Ankles are the unsung heroes of an athlete's body. They bear the weight, absorb shock, and provide crucial stability during various sports activities. For athletes who wear ankle braces to prevent injuries and enhance performance, it's equally important to complement brace use with ankle strengthening exercises. These exercises can help build the strength and flexibility necessary for optimal athletic performance. In this article, we'll explore a series of ankle-strengthening exercises that can be incorporated into your training routine alongside ankle brace use.
1. Ankle Alphabet
Sit on a chair or the floor with your legs extended.
Lift one leg off the ground and use your big toe to "write" the letters of the alphabet in the air.
Perform this exercise with each foot, aiming for clear and controlled movements.
This exercise improves ankle mobility and stability.
2. Calf Raises
Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
Slowly raise your heels off the ground as high as you can, then lower them back down.
Perform 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
To increase intensity, perform the exercise on one leg at a time.
Calf raises help to strengthen the muscles that support the ankle joint.
3. Ankle Circles
Sit or lie down with one leg extended.
Slowly rotate your ankle in a circular motion, clockwise and counterclockwise.
Perform 10-15 circles in each direction.
Repeat with the other ankle.
Ankle circles improve ankle flexibility and help prevent stiffness.
4. Resistance Band Exercises
Secure one end of a resistance band to a sturdy object and loop the other end around your forefoot.
Sit on the ground with your legs straight and gently flex your foot against the band's resistance.
Perform 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions on each foot.
This exercise targets the muscles that provide lateral stability to the ankle.
5. Towel Scrunches
Place a small towel on the floor and sit in a chair with your feet flat on the towel.
Use your toes to scrunch the towel toward you, bunching it up.
Repeat for 2-3 minutes.
This exercise strengthens the muscles in the front of the lower leg, which plays a role in ankle dorsiflexion.
6. Single-Leg Balance
Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent.
Try to maintain your balance for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Repeat on the other leg.
As you progress, close your eyes or stand on an uneven surface to increase the challenge.
Single-leg balance exercises enhance proprioception and overall ankle stability.
7. Heel-to-Toe Walks
Find a straight line or use a piece of tape on the ground.
Walk along the line, placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot with each step.
Perform 2-3 sets of 20 steps.
This exercise mimics the balance required in sports and helps improve coordination.
8. Mini Squats
Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
Slowly lower your body by bending your knees as if you were sitting back into a chair.
Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
Mini squats strengthen the muscles around the ankle joint, promoting stability.
Combining Ankle Braces and Exercises
While ankle braces provide valuable external support, these strengthening exercises target the internal support system—your ankle muscles and ligaments. By incorporating these exercises into your regular training routine, you can improve your ankle's stability, mobility, and resilience.
Remember to start with exercises that match your current fitness level and gradually increase the intensity. If you have a history of ankle injuries or specific concerns, it's a good idea to consult a sports medicine professional or physical therapist for guidance. With the right combination of ankle braces and strengthening exercises, you'll be better equipped to perform at your best while minimizing the risk of ankle injuries.