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Dryland - Ankle-Flexibility Exercises

Posted by Barbara Hummel on Feb 02, 2007 07:06AM

Tired of getting out-kicked at every practice? Here's a simple, 5-minute exercise routine that will help improve your ankle flexibility. At the same time, these exercises will strengthen the muscles in your feet and lower legs. They can also help prevent those annoying foot cramps during practice.

Why Do It:
Ankle flexibility is one of the key ingredients for a productive kick. If your feet are 'hooked' when you swim, they act like a huge parachute at the end of your body, and will drag you down. If you're a triathlete who runs and bikes a lot, you are probably very familiar with this problem. These simple exercises will help. Our demonstrator has moderately flexible ankles for swimming. Elite swimmers, especially freestylers, can usually get their toes to touch the mat on the first exercises that you see.

Ankle exercises are pretty basic. Start by sitting on any flat surface, and stretch your legs out in front of you.

Point your toes down as far as they'll go, and hold for a second or two. Try to get your toes to touch the floor.

Now flex your ankles, and try to point the toes BACK toward your body. Repeat at least 10 times. Take it slow, and really feel the stretch in your ankles.

Now make circles with your feet. Make 10 circles in one direction...

...Then 10 circles in the other direction.

Make the circles as big as possible, really stretching the ankles.

The third exercise is great for breaststroke. Point your toes toward the floor, and try to get the soles of your feet to come together. Oh yeah. Hold for a second, then flex the ankles and try to point the soles of your feet to the outside walls. Hold for a second, then repeat the whole exercise at least 10 times.

The final exercise is more for FOOT STRENGTH than ankle flexibility. If you get a lot of cramps in your feet while swimming, this is something you should try.

Start with the feet pointing straight up. Now simply curl your toes, as if you were 'making a fist' with your feet. Hold for a second or two, then release.

With your feet pointing straight up, now try to SEPARATE your toes. Get them as far apart as possible. Hold for a few seconds, then repeat at least 10 times.

How To Do Them Really Well:
The key to improving ankle flexibility is working on it every day. These exercises take just 5 minutes. Don't rush through them, and you'll start to see results.

Archived Comments

Responded Feb 02, 2007 01:17PM

Nice socks!

Responded Feb 03, 2007 06:18PM

I will try these exercises-thank you! Is there anything else I can try? My pull is so much faster than my swimming that I try not to move my legs except to use them as a balancing tool. I'm 5'11" and have size 8 1/2 feet. I sometimes think my feet aren't long enough for my height! I love this sight and love all the information it has. Keep up the good work!

Responded Feb 05, 2007 08:57AM

I agree with the nice socks comment! I'm a distance swimmer that hates kicking so I'm sure this article will help my times. Thanks alot! Peace out

Responded Feb 07, 2007 10:54AM

Great drill !
An almost complete feet stretching session !
Feet are very important in swimming an we keep them in a closed and tight box all day long: our shoes.

...and dolphins have not shoes on !!!

Responded May 07, 2007 12:07PM

And now you'll be ready for some ballet too! - These are great ballet feet-strengthening exercises...I took up ballet several years ago (ripe old age of 45) and never had an injury throughout my triathlon season. Ballet develops strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and core. Go for it!

Responded Mar 28, 2008 08:32PM

And thank Barbara for keeping it interesting with pretty socks too. :)

Responded Apr 21, 2008 12:05AM

thanks this was a real help
nice socks :)

Responded Jul 18, 2008 09:38PM

i work on my ankles for about 30 minutes a day and since i started, my kick has gotten a million times better.
it also helps that i have a size 10 foot and i'm only 5'5"

Responded Aug 22, 2008 11:59PM

I started doing this for just a few minutes a day the other week, and already my kick is twice as effective. Thanks!

Responded Feb 24, 2011 05:16PM

for what it's worth, my coach did a study on ankle fexibility (among other things) in the '60s, comparing ankle flexibility of swimmers with track and field athletes. Swimmers, except breaststrokers, generally had around 100 degree range compared to about 70 degree range for track & field and breaststrokers!
after numerous ankle-knee injuries (casts, etc), i finally got orthotics to change my strike on land and haven't had a problem on land since.

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