Ankle injuries are common in many different sports and often keep athletes sidelined and out of action. In today’s video, I’m going to show you some simple but very effective ways to strengthen your foot and ankle to help prevent injuries from happening
One of the first steps you can take to protect yourself from ankle injury is to strengthen and improve elasticity of the entire ankle joint complex. You can do this by simply using a jump rope.
Prevent Ankle Injuries By Jumping Rope
Begin the warm up barefoot. Low-level barefoot hopping will make a big difference in strengthening your ankles and it’s part of the reason you see so few MMA athletes with ankle problems; they train barefoot all the time.
A few pointers regarding technique:
You should be jumping on the balls of your feet
Be quick to jump; don’t spend a lot of time on the ground between jumps
Focus on having a fluid rebound between jumps
Once you’ve got the basic technique down, you can start to mix things up…
You can do single-leg jumps of 60 sec/leg or shorter interval hops
You can add forward/backward movement to your jumps
You can do lateral hops or dot drills
There are lots of variations you can try, each of which will help to strengthen the ankle in different ways to prevent injury.
Generally, we recommend using some sort of jump rope variation over a 3-5 minute period during the warm up.
Make sure you are on some sort of rubberized or field-turf surface that will minimize the pounding on your joints.
Next, let’s take a look at the bands…
Using Bands to Stop Ankle Injuries
Band exercises are another great way to improve ankle strength during warm up or cool down and the bands themselves are just a few dollars.
It’s important to make sure that you have a band that will provide sufficient tension, otherwise you won’t strengthen the ankle very much.
Make sure you wrap the band around the top of the foot in a complete circle.
Pull the band to give quite a bit of tension and conduct dorsiflexion. Make sure there is even tension throughout the band and that you’re going through the full range of motion.
This exercise should feel fatiguing; it’s not an easy exercise to perform.
We generally do 15-20 of these dorsiflexion exercises before moving onto other banded movements.
Next, release the tension from the outside of the band and pull hard on the inside of the band; you should focus on rotating your foot away from you.
You should feel this exercise working on the outer part of your calf.
Next you can pull on the outside of the band and release tension on the inside of the band and begin rotating your foot toward you.
You’re trying to work as many muscles and ranges of motion throughout the ankle/foot complex as possible.
Another exercise involves pulling on both bands, bringing the kneed up to 90 degrees, and pushing the foot straight down and back through a full range of motion.
Shoot for anywhere from 15-20 reps.
As you first start out, you’ll generally do only 1 set of each of these banded exercises as you warm up or cool down.
As your ankles get stronger, you can progress to 2-3 sets of each exercise. You can also increase the size of the band to provide more tension.
Our last exercise will be the kettlebell foot lift…
Using Kettlebells To Prevent Ankle Injuries
This is an old school Russian exercise, one of the original exercises the Russians used kettlebells for.
The idea is that you’ll be getting ankle work on two levels:
1.) work on the foot that is actually lifting the kettlebell up
2.) stability work on the ankle that is on the ground keeping you upright
To perform the exercise, lift the kettlebell up onto a bench using one foot and then lower the kettlebell back down to the floor.
To make things more challenging, you can increase the height of the bench, increase the weight of the kettlebell, or increase the distance from the bench.
This is an exercise you can incorporate into your warm up with 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps each leg.
If you perform all of these exercises together, they will go a long way toward injury prevention and force generation.
This doesn’t have to take up a lot of time; it can be part of your warm up, cool down, or accessory lifts. Yet this is something that you can incorporate into your training almost daily to see stronger ankles, injury prevention, better mobility, and better strength/power.