Isometric Ankle Muscle Strengthening
Ankles seem to get enough exercise by walking, so why is it important to focus on strengthening them? Just walking "puts up to 1 and 1/2 times your bodyweight on your foot, and ... an average person’s foot logs approximately 1,000 miles each year" says the CEMM orthopedic Injury and Prevention Web Site. In other words, ankles go through a lot! Isometric exercises are an easy and effective way to maintain ankle strength without involving joint movement or a change in muscle length.
Ankle Range of Motion
The ankle joint is able to perform four movements, which include: plantarflexion, dorsiflexion, inversion and eversion. Isometric exercises are done by adding a resistance in one of the planes of motion, to create a muscle contraction without the movement. Isometric contractions are particularly beneficial for people who already have limited range of motion or limited strength. Check with your doctor before participating in these types of exercises, which may increase your blood pressure.
Plantarflexion exercises will strengthen the muscles of the lower leg, particularly the calf region. To begin, make yourself comfortable by sitting in a chair with you feet flat on the floor in front of you. To concentrate the contraction, press one foot at a time into the floor and hold for a count of 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. You can do this ankle-strengthening exercise anytime, even while watching TV.
Dorsiflexion is the opposite of plantarflexion. Therefore, the primary muscles being strengthened are those on the front of the lower leg. Begin by tucking your toes under a stable object, such as a couch or a kitchen counter. Lift the foot against the object for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Fit this simple exercise in while preparing dinner.
Inversion and Eversion
After dinner has been made, sit down to relax and eat. At the dinner table, align your right leg with the right leg of the table and press your ankle outward toward the table leg. Hold for a count of 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. The eversion contraction will predominantly strengthen the outer side and back of the lower leg. With the same ankle, align it on the other side of the table leg, so you have to press the foot inward. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. The inversion contraction will strengthen the muscles of the inner side and front of the lower leg. All your ankle strengthening exercises can be done before dessert even arrives.
- Exercise in Rehabilitation Medicine; Physiological Adjustments to Isometric Exercise; Roger A. Fielding, Ph.D et al.
- Musculoskeletal Assessment; Hazel M. Clarkson
- Orthopedic Injury and Prevention: Common Ankle Injuries
Erika McAuley is a freelance writer from Abbotsford, British Columbia. As an exercise rehabilitation professional, she has been preventing and treating musculoskeletal injuries in athletes and civil workers since 2008. McAuley holds a Bachelor of Human Kinetics in athletic therapy from Trinity Western University and an Advanced Certificate in Athletic Therapy from Mount Royal University.