A practical approach to kick more efficiently is to improve ankle flexibility. A common attribute among fast swimmers (kickers) is their excellent ankle flexibility. Having flexible ankles is equivalent to being about to boost your swimming speed with your ankles.
As a swimmer, flexible ankles are crucial as it allows you a wide range of motion. It is not unusual to have less flexible ankles as a beginner or amateur. However, you can improve your ankle flexibility in many simple ways.
If you have got weak ankles and you desperately need to turn things around, then you are just at the right place. I have included some tips and ankle-based exercises to loosen your ankles, improve ankle flexibility, and swimming performance.
Table of Contents
- Benefits of Ankle Flexibility
- Top 10 Exercises to Improve Ankle Flexibility for Swimmers
Benefits of Ankle Flexibility
Contrary to popular opinion, kicking is an essential aspect of swimming. An integral part of Michael Phelps’ swimming is his kicking. With strong, well-timed kicks, you can significantly improve your swimming speed to have the edge over other swimmers.
Your kicking efficiency is influenced by your level of ankle flexibility. You should also note that ankle flexibility and strength go together. I have discussed three benefits to help you understand why you should get serious about improving your ankle flexibility.
1. Reduced Risk of Injuries
Swimming is an intensive water sport that exercises almost every body part, including your ankles. You are more likely to strain your ankles while swimming, especially if they are stiff. It might take you a while to recover.
A less flexible ankle can suffer the knee. Ideally, your ankle should be almost straight with your leg. If this isn’t possible, the bulk of the stress will be borne by the knee.
You tend to put the knee through awkward positions rather than the usual hinge, resulting in strain or injuries. You may also experience discomfort above the knees, particularly in the hips.
2. More Efficient Kicking
Every swimmer strives to become more proficient in kicking as they advance towards the expert level. Focusing on improving your ankle flexibility translates to a more efficient kicking. This is because you do not get tired quickly.
When you have flexible ankles and understand the swimming technique, you will be able to kick backward instead of downwards. This way, you enjoy more feel of the water, exert enough force and generate powerful propulsion.
3. Better Swimming Stability
When your ankles are flexible, you won’t have to position your body in an unusual manner to execute your swimming technique. Therefore, your body stays in a streamlined position, and you enjoy more stability.
Top 10 Exercises to Improve Ankle Flexibility for Swimmers
Ankle flexibility is crucial in swimming, giving swimmers the ability to execute various foot works and range of motion. You can work on your ankle flexibility through training, even with some swimming accessories.
However, it is best to observe a quality training routine, preferably three to four days per week. You don’t want to strain or hurt yourself because you want to improve your ankle flexibility.
1. Balancing on a Single Leg
This exercise requires you to stand on one foot at a time. For safety, it should be done on a flat surface. Some people might need support to avoid falling; hence, the wall or a reliable chair should do.
While standing on your foot, hold out your arms to your sides. It is a good exercise for building your ankle strength. You can work with a stopwatch and mirror to help you monitor improvements and make the necessary adjustment.
For more challenges, you might want to use a balance board. However, ensure your safety at all times.
2. Work Your Ankle in Circles
This exercise helps to improve your ankle’s range of motion. Depending on convenience, you can do this while sitting or lying down. A foam roller is required for this exercise.
Place the foam roller directly under one ankle, serving as a free platform to work your ankle. Rotate the ankle slowly – turn it in circles. For maximum efficiency, turn the ankle in clockwise and anticlockwise circles up to ten times.
Afterward, switch to the other ankle. You can perform the exercise for long periods but be careful not to strain your ankle. Ensure you move your ankle (foot) instead of your leg.
3. Performing Heel Lifts While Standing
While standing, space your feet about a meter apart. Raise your heels such that your entire weight is on the balls of both feet. You might want to use a wall or chair for support.
Also, you may carry some objects to provide more weight (resistance). If you are serious about strengthening your ankle muscles, you should consider this exercise.
It would help if you took it slowly for more effectiveness. However, twenty to thirty lifts should be enough given that you have an excellent weekly routine.
