This blog post was originally published in June 2017 to McHale Strength
The game is fast and furious. Your blood is pumping, your adrenaline is high, your eyes scanning your teammates to anticipate the next play.
You plant your foot to take off in the opposite direction and feel it. Instead of being met with the strong push you expect from your ankle, nothing happens. Or at least not what you were hoping for.
“Oh no,” you think. “Not this, not now.”
Your usually strong, powerful joint has just given up the ghost. It somehow turned or twisted in a way that it’s not quite supposed to. Instead of shooting off toward the next play, you have to limp to the bench. If you’re lucky.
If you’re not lucky, maybe you’re helped off — one-footed and hobbling — by the paramedics.
It seems a cruel evolutionary joke that a joint like the ankle would be put in charge of supporting the weight of your entire body. Your ankle has to turn and pivot and push, often as your body is moving quickly in another direction.
It’s no wonder that ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries among athletes. Especially power athletes. Athletes that rely heavily on quick direction changes to play their sport. Maybe even athletes that are traveling faster than their feet can carry them.
I joined Team Wankle most recently during the third game of a tournament. It wasn’t an unusual play. My ankle hadn’t been particularly bothering me. It was just one of those things. The unfortunate meeting of my body’s limits and physics.
Inversion sprains are the most common; that’s when your ankle rolls inward stretching and straining the ligaments along the outside of your leg. The same type of movement you might need if you have to cross your legs over and sprint in the opposite direction.
Not anymore, buddy. You’re on #teamwankle now.
The bad news is that your ankles are fragile and you can’t guarantee that you’ll never injure them. The good news is that you can reduce your risk of injury with a few simple warm-up/mobility exercises.
#1) THE PLATE PASS
You can use anything you want, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a weight plate. Just pass it from hand to hand as you stand on one foot. It looks deceptively easy, but it will challenge your balance and give your ankles a nice little workout. (I’m only using a 10-pound plate here. Bumper plates, amirite?)
#1.5) THE MED BALL SLAM
This is a rad progression from the Plate Pass, if you need/want something a little bit more aggressive. The weight you use isn’t super important here — I’m using 15lbs and might go up a little next time.
Keep your core engaged and your knee soft and ready to react. Make sure to throw on each side of your body by rotating through your torso at the top just before the slam. THAT’S what is going to test your balance and strengthen your ankle.
#2) DROP DOWNS
They look easy but really challenge your balance and ankle strength. Aim for a drop height of around 6″ (15 cm) and land softly. That’s the key. No slamming down on your sensitive, flimsy, useless ankle joint. Got it?
#3) ELEVATED SIDE HOPS
To strengthen against those inversion sprains make sure to jump with the outside of your foot leading as shown. Aim for a box height of 6″ (15cm) or shorter to make this an exercise that actually focuses on your ankle strength and stability.
All 4 of these moves can be thrown together as a quick warm-up before a leg day or a game day. Just make sure that you are cleared post-ankle sprain to get back into full play.
- Plate Pass = 20 passes total on each leg
- Med Ball Slam = 20 total throws on each leg
- Drop Downs = 10 per side
- Elevated Side Hops = 10 per leg
Here’s to avoiding Team Wankle.
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