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The Best Exercises to Strengthen Ankles

written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 2/15/2010

Exercises to strengthen ankles are always a good idea, whether you have had an ankle injury or not. Here we’ll discuss the best exercises to keep them strong and agile because your whole body depends upon sturdy ankles for virtually every type of movement.

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    If you’re looking for exercises to strengthen ankles it’s safe to assume that you’ve already injured one or it’s getting tender and tight. If not, than congratulations for getting on board the preventative maintenance train. In terms of your body parts, the old adage that “everything hinges on it” literally applies to your ankle. All your weight is supported by that skinny collection of bone and ligaments with its bony knobs on either side. It’s amazing that they don’t sprain and brake more often.

    I’ve sprained the same ankle twice over the last decade and this last time was only a year ago on a fluke of a mountain biking mishap involving boulders and a bad decision. It rolled inward which is the most common sprain because the inside of your ankle is stronger than the outside. With the help of a good physical therapist from the V.A. in Fort Harrison, Helena and the exercises outlined below, I was able to recover sufficiently to climb the highest mountain in Montana about seven weeks later. These exercises work.

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    Resistance Bands Improve Ankle Strength

    If you're unfamiliar with what resistance bands are read up on them in Cheap and Effective: Resistance Bands and you will see that they are a very useful, convenient, and frugal addition to your arsenal of home fitness equipment. You should be able to find them at your gym. Professional physical therapists rely on them to rehabilitate people recovering from ankle injuries. These long strands of varying degrees of rubber can be used to give muscles and ligaments a very light or heavy amount of resistance (colors designate resistance amount) for a given exercise. Right after an injury you’ll want to use a very light resistance band but as the days and weeks go by and your ankles grow stronger, you’ll increase the amount of resistance accordingly. These bands are absolutely vital to strengthening the ankles.

    Isotonic Exercises to Strengthen Ankles with Resistance and Promote Full Range of Motion

    Put the band around the ball of one foot, extend your leg while holding the ends of the band with your hands and push your ankle down as far as you can. Then release to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

    Now do the opposite by tying the band around a fixed object so you have a loop to pull away from. Slip your forefoot under the band extending it away from your body and then pull it towards you. Repeat 10 Times.

    Keep the band tied around a fixed object again so that your ankle is pulling down and in from an initial relaxed position. Repeat 10 times. (Most sprains occur with your ankle rolling in this way)

    Band will still remain tied around a fixed object, only this time your foot will be in the opposite position so you pull up and out from a relaxed position. (For a convenience sake tie the band to a fixed object with enough room to execute all of these exercises.)

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    Vital Exercises to Prevent Injuries using a Bosu BallThe best exercises to strengthen ankles using a bosu are described in page 2 of the article, "Vital Exercises to Strengthen Ankles and Prevent Injuries". Whether you're looking for a speedy recovery from an injury or you just want to keep them strong and agile, these are the vital exercises to execute. I have personal experience with a sprained ankle and these exercises were given to me by a professional physical therapist and they did the trick. You'll need a Bosu ball for optimum results.
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    Advanced Routines to Start on the Floor and Then Graduate to a Bosu Ball

    Concentrate on keeping those insides of your ankles pinned to the floor or the Bosu ball with these. Relying on the outside edge is where the rolling can occur, putting you out of commission. These exercises work on your balance as well as firm up the ankles. Be patient until you get the swing of it, and these will really pay off in keeping you agile and fully mobile.

    Start with one foot on the floor and the other foot bent behind you. The arm opposite of your planted foot is extended out to the side of your body, elbow bent 90 degree with your hand at about the level of your head. Keep that foot firmly planted, (especially the inside edge) bending down and crossing that extended arm toward the planted foot (similar to the forward part of a pitcher's wind up). Repeat 10 times, then do the same thing with your other ankle.

    Once you're comfortable with that on the floor it's time to graduate to the same exercise only with the planted foot balancing on top of the Bosu ball. With that work, you're really strengthening every element of your ankle. If you want even more of a challenge; hold a dumb bell in that extended arm while you're doing it. Unfortunately, once you do sprain an ankle it is permanently altered and much easier to reoccur. So it strongly benefits you to be proactive and do these exercises once or twice a week to prevent that. As always, be safe and don’t try to push past your threshold in the beginning. For some more great information about ankles refer to the Silverman Ankle & Foot: Orthopedic Surgery link below.


    Silverman Ankle & Foot: Orthopedic Surgery @

    V.A. Fort Harrison - Physical Therapy Department