Ankle Mobility: Why it’s important and how to improve it
What is Ankle Mobility?
Ankle mobility refers to the ability of your foot to move freely in space. Your feet are able to do so because they have three bones (tibia, fibula and talus) which form a solid structure with each other. These bones provide support for your foot and allow it to bend or straighten when needed. When your foot moves around, it uses these bones’ joints to keep them from moving out of place.
When your foot bends or straightens, it helps you walk normally. If you want to stand up straight, your feet must be flexible enough to bend at different angles without falling off the ground. You can’t run if your feet don’t move properly and you won’t be able to jump high if they’re not flexible enough to turn over easily.
How Long Does It Take To Improve Ankle Mobility?
It takes time to build up your ankle mobility. For most people, it will take between one and two years before their ankles are fully mobile. However, some people may need longer periods of time to get there. A few things can affect the amount of time it takes to develop good ankle mobility:
Age – As you age, your body loses flexibility in certain areas such as your knees and hips. This is why older people may not be able to bend their knees or hips as much compared to when they were in their youth.
Gender – Females tend to have less flexible ankles than males. This is because the hormones that make them women (estrogen and progesterone) reduce the amount of cartilage in their bones. As a result, women’s joints are not as strong or flexible as men’s are.
Body type – Certain body types are naturally more flexible than others, but this does not mean they won’t ever become inflexible or vice-versa.
Ankle Mobility Exercises
Below are a few exercises you can do to improve the flexibility of your ankles:
Toe Touches – One of the best exercises you can do to improve your ankle flexibility is the basic toe touch. To do this, stand straight with your legs slightly apart. Slowly bend your knees and reach your hands until you can touch your toes. Hold the position for a few seconds and then return to your original standing position.
If you find this exercise too easy, then you can place a book on your head. This will make the toe touch slightly harder than before because of the added weight. If you find this exercise impossible, then you can start with sitting toe touches instead. Sit on the floor and place your feet together.
Then extend your legs out in front of you and reach your hands towards your toes. Hold the position for a few seconds and then return to your original sitting position.
Straight-legged Sit-ups – Another great exercise to improve your ankle flexibility is the straight-legged sit-up. Start off by lying on your back on a hard surface such as wood or tile. Cross your legs and hold one ankle with each hand. Using only your back and shoulders, slowly lift your torso off the ground until you can see your ankles.
Hold this position for a few seconds and then lower yourself back down.
You may find this exercise easier or harder than the toe touch, but it all depends on your flexibility and body type.
Ankle Circles – This exercise is designed to improve the range of motion in your ankles. All you need to do this exercise is a bare foot. Start off by standing up straight and then rotate your foot in a complete circle. Make sure that you only rotate your foot and do not bend your knee.
If you find this exercise too easy, then you can place a book underneath of your toes and do the exercise again. The extra weight will make the exercise slightly harder.
Once you can easily complete 10 full rotations, place the book on the floor and stand on it with your toes. Now do the ankle circles again. Repeat the process of adding weight each time you can easily complete 10 rotations.
Tips and Precautions
Below are a few tips and precautions to keep in mind while working on your ankle flexibility:
Hydrate – It is recommended that you hydrate yourself before, during, and after your workouts. Dehydration can not only reduce flexibility, but it can also cause light-headedness, fainting, and other medical problems.
location – Do not do your flexibility work outs on a hard or uneven surface such as a sidewalk or the parking lot at the local grocery store. These types of surfaces can cause unnecessary stress on your ankles and may even result in an injury.
Rest – Make sure you always rest your ankle muscles after a workout because if you overwork them, you are more likely to get an injury.
Warm Up – It is also recommended that you do a short warm up before doing any of these exercises. A few examples of a warm up are simple ankle circles, jumping jacks, and place your foot on a low step and then lowering yourself down until your thigh is almost parallel to the ground.
Cool Down – After your workout, make sure you do a cool down. A cool down consists of light exercise followed by stretching.
