toe raises two to three times a week. This relatively high volume is to increase their tolerance to fatigue. Just think of how many steps you make in 5 km run. If they tire out easily, especially on uneven terrain like the downhills in a trail run, then the tendency of having a miss-step is higher which leads to ankle sprains. To help reduce the incidence of poor ankle biomechanics due to fatigue, train the ankles at a relatively high volume of low intensity. Low intensity means the load is relatively light and the movement is at a smooth and controlled speed. The load is just your body weight divided by two since it is carried by two legs and feet.

 

As for Tip toes with load the volume is three to four sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. Volume is lower but it has a relatively higher intensity. The heavier load you carry, the higher the intensity. Just carry something heavy, like your backpack, to offset your center of gravity a little bit to add to the proprioceptive stimulation to your ankles. If you always lose balance, reduce the load until you can balance most of the repetitions.

Until when will I keep doing these suggested exercises? How many training sessions for how many weeks?

There is no hard rule but do them until you feel it is not challenging anymore. This would be around one to four weeks (2 to 8 sessions) depending on your perceived improvement. It also helps to “revisit” these exercises once in a while even if you are already quite good again in doing your favorite physical activity. As their name states it- they are supplemental exercises. They can be added to your main training but they will not be your main training exercises especially if your level of physical activity is quite good. If you have some balance issues or you are recovering from ankle injuries, read Ankle Training Part 1. If you feel that these exercises are not challenging anymore, try doing the next level (Ankle Training Part 3: Low level Plyometrics).

Read about Torogi Squats.

Comments
  1. […] Read Ankle Training Part 2 […]

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  2. […] Depth: When learning how to execute the movement, use your body weight and practice the described stance and posture and squat as low as you can for around 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions. This is a specific warm up too. Then practice using an empty bar. Use proper hand position and grip. Then lower yourself in full control to a full squat. The heels should stay flat on the floor.  The torso will naturally tilt forwards. If your heels come off the floor as you go deeper, your Tendon of Achilles is tight. Put a small plate under each of your heels to compensate. But make it a point to progress your squatting technique by improving flexibility of your Tendon of Achilles. It also helps to make a “Thumbs Up sign” with your big toes as you descend in the squat to help in keeping your heels flat on the ground. To improve ankle stability, read this: Ankle training Part 1. To improve ankle strength and mobility, read this: Ankle Training Part 2. […]

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