The Only 4 Resistance Band Exercises You Need for Strong, Injury-Proof Ankles

Ankle injuries are common, but strengthening this lower-body joint can help prevent them — or lessen their severity when they do happen.
Image Credit: tommaso79/iStock/GettyImages

One of the most common injuries caused by physical activity — both during workouts and daily movement — is ankle sprains, with an estimated 25,000 of these injuries happening to unlucky Americans every day, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

Of course, anyone can sprain their ankle whether they're participating in sports or not, but if you play sports like basketball, volleyball and soccer, you're more likely to experience this injury. And while resistance band exercises are often used to rehabilitate ankle injuries, they can also help prevent them in the first place.

Advertisement

"Strong ankles are particularly important because they set the stage for the rest of the leg," says Leada Malek, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist and board-certified sports specialist. Moreover, stable ankles allow for a stable knee and hip, and vice versa.

"With a weak ankle, the joint and soft tissue structures are susceptible to overload or instability, which can lead to injuries that commonly occur with weak ankles including tendinitis, plantar fasciitis and ankle sprains," Malek says.

Strengthening Your Ankles With Resistance Bands

Several muscles work together to stabilize the ankle, including the peroneus longus, peroneus brevis and tibialis posterior. Using a resistance band to target these muscles is common in ankle rehab programs or as part of a preventative strengthening routine.

Advertisement

"Resistance bands help when trying to isolate the ankle stabilizers because they allow you to place resistance in an open-chained position, or when your foot is not placed against the ground," Malek says.

Doing this strengthens these muscles in isolation, she says, improving neuromuscular control and perfecting your ability to control movement in each direction.

Tip

To help strengthen your ankle after a sprain, the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) recommends performing plantarflexion, dorsifelxion, inversion and eversion exercises as soon as you can bear weight comfortably on the affected ankle, and your range of motion is almost back to pre-injury ability.

Do: these 4-way resistance band ankle exercises for 10 reps on each side.

Advertisement

1. Plantarflexion

JW Player placeholder image
Type Strength
Activity Resistance Band Workout
  1. Sit in a chair and place a resistance band around your forefoot while holding the ends in your hand.
  2. Push your ankle down, pointing your toes as far as you can, then return to the starting position.
  3. Switch sides and repeat.

2. Dorsiflexion

JW Player placeholder image
Type Strength
Activity Resistance Band Workout
  1. Secure your resistance around a sturdy anchor point (like your left foot) and wrap the middle around your right forefoot.
  2. Begin with your foot pointing downward, then pull your ankle up as far as you can, straightening your foot so that your toes are pointing toward the ceiling.
  3. Release.
  4. Switch sides and repeat.

3. Inversion

JW Player placeholder image
Type Strength
Activity Resistance Band Workout
  1. With the band secured, wrap the band around the inside of your ankle, around the foot.
  2. Begin in a relaxed stance and proceeded to move your ankle down and inward toward the center of your body.
  3. Then return to the relaxed position.
  4. Switch sides and repeat.

4. Eversion

JW Player placeholder image
Type Strength
Activity Resistance Band Workout
  1. With the band still secured to its anchor point, wrap the band around the outside of your ankle and hold your foot in a relaxed position.
  2. Move your foot up and out, away from the midline of your body.
  3. Return it to the resting position.
  4. Switch sides and repeat.

Why Strengthening Is Essential for Sprains

Sprains are any injury to the ligaments, which are the fibers that connect bones providing strength to your skeleton, and also supporting mobility in the joints. The outer ligaments of the ankle are the typical culprit for a sprain. Luckily, our bodies happen to be quite proficient at healing ligament injuries.

Swelling will occur relatively soon after the injury as your body sends blood to the area to try and heal it. The swelling may occur for quite some time since your foot is a farther distance away from your heart. You can apply the RICE procedure, which includes rest, ice, compression and elevation, to help reduce pain and swelling while improving healing time.

Advertisement

However, it's vital to start returning to your normal exercise and daily activities as soon as possible since this will further aid in the recovery process and speed healing, according to the AAOS.

A May 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science performed a 12-week rehabilitation exercise program on 26 soccer players with the aim of improving muscle strength in the ankle to reduce the risks of subsequent injuries in those who have had an ankle sprain.

According to the study, over 70 percent of patients who've experienced ankle sprains report additional symptoms, including re-injury or abnormal functioning. The study determined that muscle strengthening exercises are essential for rehabilitating the ankle. The research shows that ankle muscle strength improvements can prevent injury and provide functional stability to the ankle.

Additional reporting from Sara Lindberg.

Advertisement

references