Three Easy Exercises for a Strong Ankle
One of the key areas for our footballers to keep strong and switched on is the Ankle joint.
The ankle is made up of small bones, ligaments muscles and attachments in order for it to transmit forces in to the ground from the body and then from the ground back up to the body.
Along with the foot, it gives us feedback from the surface in which we are playing on which allows us to alter our movement – a great example of this is wet grass or icy ground.
A strong ankle handles these forces well and gives the body the necessary feedback and performance required for the body to work efficiently.
An inefficient and weak or unstable ankle does the opposite, it increases the risk of injury not only to itself but to the joints above (especially the knee), and results in decreased performance, as it simply cannot transmit the forces well to the ground and receive them back.
One of the most common areas to injure in football
The Ankle joint sprain is one of the most common injuries in football-around 40-45% of injuries involve the foot or ankle1.
The most encouraging part is that it is one of the easiest to train and maintain that strength and stability with no or very minimal equipment.
All of the exercises I will show you can be performed at home with only your body weight.
Bare feet are best as it gives you more feedback and helps with your proprioception.
Proprioception is one of those popular words in the exercise and rehab fields that basically means our body’s sense of movement within our joints that tells us where our limbs are in space, without having to look2.
An example of this would be running on soft sand and then hard sand, your body knows that the ground is unstable versus it being firm as you crossed from one surface to the other and would adjust the way you move according to this without you having to actually look down to notice.
Three Easy Exercises
Performing the three basic proprioceptive exercises shown, twice a week at home and then moving up to the harder version once you are ready will improve your ankle stability and strength and also lessen your chances of ankle injuries or make for a speedier recovery if one does occur.
There are many, many more different exercises that include proprioceptive, targeted strengthening and power movements for the ankle joint, but these are a great start, and
I introduce more advanced exercises in the Academy setting.
Single Leg Balance
- Standing feet about hip width apart, lift one knee so your thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Keep your toes up.
- Upper body nice and tall like someone was pulling your head up to the sky.
- Eyes straight ahead
- Try to hold for 10sec each leg 6 x
- Leaning backwards.
- Pointing your toe to the ground.
- Not holding leg high enough.
- Rounding your shoulders.
To make this more challenging close your eyes.
Around the Clock
- Stand with your feet hip width apart.
- Imagine there is a clock face underneath you and in front of you is the 12 o-clock number.
- Lift one leg and try to lightly touch the 12 o-clock point; use a distance of 1-2 x your shoe length away as a challenge.
- Bring your foot back to the centre of the clock and without touching down try to touch the next point – the 1 o-clock position.
- Keep doing this all the way around the clock.
- Your foot is allowed to go over the front of the supporting leg when you get to 9,10 and 11.
- Go around the clock once each leg.
- Putting your foot back on the ground at the centre point.
- Touching the ground for to long, it should be a light touch
- Moving to fast and with no control.
- Keeping your supporting leg straight – it needs to bent all the time.
Single Leg Toe Touch
- Stand with your feet hip width apart.
- Lift one leg off the ground and bend the knee to 90deg.
- Keeping your supporting leg slightly bent reach towards to ground with both hands.
- Try to touch your toe (knee or shin can also be a target if your balance isn’t so good yet).
- Slowly come back up so your upper body is straight and you are looking straight ahead.
- Repeat 6-8 x on each leg 1-2 times.
- Not keeping the leg lifted off the ground at 90 deg.
- Bending to much on the supporting leg – For this task we want you to keep the leg bent a little not a lot.
- Try to touch the outside of your foot with both hands.
- Try to touch the inside of your foot with both hands.
Disclaimer: These exercises while relative safe for most people may be contraindicated in some individuals, please check with your coach, trainer or medical professional before attempting them to make sure you are safe to proceed. The EFA or Persons employed by the EFA accept no responsibility for any injuries occurred outside of supervised EFA training sessions when attempting these exercises.