How to Strengthen Ankles for Skating
Injuries to the foot and ankle are some of the most common injuries among skaters, who make turns and quick stops that can lead to injury. Common ankle injuries include lateral ankle sprains that injure the outer ankle portion, most frequently after landing improperly after a jump or turn. Skaters also are more susceptible to high ankle sprains because they twist and turn their ankles. This sprain type can be difficult to heal due to a poor blood supply to the area. Prevention through regular strengthening exercises can help reduce your injury risk.
Perform exercises to strengthen the dorsiflexors, the muscle group that pulls the foot up. Weak dorsiflexors are a common injury cause among skaters. Work these muscles by wrapping a resistance band around a sturdy piece of furniture and placing one edge of the loop over the top of your foot. Begin with your foot pointing down slightly, then flex the foot to bring your toes toward your body. Repeat the exercise 10 times with each foot.
Practice proprioceptive exercises, which challenge your ankles to maintain balance while wearing your skates. Stand on a standard-size pillow or balance pad and lift one foot off the floor. Maintain your balance in this position for 10 seconds. Lower the foot to the ground and repeat 10 times, then switch to the opposite foot.
Work the lateral muscles of the ankle through the ankle eversion exercise. This exercise involves looping a resistance band around a sturdy piece of furniture and tying the band at the ends. Wrap one end of the band around the outside portion of your foot, touching the bottom portion of your toes. Move your foot as far as you can toward your big toe, then move the foot in the opposite direction, toward your pinkie toe. You should feel the outer muscles of your leg working. Return to your starting position and repeat the exercise 10 times on your initial foot and repeat with the opposite foot.
Stand behind a sturdy piece of furniture to perform calf raises. Because the calf muscles pull on the ankles, this provides stability to your ankles. Rest your hands lightly on the furniture with your feet facing forward. Slowly rise onto the balls of your feet, working the calf muscles. Stay at the highest point you can reach for 10 seconds, then lower to the starting position. Repeat 10 times, rest and perform two additional sets.
In addition to strengthening exercises for skating, you can prevent ankle injuries by always wearing properly fitted skates. Improperly fitted ones can rub against the ankles and irritate ligaments and tendons.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.