May 28, 2020
When I was younger I was always told I have weak ankles.
The solution was to wear ankle braces while running and playing soccer. Did this help? Probably not. Mentally it gave me security. However, I repeatedly sprained my ankles and now I have VERY stiff ankles after not rehabbing properly. I need to continuously work on them, especially as a runner.
If you have ever injured your ankle, you probably were given a theraband and told to move against it in all 4 directions. Those are great fundamental exercises but the key to strengthening and getting back to your prior level of function, including running, is making strength training FUNCTIONAL.
Here are some functional ankle stability exercises with and without weights. These exercises target the muscles necessary for a strong run while working on stability of your ankle.
All of these exercises are done without shoes. In the last year, while I focused on my Pilates practice, I have recognized the importance of doing strength training without sneakers or socks.
Benefits of Barefoot training
- Grounds you and connects you to the floor
- Improves strength of the muscles in your arch
- Improves your proprioception, toe dexterity and helps work on gripping strategy
Exercise 1: Russian Split Squat into a Single Leg Hip Hinge
This exercise strengthens up and down the posterior chain (back of your leg). You should feel strong activation in glutes and hamstrings.
- As you squat down make sure to keep the front knee in line with ankle and hips pointing forward.
- Hinge slightly forward at hips
- Squeeze glutes to stand
- As you lift the back leg off, Hinge forward at your hips, keeping back flat and core engaged.
- Keep hip forward and even, do not let the hip of the back leg rotate up
- Again squeeze glutes to stand to a upright position•
- Do not grip toes, keep them flat.
Exercise 2: Eccentric Single Leg Squat with Kettlebell Reach
Running is a single leg squat over and over again on impact. It is important to improve single leg stability and squat mechanics to transfer into your run.
Challenge your ankle mobility by reaching as far down as you can without arching your upper back.
- Slowly lower down into squat, pressing hips back, engaging core to keep back flat and draw shoulders back.
- Raise up quickly pushing hips forward, squeezing glutes.
- Keep knee in-line with ankle, do not let it cave in.
- Keep torso upright and not leaning over grounded leg.
- Do not grip floor with your toes.
- Can be done without a KB, just be careful to not arch back.
Exercise 3: Running Man into Heel Raise
- Find your balance on one leg without gripping floor with toes.
- Hinge back at hips, keeping both hips pointing down to ground
- As you come back up, drive hips forward squeezing glutes, finding a neutral line, squeezing lat of opposite arm.
- Once stable, raise up onto toes thinking about driving straight up towards the ceiling.
- Keep quad and glute engaged as you rise up onto your toes, stabilizing and keeping leg straight.
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