4. Raising Your Body With Your Toes
Although it’s a challenging exercise, it is quite effective. It is similar to performing heel lifts while standing. But in this case, you require a high platform, precisely the edge of such a platform.
The exercise flexes the ankle muscles while building more strength. For this exercise, you can use the edge of a step or something similar. You have to stand on the edge of the step with the balls of both feet.
Then you raise and drop your heels. You should be very careful to avoid falling; hence, support should be considered. You may also carry some weights to create more resistance.
5. Exercising Your Plantar Flexion
Find a comfortable spot to sit – a foam mat will seem great for this. You require a resistance band or swim cord for this exercise. It aims to strengthen and increase your ankle’s flexibility simultaneously.
It focuses on your plantar flexion. Lay one of your legs flat on the floor while bending the other leg at the knee for support.
Loop the resistance band or swim cord around the laid down foot while holding the cord/band with both hands. Increase and release the tension of the band by flexing your ankle forward and backward.
6. Exercising Your Dorsiflexion
The dorsiflexion exercise is similar to the plantar flexion exercise; however, you will be pulling your foot towards yourself. Find a reliable anchor to hold your resistance band. A pole or chair should suffice.
Sit in front of the anchor and hook the band around your foot. Like the previous exercises, increase and decrease the tension of the band by flexing your ankle forward and backward.
7. Toe-Heel Walks
This is a simple yet effective exercise that you can try at home or during leisure. It works on your ankle flexibility and strength. Simply walk on your toe while counting your paces or using a timer.
8. Sitting Back on Your Ankles
Kneel on a foam mat and bring your legs together behind you. Extend your toes such that they are pointed out, and your foot tops are in contact with the mat.
Gently lean backward, placing all your body weight on your ankles. Do this for about 30 seconds before getting off your ankles.
9. Ankle Jumps
If you are looking to get more intense, you should try this out. Stand straight and place both hands on your sides (or hips). Attempt to jump with your toes – do not bend your knees.
Pull up both feet while in the air. Make sure you should land on your toes and flex your ankles backward to touch the floor before jumping again.
10. Using Swim Fins
Asides from the dry exercises discussed above, you can also work on your ankle flexibility in the water. Ensure you have a coach around or use some floatation devices.
Swim fins are large and often cover a larger surface area than the foot. Hence, it offers more resistance in water that you can put to use. You may combine this exercise with a swim cord for more effectiveness.
Check out this video to learn more about ankle mobility drills for swimmers:
It’s possible to have some questions or some confusing parts related to this subject. Therefore, I have compiled and answered a few frequently asked questions below. Check them out.
Why Are My Ankles Not Flexible?
Your ankle’s low mobility can be attributed to the lack of muscle flexibility. Your plantar flexion and dorsiflexion might be less flexible. Except if you have a severe injury, your ankle flexibility can be worked on, and improvements can be made.
What Is the Home Remedy for Ankle Pain?
When training to improve your ankle flexibility, it is best to do it in sessions. You can judge your level of improvement and add more challenges.
Nevertheless, it is possible to experience some discomfort. You can alleviate discomfort by resting, taking a break, and using ice packs for about twenty minutes. Another means is to apply a compression bandage.
Why Is Ankle Mobility Important?
Just kicking is vital to professional swimmers; ankle mobility (flexibility) is essential. Without adequate ankle mobility, kicking might be very difficult. Even if you try, you may cause more drag and slow yourself down. You may also get tired quickly.
Every fast swimmer understands the importance of kicking. For professional swimmers like Michael Phelps, kicking plays a crucial role in his success.
Kicking doesn’t come easy if you don’t understand the technique. However, you will only be able to kick your legs properly if you have flexible ankles.
Many swimmers, especially beginners, suffer from less flexible knees. To help you out, this article contains ten exercises to improve ankle flexibility in no time.
By now, you should understand why ankle flexibility (kicking) is important. Also, you now know how to improve your ankle flexibility and strength. Happy swimming!
Do you need answers to some questions? Do you have comments or suggestions? Kindly leave them in the comment section for me.
You can also share this knowledge with other swimmers, including beginners, to improve their ankle flexibility and strength. To share this article, please use any of the corresponding social media links on my page.