Any basketball player will tell you that the game can stress your ankles significantly. This is evident by the increasingly supportive design of basketball shoes for ankle support and how many players you see wearing braces. It can leave you wondering, how can you strengthen your ankles to prevent basketball injuries?
While no injury is entirely preventable, strengthening the muscles in your lower legs and feet can significantly reduce the chance of irritating or injuring your ankle. This guide will cover the best exercise and routines players can do at home or at the gym to help their ankle joints be basketball ready.
Why is Ankle Strengthening Necessary for Basketball Players?
The natural demands of the game make players susceptible to injuries. Still, basketball puts two primary forms of stress on the ankle joints.
Stress on the ankle comes in two forms during basketball games. The first is the quick side-to-side movements required to block other players and move down the court. Rapid lateral movements can irritate the ligaments and tendons surrounding the ankle. If these tissues are pushed beyond their normal limits, they can stretch or tear.
The impact experienced after jumping is another cause of ankle stress during basketball. Sometimes, if a player lands incorrectly on their ankle, the ligaments can be sprained or torn. Jumping might also cause your Achilles tendon to become inflamed, known as Achilles Tendonitis.
It’s important to know that basketball ankle injuries can be acute or chronic. You may hear a pop when landing improperly on your ankle. This is usually an acute injury that happens suddenly. Alternatively, your ankle pain may slowly worsen over time, often a chronic injury.
While it’s hard to prevent acute injuries, exercises and stretching can usually remedy chronic ones.
How to Strengthen Your Ankles for Basketball – Six Best Exercises:
1. Stretching Before Play
Taking time to stretch and warm-up before playing basketball can help your ankles adjust to the fast-paced movements. Excellent pre-game stretches include:
- • Heel drops. Stand on the balls of your feet on the edge of a stair or platform, slowly lower your heels towards the ground, then raise back up.
- • Standing calf stretch. Facing a wall, extend one leg out behind you so that the balls of your feet rest on the ground. When you lean in to the wall, try to lower your heel towards the floor to stretch the back of your leg and your calf muscle.
- • Sitting ankle stretch. Sitting with your legs extended out in front of you, place a towel or strap around the arch of your foot. Gently pull your foot back towards you. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each leg.
- • Lower leg stretches. Aside from warming up your ankle, it is also a good idea to engage in calf, hamstring, quad, and glute stretches before playing.
2. Calf Raises
Standing on a flat surface, raise onto the balls of your feet. Hold for a few seconds, then lower down. Repeat 10 – 15 times. You can also perform negative calf raises on a raised edge, like a stair, lowering down towards the floor before raising up.
3. Ankle Pump
While seated in a chair, raise one leg out in front of you. Pull your toes back towards your calf, then press them down towards the floor; as if you were pressing on the gas pedal. You can increase the difficulty by having a partner provide resistance with their hand when you press downwards.
4. Jump Rope
Jumping rope is an excellent way to strengthen the calves and ankles. Try to skip rope in these three directions without stopping for 20 seconds each: up and down, front to back, side to side.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, take a step forward and bend at the knee until it is at a ninety-degree angle. Your back leg should also bend to parallel your calf to the floor. Push off your front foot to return to standing. Repeat with the other leg. Complete ten reps on each leg for 2-3 rounds.
6. Bosu Squat
Your basic squat is excellent strength training, but a Bosu ball can further improve your balance and fast-twitch muscle strength. Turn a Bosu ball upside down so the flat surface is facing up. Using a wall if needed, stand on the Bosu with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down to ninety degrees and return to standing. Complete ten reps 2-3 times.
To keep your ankle joints happy and healthy, you need to prepare off the court. Cross-training and engaging in strengthening exercises are incredibly beneficial. While the activities we listed above are excellent for improving ankle strength and mobility, any other leg exercise can also be helpful. Be sure to warm up and stretch before each game. With proper care, your ankle will carry you through many more games!
The next article looks into ways you can help prevent ankle rolling in basketball, so head over to there to learn more.