Sprained ankles are one of the most common injuries in sports. You never see them coming and they can happen in many different situations. In the blink of an eye, you could be out for six weeks with an ankle injury that will most likely linger if you continue to play on it.
To make a significant difference not only in ankle strength but also balance and proprioception, perform injury prevention exercises for 15 minutes three times a week. Proprioception is the body's ability to realize its position in space. When you are moving toward a position where you could injure your ankle, good proprioception can significantly reduce the risk of injury.
The muscles being targeted when you do the following exercises are:
- Tibialis Posterior
- Tibialis Anterior
- Peroneus Longus
- Peroneus Brevis
You can do these exercises with or without shoes.
1. Toe/Heel Walks
(2x10-15 Yards each leg)
Walk 10-15 yards with your heels off the ground stepping with the balls of your feet. Then walk on your heels with your toes off the ground. Finally, combine the two for a heel-to-toe walk where you step with your heel and roll forward onto your toes, ending with a calf raise. For both heel and toe walks, make sure your feet face forward the entire time. Take these steps slowly and with control, focusing on balance.
2. Single-Leg Balance Drills
(2x30 Seconds) (3x8 Cone Touches each leg)
This can be performed on an Airex balance pad or the ground. Stand on one foot and balance for 30 seconds on each leg. After two rounds on each leg, make the drill more challenging by placing four cones on the ground, reaching down and touching a cone then coming back up. Start from one side, move to the next cone and work your way back, ending on the cone you started with. Perform three rounds on each leg.
3. 4-Square Drills
(2x20 Jumps each leg)
For this plyometric exercise, you need to set up tape on the floor to form four boxes, as shown below. Each exercise is done on one leg and should be performed for 2 sets with 20 Jumps each leg.
- Clockwise Jumps
- Counterclockwise Jumps
- Front-to-Back Jumps
- Side-to-Side Jumps
4. Ankle Bounces
Stand upright with your feet together. Keep your abs tight during the entire exercise. Jump straight up with the strength of only your calf muscles. You want to focus only on extending your ankles. Try not to bend your knees too much. Flex your ankles and pull your toes up as high as possible while in the air. Keep your upper body tight as you lower back to the ground. Try to spend as little time on the ground as possible. You should feel like you are popping off the ground and staying reactive the entire time.
5. Ankle Range of Motion (Theraband)
(2x20 Reps each direction)
This uses resistance to improve range of motion on four different movements. When performing these exercises, wrap a theraband around the top of your foot.
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