Total Gym Exercises for Weak Ankles and Feet
Chest, back, legs, abs… These are common areas focused on in most workouts, but do you ever think about your ankles and feet? Do you know that how your foot hits the ground with walking will determine how the knees, hips and core will react? Weak ankles and resulting lack of balance can lead to ankle sprains, as well as hip, knee and back pain. People often underestimate how chronic ankle sprains can result in long-term issues, and more importantly, place you at a greater risk of falling.
The Total Gym allows for an individual to progress from limited weight bearing to full dynamic loading. This unique benefit of the Total Gym can help you learn and develop improved loading through the foot and make your workouts more effective.
Assess Your Ankle Strength
In order to assess your ankle strength, start with an awareness of how you may be placing weight through the feet with bilateral and one-legged squats. When doing this test, ask yourself: Do your feet turn inward? Outward? Is there a greater tendency to place more weight on the inner or outer part of the foot. Ideally the feet are pointed forward, there is a small arch on the inner part of the foot, and the weight is through the ball of the foot and the heel. Now turn your attention to knee alignment. The knees may be turning inward or outward. Ideally, the knees should be pointed forward and they should be tracking over the second and third toes when squatting. To challenge the deep foot muscles, you can change the surface that you are squatting on by adding a pillow, rotational disc, or foam pad on the squat stand.
How to Strengthen Your Ankles
The best way to strengthen the ankles using the Total Gym is to incorporate calf raises and varying foot pressure points and positions using the Toe Bar. The higher the incline the more challenging these exercises become. Start each exercise with both feet on the toe bar, up the challenge by transitioning to one leg. Start with 45-60 seconds per exercise with about 12 repetitions within this time period. Calf raises can initially be performed bilaterally as you progress try doing them unilaterally. Practicing good form will help with your muscle development and balance so during calf raises, allow for your heels to drop below the toe bar and when lifting your heels, maintain equal pressure the balls of the feet. Be careful not to hyperextend the knees. Squatting with the toe bar can be done in multiple ways: with the balls of the feet on the toe bar, with the heels on the toe bar with feet in a V, parallel, and wide in a plié.
As you progress in these workouts and your ankles and feet get stronger, you can add dynamic balance into your routine. These exercises are performed at a faster tempo such that you should aim to complete 15-20 repetitions within 45-60 seconds. These exercises include one or two legged jumping squats, sprint start, and lunges. Remember to keep the core engage while doing them as that will help ideally distribute the load through the foot and core. When doing jumping squats, try to land as lightly as possible on the squat stand. Switch it up and make this exercise more challenging by landing in various different points on the squat stand. During the sprint start, focus on full range of motion and try adding a jump to up the intensity. Lastly, side or backward or forward lunches will challenge balance, hence working the foot and ankle muscles. Ensure the front knee is tracking over the second and third toe. During these exercises, you might find that you’re putting too much pressure on the inside or outside of the foot. Do your best to evenly distribute your weight through the balls of your feet and heel.
Ideally you should incorporate all of these ankle and foot strengthening into your lower body or full body routines three times a week. Another way to approach stronger ankles and feet is to incorporate awareness one day, strength another day, and balance the third day. Nonetheless, you should practice bringing your attention to your feet and practice loading through the balls of the feet and heel each time you workout. Over time your strength and balance will improve, loading through the foot reaches a more optimal position, and pain and risk of falling will decrease.