Sport | Columnists
Sean Van Staden
In life and sports performance there are no silver bullets to success in reaching your goals.
There is not one “best Google drill” or no “best one sentence advice” even from the most accredited sports scientist on the planet.
Success comes through putting together a framework that aligns with the criteria needed to achieve your goal.
Success comes in fulfilling all the little things in your success framework daily and religiously. If you have an attitude of “I’ll do it every so often” then that will definitely not get you closer to where you want to be.
I am tackling a topic that has affected nearly every athlete on the planet in a negative way, an ankle roll, ankle strain or server ankle injury.
Come to think of it, athletes are so focused on the bigger things yet the smaller things like strengthening your ankles or increasing their
flexibility and stability goes untouched.
In working on the little area in comparison to what needs to get done will in fact yield massive results in your performance.
Whether it be making you more efficient or contributing to your injury prevention, the little things you can add to your daily routine will have the impact you desire in your quest for a better you.
Why is it important to have good ankle strength and flexibility as an athlete?
An active athlete needs to ensure that they have stable balance around the joints involved in various different movements. These joints are the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders.
Today we will focus primarily on the ankles and the importance of them being strong and stable at all times. When an athlete performs any movement, whether running or jumping – the ankle and surrounding muscles are put under a great deal of stress.
If the ankle joint and surrounding muscles are strong enough, the athlete can withstand greater pressure and stresses on the joint until an injury is sustained.
How does improved ankle stability and strength improve athletic performance?
How to improve ankle strength in an athlete
There are various ways to strengthen the ankle of an athlete using different balance training exercises.
Standing on one leg
Start with balancing on one leg for 30 seconds and then switching over to the other leg for 30 seconds. Try and work your way up to holding this exercise for one minute per leg.
These can be done when the athlete is seated and when the athlete is standing up. You can start by doing
this exercise with no weights, and then progress the exercise to adding weight on top of the knees (when
seated) and shoulders (when standing) to further strengthen the ankle and surrounding muscles.
Use a Sklz Theraband for resisted range of motion exercises to strengthen the ankle further, by putting the Sklz Theraband around the end of the foot/toes and curl the toes at the end of the movement to work the internal muscles. We can perform various movements including dorsi-flexion and plantar-flexion. How to improve ankle flexibility in an athlete.
Ankle flexibility is increasingly important in athletes. As I said before, when we have strong and flexible ankles, you have a greater range of motion in the ankles through various movements. If you find your ankles are weak, or if you’re constantly dealing with ankle injuries then ankle strengthening and flexibility can improve your athletic performance.
This is a stretch that will improve the flexibility and range of motion in the ankle and is done by putting a rolled towel or foam roller under the Achilles, and then rotating your ankle clockwise & anti-clockwise 10 times per movement.
Standing heel lifts
Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart, and lift your heels off the ground to stand on the balls of your feet. Slowly lower your heels to the floor, control is important for strengthening these muscles. Complete two to three sets of 10 reps each.
Toe and heel walks
Complete a 5 metre walk, standing on your toes and then complete the same 5m walk but then on your heels rather than your toes. This can be included in your day-to-day activities, like toe-walking around the kitchen while pouring a glass of water.
Sean van Staden is a sport scientist. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanVStaden or visit advancedsp.co.za.
Last week’s column can be found here.
For more sport your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.