I finally got to get back on my skates this week, and y’all. I am way out of shape. I also need to up my ankle exercises to beyond just physical therapy. When you’re on skates, your ankles take a figurative beating. You’re using them to control your skates, your edges, and keep you low to the ground so someone doesn’t knock you out.
Sure, you use your legs and upper body, but your ankles are really the centerpiece here. And currently, mine suck. So, I need to fix that. If Gunnz & WhAmmo is going to get drafted (yes, that’s actually my derby name), then I need to up my game, right? Right.
Before I can even think about attempting crossovers, let alone turns and pivots, I need to increase my ankle stability and strength to beyond normal weight bearing and walking exercises.
So you understand why, let’s get a little nerdy. Your ankle connects your foot and your leg (duh). It has not one but three joints:
- The Talocrural joint,
- The subtalar joint, and
- The Inferior tibiofibular joint
The main bones in the ankle are the tibia, fibula (which I broke), and the talus. The tibia is the weight bearing bone, while the smaller bones help to support your ankle properly. Do you see why having strong ankles is paramount?
The ankle joint is bound by the strong deltoid ligament and three lateral ligaments: the anterior talofibular ligament, the posterior talofibular ligament, and the calcaneofibular ligament. Not a lot there either!
I mean, it’s only 3 joints, and essentially just those 3 bones plus 4 ligaments. This is why strenth building MUST happen!
Work On Your Balance
If you’re just starting to strengthen your ankles, start by standing on one foot with the other foot extended. Shoot for 30-seconds in this position, in each of three poses: lifted leg front, lifted leg side, and lifted leg back. If you can’t do 30 seconds, then do what you can and work on increasing the amount of time you can do it without losing your balance, or reaching for a support.
If you have a bosu or a balance board, then you need to grab it and get to work, You can use it to balance on as well as for “up and overs” (think step class), and lunges. Because the ball creates an unstable surface, your ankle is forced to work harder to maintain your balance (kind of like when you’re on skates).
Lateral movement is most of what we end up doing in Derby-yes, we’re skating forward and backward…but we have to be able to evade players while we’re doing this. Which means we practice lateral drills like sticky feet, the grapevine (remember that one!?), and toe stop walks. We also work on edging, which is hard if you’re just coming back from a broken leg.
Doing lateral exercises on a daily basis strengthens your core as well as your ankles. It’s a win-win.
Adding a TheraBand to help increase resistance while you change up your ankle exercises. TheraBands are awesome, and fairly inexpensive. This video gives a great demonstration of some ankle exercises:
Just like the other parts of our body, your ankles need to be stretched. If you don’t stretch them, then you’re going to get hurt. So do it, okay?