It is also important that you always warm up before playing basketball. The last thing you need is to pull a muscle or worse while trying to do some more serious ankle exercises.
Basketball is a fast-paced game that requires quick reflexes and even quicker movements. If your body is not prepared for the physical and mental rigors of the game, you may experience some aches and pains or even an injury. Many players often experience muscle soreness due to the constant changing of direction, jumping, and sprinting involved in the sport. However, with some strength training, you can build up your core muscles and significantly reduce the amount of muscle soreness you experience after a game.
Pilates is designed to strengthen your “core” or abdominal muscles. These are the muscles that hold your body together and provide stability for your bones. Having a strong core is extremely important for not only basketall players, but for everyone. By training your core, you can reduce the chance of back pain, improve your posture, and make your stomach flatter and stronger.
Here are some tips to get you started with Pilates:
Warm Up First – It is recommended that you do some light exercise followed by a warm up before starting your pilates routine. Some examples are: walking on your heels for 5 minutes, jogging in place for 2 minutes, and then doing some simple ankle circles.
The Basics – There are two common pilates exercises that are known as the “roll-up” and the “leg spring.” To perform the roll-up, lie down on the floor with your legs extended and arms at your side. Breathe in deeply, and then exhale while lifting your head, neck, arms, shoulders, and upper back off the floor. Keep going until you are moving up and down almost like a wave.
Repeat this exercise ten times.
After you have completed ten roll-ups, it is time to move on to the leg spring. Lie down on the floor and extend your legs up against the wall. Place your arms at your side with your palms facing up. Inhale, and as you exhale, lift your legs up off the floor about an inch.
Hold this position for ten seconds, and then slowly lower your legs back down against the floor. Do this exercise ten times.
After you have completed these two exercises, you can move on to some pilates mat exercises.
Common mat exercises consist of things such as “leg circles,” “hip lifts,” the “seal,” and “crunches.” These exercises will help you develop a stronger core so you can perform at your peak level.
When doing these pilates exercises, it is important to keep your movements slow and smooth. Quick or jerky movements can cause injury to muscles that are not used to being worked out.
Since most of these exercises target your abdominals, it is important to do some back exercises as well to evenly strengthen your muscles. Some good back exercises include: “chinning,” “pull-ups,” and “lat pulldowns.”
While doing these exercises, it is also important to remember to breath. Many people forget to breathe, and this causes muscle fatigue and even dizziness.
After completing a set of pilates exercises, it is best to stretch the muscles you have just used. This will help increase your flexibility and keep your muscles healthy. Common pilates stretches are the “down dog” and the “cobra.”
It is recommended to do pilates at least three times a week, with one of those sessions being a cardio pilates that includes exercises such as jumping jacks, running in place, and other cardiovascular exercises. If you have time, it is also helpful to include back exercises and regular stretching into your weekly routine.
In addition to pilates, it is important to keep your body in top condition by eating right and getting plenty of sleep. This may sound like common sense, but many people do not realize how important these things are to remaining healthy.
The types of food you eat affect your body in many ways. Eating foods high in fat and cholesterol can clog your arteries and cause heart attacks. Eating a low fiber diet can cause serious problems such as hemorrhoids and stomach pains. And too much sugar can lead to tooth decay and diabetes.
It is important to eat a balanced diet consisting of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables.
In addition to what you eat, it is also important to consider when you eat.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Ankle mobility and postural stability (AA Vandervoort – Physiotherapy theory and practice, 1999 – Taylor & Francis)
- Muscle strength and ankle mobility for the gait parameters in diabetic neuropathies (AR Martinelli, AM Mantovani, AJL Nozabieli… – The Foot, 2013 – Elsevier)
- Neuropathy and ankle mobility abnormalities in patients with chronic venous disease (E Yim, A Vivas, A Maderal, RS Kirsner – JAMA dermatology, 2014 – jamanetwork.com)