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Ankle Strategy: The #1 Secret to Keeping Your Balance

When it comes to keeping your balance, your ankle strategy is a critical key.

The ankle joint is responsible for a significant proportion of your balance when you are standing still.

When you observe someone without shoes while standing still, you will notice their ankle and foot performing small but frequent adjustments to counteract any shifts in their body’s center of gravity. That is why it is so important to have a strong ankle strategy if you want to stay steady on your feet.

If you want to maintain your balance, especially when you are standing still, here are important points you need to know about the ankle strategy:

What Is An Ankle Strategy?

An ankle strategy is a set of movements involving your ankle joint designed to improve your balance and stability. It is a very important and effective strategy I often teach my patients to improve their balance and decrease their risk of falling.

These movements are gentle yet powerful and involve certain actions of the ankle and foot joints.

With consistent practice, the ankle strategy can help improve balance, stability, and mobility, making it an important tool for maintaining your overall balance and stability.

Whether you’re simply looking to improve your balance or looking to stay active, incorporating the ankle strategy into your exercise routine can help you stay grounded and maintain your balance at all times.

Take back your confidence and banish your fear of falling! Get my QUICK and EASY Guide to Improve Your balance at Home for free here.

 

Why Is the Ankle Strategy Important for Your Balance?

Early on in my career, I used to focus my patient’s balance training on the “bigger” muscles of balance.

I used to emphasize strengthening of the gluteus maximus (butt muscles), as well as the quadriceps and hamstring (the muscles in front and at the back your thigh).

These, after all, are the muscles responsible for keeping your hip and knee joints straight and upright.

Yes, those muscles are important for your balance.

But, the experience of my patients has taught me pretty quickly that…

Those same muscles can hardly keep you upright if the muscles surrounding your ankle joint are either tight or weak!

To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at 3 different scenarios that could challenge your balance:

You’re walking uphill or a sloping surface.

Using the ankle strategy when walking uphill.
Walking up on a ramp, a slope, or an inclined surface.

As you can see, to keep your balance and stability, your ankle joint must maintain your leg upright while adjusting the position of your foot to the inclined surface beneath it.

You’re walking downhill or a sloping surface.

Using the ankle strategy when walking downhill.
Walking down on a ramp, a slope, or a declined surface.

Though the opposite of the first scenario, your ankle joint still must maintain your leg upright while adjusting your foot to the declined surface beneath it.

You’re standing on an uneven or compliant surface.

Using the ankle strategy on unvenen ground.
Standing on a balance pad/uneven surface.

Imagine standing on gravel.

Or, thick carpet in your bedroom.

Or, grass at your front lawn.

Or, walking at the beach.

Your ankle joint needs to keep your leg steady even as the surface beneath you is unstable or changing!

So, how do you keep your balance in the different scenarios above?

By using the ankle strategy!

What Is The Purpose of An Ankle Strategy Training?

The ankle strategy training is a type of movement training used to improve balance and help prevent falls.

This simple exercise involves shifting weight from the front end of your foot or back to your heel, with each ankle holding a specific position.

This technique relies on your ankle joint’s role in supporting your full body weight and also control the subtle movements of your foot during every step.

By practicing this strategy regularly, you can improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling.

In particular, you will be better equipped to maintain your footing on uneven surfaces or when making sudden changes in direction.

So whether you are an older adult looking to reduce your risk of falling, or an athlete looking to hone your movement skills, the ankle strategy can be a valuable tool for improving your overall balance and stability.

How Can I Improve My Balance Using The Ankle Strategy?

Ankle strategy exercises to improve balance and prevent falls.

There are many different exercises and activities that you can do to improve your balance using your ankle strategy.

One effective method is to focus on ankle strengthening exercises that target the ankle muscles themselves.

Taking time to perform these types of exercises regularly will help to strengthen the ankle muscles and improve their ability to support the ankle joint, making it easier for you to maintain your balance.

Another way to improve your balance using your ankle strategy is by practicing activities that challenge your balance, such as yoga or tai chi.

These types of activities put a lot of pressure on the ankle joint and require you to maintain good form and alignment to stay balanced.

By incorporating these types of exercises into your routine, you will gradually be able to better control and support your ankle, improving your overall balance and stability.

If you are looking for an intermediate-level challenge, you may also want to try incorporating a balance pad or wobble board into your workouts.

A balance pad or a wobble board requires you to use all parts of your ankle strategy to stay balanced, including the small stabilizing muscles around the ankle joint as well as the larger muscles in the feet and legs.

While strengthening the muscles surrounding your ankle joint is critical in ensuring you have a good ankle strategy, do not forget that having good flexibility and range of motion is just as important.

