How to Improve Ankle Flexibility in Swimmers

Swimming requires a lot of strength training and stretching of the body to build strong, limber muscles. However, many swimmers forget that in addition to strong shoulders and legs, successful swimming also relies heavily on the amount of flexibility and mobility your ankles have. If you have stiff ankles, it can greatly hinder your ability to perform at your absolute best. Learn why ankle flexibility is so important to swimming success as well as different ways to increase ankle flexibility with these helpful tips and tricks. 

Important of Ankle Flexibility for Swimming

Consider for a moment the amount of work your ankles take on when you are trying to propel yourself forward while swimming. The stronger your kick, the faster you can go. This is because the more flexibility your ankle has, the more water you can push behind you. This makes a huge difference in propulsion compared to kicking water downwards, which creates drag, slowing a swimmer down. 

When you have flexible ankles, you have the ability to kick stronger because you can direct a larger surface area of water onto the top of your foot. A strong kick provides many benefits while swimming, including better body positioning, creating lift from the down kick to keep you swimming at a higher level in the water, and the ability to maintain stronger strokes from start to finish. Other benefits of ankle flexibility include: 

  • Improved balance in the water
  • Reduced strain and pain on the limbs
  • Ligament and tendon protection around the ankles

A stiff ankle greatly limits your range of movement, even if your back and shoulders are in top condition. In fact, it has been proven that flexible ankles directly contribute to increased kicking speed. 

Poor ankle mobility can cause issues way beyond the ability to be a fast swimmer. Major concerns linked to poor ankle mobility include limited range of motion, training imbalances, and injuries due to overuse. You also run the risk of obtaining ankle, leg, knee, and hip injuries, which can put a quick halt on athletic swimming. 

Assessments can be done to determine the amount of flexibility of your ankles. This can help you gauge any improvements that you may need to make to help increase and maintain ankle flexibility for swimming. 

How to Improve Ankle Flexibility

Since it is so important for safe and successful swimming, it is a good idea to know various ways to increase ankle flexibility. Check out some of the best ankle stretches for swimmers to get started on improving the mobility of your ankles. 

Dynamic Mobility

When it comes to stretching, a lot of people tend to forget about dynamic stretches. These stretches help with increasing ankle range of motion and can help to warm up the muscles to prevent injury. These can be done on your back, as well as through standing foot exercises such as a heel walk or toe walk. 

Peroneal Neural Mobility

The fibular (peroneal) is a nerve that runs behind the fibula and into the front of your ankle. When it does not slide throughout its place as it should, mobility of the ankle is greatly reduced. To help with keeping this nerve in good condition, exercises such as fibular nerve flossing are a great solution. This can be done by sitting down. Point your toes, tilt your head back while sitting tall with your back straight, and then bring your head forward while pulling your toes up with an arched back.

Ankle Proprioception

Ankle proprioception is the ability of the ankle to sense its position in space. Swimmers that do not have adequate ankle proprioception often have difficulties with ankle range of motion. Balancing exercises are a great way to help improve ankle proprioception and increase ankle flexibility. Perform a balancing exercise by simply closing your eyes and rotating your head slowly from side to side while standing on one foot at a time. 

Improving Ankle Strength

Strong ankles play a big part in allowing ankle flexibility. Specific exercises geared towards strengthening your ankles can greatly reduce drag while swimming and even help reduce the risk of injury. An elevated heel raise can not only help strengthen your calves but can also improve the range of motion within your ankles. To do this, place your foot on an elevated surface such as a step and raise yourself as high as you can, placing your weight only on the ball of your foot. Slowly bring yourself back down to help elongate and strengthen the muscles in and around your ankle. 

Baby Feet Musculature

Tight plantar fascia and limited ankle mechanics greatly hinder a swimmer's ability to kick fast and strong. Improve these parts of your body through simple exercises to help increase movement and flexibility in your foot and ankle. All you need to do is roll a baseball under your foot, working the baby feet musculature that is commonly known to become tight and cramped while swimming. This will help to relax that area of your foot, allowing for a better range of motion. 

Ankle Dorsiflexion

Baseballs and foam balls can be a great tool to improve the mobility of your ankles because they can be used to easily target trouble areas found in smaller muscle groups. Not only that but they can also help with improving blood flow and delivering more oxygen to hard-working muscles. Rolling a ball on the ankle dorsiflexion can be done by placing a ball on the ground and then gently rolling it with the lower part of the shin. This will help to relax the muscles and improve ankle flexibility. 

Improve Toe Strength

Toes are often forgotten about but they play a major role in the ability to grab water and propel swimmers forward. That is why it is so important to strengthen your toes, and in turn, the rest of the muscles in your foot and ankle. Exercises can be done by gently flexing and spreading your toes apart from one another. 

Improve Your Ankle Flexibility With the Perfect Dryland Training Equipment from All American Swim

At All American Swim, we know how important it is for you to keep your body in the best shape for swimming at your best. That is why we are the superior swim shop for everything you need to strengthen your body for your next big swimming event. We pride ourselves in offering the best customer experience possible, with a customer satisfaction price guarantee, no-hassle returns, and free exchange shipping. All American Swim also offers unbeatable customer service to help you with any questions or concerns you may have. 

Find what you need to improve your ankle flexibility today at All American Swim. 

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