The importance of strengthening your ankles often goes unnoticed but in reality, improving this area of your legs is important because of the support they give in running, walking, jumping, and pushing weights.
Ankle strengthening is something that can be done in the gym as an added part of your workout and exercise routine or in the comfort of your home. Below are five workouts that can be done to stretch the joints and strengthen the ankle to help with everyday movements as well as prevent injury.
- Rolling Your Ankles: Doing this exercise first is good to loosen up the lower leg and ankle before performing strengthening exercises. Sitting on a bench or chair, cross one leg over your other. Roll your angles in big circles. Repeat this circular motion for 10 times. Repeat. Uncross and cross over your other leg. Repeat with that ankle. Do this two more times of 10.
- Plantar Stretches: Still sitting in the chair and again, crossing your leg over the other, hold the toes of your foot and bend them back toward your shin, stretching the plantar fascia. Hold and release. Do this 10 times and then repeat with the other foot.
- Calf Raises: Can be done on a step or a stool. Standing on the edge of the step with only the front half of your foot. Hold on to a wall or railing for balance if needed. While standing, raise the heels of the foot, lift your body upward and then slowly come back down going all the way down with your heels. Do this exercise 10 times. Relax. Repeat for two more times of 10. If doing this on a stair or step is too much, you can stand on the floor and do the raises with the balls of your feet. This is a good beginning exercise to do until performing this on a stair or stool can comfortably be achieved.
- Picking up the Pieces: Place small items on the floor, such as marbles, and place them in a bowl that will be sitting on the floor next to your foot. Using your toes, pick up those items one at a time with your toes and place in the bowl. Once the items are all picked up and placed in the bowl, repeat with the other foot. Repeat two more times with each foot. As a beginner, start out with 10 marbles and add additional as your ankle and foot strengthens.
- Ankle Extension: Sitting on the floor with your legs out in front of you, bend one leg so that the foot is resting against the inside of the stretched out leg. Place a resistance band above the toes of the leg that is stretched out and move the foot down to point the toes away while pulling on the band to create resistance. Come back up and repeat. Do this exercise 10 times and then switch feet. Repeat with each foot two more times of 10. If needed, bend the knee of the leg you are working.
As always, if your lower legs or ankles are in pain when performing these exercises, stop and consult a physician. When starting any new exercise, start out slowing in order to stretch the joints and muscles of the area that you are working.