Incorporate stretching exercises, especially of your calf muscles, to ensure that your muscles are flexible enough to react effectively to changes in the position of your ankle.

Which Exercises Will Improve My Ankle Strategy?

  • Standing Calf Stretch
  • Heel/Toe Raises
  • Forward/Backward Weight Shift
  • Side to Side Weight Shift
  • Standing Foot Drawings

Standing Calf Stretch

Standing Calf Stretch
  • Stand 8-12 inches away from a wall.
  • Tilt one foot up against the wall while keeping the heel down on the floor.
  • Lean your body forward until you feel a stretch at the back of your leg.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then return to the original position.
  • Perform 8-10 repetitions on each side.

How will this exercise help your ankle strategy for balance?

This exercise will improve the flexibility of the muscles in your leg and foot, making your ankle strategy easier to perform.

Heel/Toe Raises

Heel and toe raise exercise to improve ankle strategy for balance.
Heel/Toe Raise with Balance Progressions
  • Stand 8-12 inches in front of a chair or counter.
  • Hold on to the chair or counter for support.
  • Slowly bring both heels up as high as you can.
  • Hold the position for 3-5 seconds.
  • Slowly bring your heels down to back to their original position.
  • Slowly bring toes up as high as you can.
  • Slowly bring toes back to their original position.
  • Perform 10 repetitions for 2-3 sets .

Tip: As you get more comfortable with this exercise, perform the progression of the exercise by first, touching the chair or counter with just your fingertips; second, without touching the chair or counter; and third, closing your eyes without touching the chair or counter.

How will this exercise help your ankle strategy for balance?

This exercise will strengthen the muscles surrounding your ankle joint. By adding the exercise progressions, you are adding a balance training component to a strengthening exercise!

Forward/Backward Weight Shift

Weight shifting exercises to improve ankle strategy for balance.
Forward/Backward Weight Shifting Exercise
  • Stand near a counter or chair to hold onto in case of balance loss.
  • Leading with your upper body, gently lean forward until you feel your body weight shift toward the ball of your feet or your toes.
  • Return to the original position.
  • Leading with your upper body, gently lean backward until you feel your body weight shift toward the heels of your feet.
  • Return to the original position.
  • Perform 8-10 repetitions in each direction.

How will this exercise help your ankle strategy for balance?

This exercise will improve your ankle strategy by strengthening your postural muscles. This will also increase your awareness of your center of gravity and the limits of your stability.

Side to Side Weight Shift

Weight shifting exercises.
Side to Side Weight Shifting Exercise
  • Stand near a counter or chair to hold onto in case of balance loss.
  • Leading with your upper body, gently lean toward your right side until you feel your body weight shift toward your right foot.
  • Return to the original position.
  • Leading with your upper body, gently lean toward your left side until you feel your body weight shift toward your left foot.
  • Return to the original position.
  • Perform 8-10 repetitions in each direction.

How will this exercise help your ankle strategy for balance?

This exercise will improve your ankle strategy by strengthening your postural muscles. This will also increase your lateral awareness of your center of gravity and the limits of your lateral stability.

Standing Foot Drawings

Fun balance exercises for seniors.
Standing Foot Drawing Exercises
  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Shift your weight on one side so you can stand on one leg.
  • Point the opposite foot forward to draw an imaginary square or circle on the floor.
  • Draw 10 imaginary squares or circles on the floor with each foot.

How will this exercise help your ankle strategy for balance?

This is a fun exercise to challenge your balance by standing on one stable foot while the other foot is moving. This exercise will improve your agility and weight-shifting abilities during stepping and walking .

Check out this article if you are looking for the Best Fall Prevention Exercises: The Ultimate Guide for Older Adults.

What To Do Next?

Through the years, I have helped many patients improved their balance and decreased their risk of falling.

In return, they all have taught me that balance and fall prevention training does not need to be complicated in order for it to be effective.

Starting with the ankle strategy training is one of the key things they have taught me that you can do to give you the “best bang for your buck” or the best return on your investment of time, energy, and effort toward keeping yourself steady on your feet.

If this article gave you ideas you can get started with, go ahead and implement!

Buckle down and forge yourself to follow the exercises I outlined in this article. Each exercise will build upon the previous and give you more experience for your body and mind to improve your balance reactions using the ankle strategy.

You can do this. You can improve your balance!

‘Til then, stay healthy and live fully!

Dr. Lex Gonzales
Dr. Lex Gonzales, PT, DPT is an author and speaker who has been a physical/physiotherapist for over 24 years. On drlexgonzales.com he provides quality information and practical solutions you can use to optimize your health and function.

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