Peak Fitness | Ankle Mobility for Agility in Winter Sports

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, learn how to keep your ankles strong this winter season.
Courtenay Schurman Courtenay Schurman
MS, CSCS, PN2
January 22, 2019

In preparation for the upcoming snow season, I recommend skiers focus on strengthening their quads, core, and other muscles around the hips and knees. However, it’s important not to overlook the small hinge that transfers ground force through the rest of the body: the ankle.

If you’ve ever rolled, strained or sprained an ankle; if you find it difficult to squat to the floor without your heels popping up, or if you anticipate traveling on glaciers or hiking trails with long downward sloping traverses, consider adding ankle mobility exercises to your pre-season workout. Increased range of motion and stability in your ankles can give you more power, add strength to the surrounding muscles, leave you with fewer knee issues, and decrease the risk of strains.

ANKLE ROCKERS

Perform this dynamic stretch before any sports requiring high impact (i.e. running, skiing) or pivoting (i.e. soccer, ultimate frisbee, basketball). Rest on your left knee on the floor or a mat, with the right ankle next to your knee. Press your right knee forward, maintaining a tripod foot. “Tripod foot” means your right big toe is splayed out as far as possible, and big toe, little toe and heel remain in contact with the floor at all times. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side and compare range of motion.

If you notice excessive stiffness, lack of range of motion, or tenderness in either ankle, gently rock forward and backward for 30-60 seconds. As your comfort in the stretch increases, add gentle rocking slightly left and right for added range of motion to either side of the Achilles tendon.

SHUFFLE GAIT

Add this dynamic movement after you have mastered Ankle Rockers, in order to further increase range of motion. Shuffle Gait helps you lengthen the muscles behind the shins (posterior compartment) while strengthening the muscles on the front of the shins (anterior compartment). If you suffer from shin splints, the toe pick-up component of this exercise can help strengthen the anterior tibialis.

PERFORMANCE: Start by picking up your toes on the side you wish to increase ankle flexibility. Lower your center of gravity by pushing your knees forward, keeping toes raised off the floor. Avoid straightening the knee when you pick up the forefoot and slide the heel forward, maintaining contact with the floor. Release the forefoot, still keeping toes elevated. Repeat the heel-strike forward shuffle, keeping toes elevated with each step, knees bent, heel sliding forward. If you are limited in mobility on both sides, alternate shuffling with both feet.

PROGRESSIONS: Increase knee bend to get additional range of motion through the ankle, always keeping toes flexed off the floor and heel in contact with the floor.

Try these two moves for 3-4 weeks for improved ankle mobility. Note increases in range of motion from one workout to the next.


Courtenay Schurman is an NSCA-CSCS certified personal trainer, Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certified Nutrition Supercoach, and co-owner of Body Results. She specializes in training outdoor athletes. For more how-to exercises and tips, visit her website at www.bodyresults.com or send a question to court@bodyresults.com.


This article originally appeared in our Winter 2018 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click  here

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