Strengthening Ankle Exercises: Ride Better this Winter
This is Jason Maher, Performance Coach at EZIA and today I would like to share with you some ankle exercises, specifically for snowboarding and other board sports. I grew up in the northeast and if you have spent many winters in that area, you know there is not much to do outside if you don’t like the cold and snow. For as long as I can remember, snowboarding has been my winter sport of choice. I picked up the hobby as a kid and it has been a pure joy to see how it has progressed into a more recognized sport since then. With the high rate of progression, sport specific training is becoming a huge advantage for riders.
In Jussi Oksanen’s testimonial video, you can see high-performance training specifically designed by EZIA to help Jussi take his snowboarding to the next level. To keep in the theme of Snowboard Training, today I’m going to address injury prevention, more specifically increasing strength, mobility, and flexibly of the ankles. The #1 injury of beginner snowboarders is an ankle sprain, also known as “snowboarder’s ankle”. The ankle needs to be strong enough, mobile enough, and flexible enough to handle impact from high drops as well as enough strength to pivot for balance compensations in carving and falling. The ankle exercises below should help you to prevent any unfortunate, season ending ankle injuries this winter.
3 Ankle Exercises for Snowboarders
The first exercise I’d like to go over is wall ankle mobilization. This is a common ankle mobility exercise, however I am going to add inward and outward motions of the knee (adduction and abduction) to further increase lateral mobility. As you can see in the video below, you want to brace yourself with your hands on the wall and keep your foot flat on the ground while decreasing the angle between your foot and shin (tibia). Once you reach your end range of motion (ROM) slightly move your knees inward and outward (adduction and abduction) 3-4 times. Perform the exercise by alternating between both ankles for a total of 2-3 sets. As the exercise gets easier to perform start to inch your toes further away from the wall while keeping your heel on the floor, this allows you to increase the ankle ROM. As you move your knee in and out, try to keep your foot in a neutral position, not forcing too much weight on one side or the other (no pronation or supination).
A similar ankle drill can be performed using an Indo Board with a flow cushion or a dyna-disc underneath. On the Indo Board, begin by putting the weight on your heels (foot in dorsiflexion) and transition the weight onto your toes (plantar flexion). With this exercise we are able to simulate the heel/toe motion used in your carving. Be sure to have your dyna-disc or flow cushion inflated enough to challenge your stability and balance (proprioception) but deflated enough to allow full range of motion at the ankles (being able to tap the board to the ground on the heel and toe side edges).
As a bonus for the more advanced snowboarders, a squat on the Indo Board focusing on maintaining 1 foot over the balance cylinder is a great sport specific exercise. The pressure over the cylinder while squatting simulates riding deep powder, where all your weight has to be on your tail. Be sure to perform the squat while keeping the nose of the Indo Board away from the ground. This is an advanced progression, you may want to regress by performing it on the flow cushion or dyna-disc. Try 6-8 squats per leg if you can.
To gradually improve mobility, these ankle strengthening exercises should be done in your warm-ups or integrated into your everyday training before performing more strenuous balance training.
I hope you like these ankle exercises I have outlined. Give them a shot and let us know what you think, winter is just around the corner!
written by Coach Jason Maher (post snowboard training session with Jeremy Jones and Jussi Oksanen)
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