Ankle pumps are an easy but quite effective way to stretch and strengthen your ankle muscles for better stability and flexibility.
You only need to get a chair to sit on and complete the simple steps below, and you’ll be good to go.
- Sit on a chair with your back straight and your legs extended to the front of your body, and spread apart slightly.
- Point the toes on both feet up so that your soles are straight.
- Point your toes back down and hold the stretch for about five seconds before pointing them up again. To help with this, you can pretend you are pressing your foot down on the gas pedal of a car while pointing your toes down.
- Slowly get your toes back up so that your foot is perpendicular to the ground.
If you don’t have a chair or don’t prefer to use one, it is totally okay to do it when you are lying down.
Then, instead of starting the exercise with your back against the chair, you will just lie down on the floor or any other flat surface and stretch your legs out in front of you.
WHAT MUSCLES DO ANKLE PUMPS WORK?
Ankle pumps mainly work your calf region, which consists of the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles, and the Achilles tendon.
By pointing your toes up and down to flex your foot, you contract the calf area, which in turn strengthens the muscles, tendons and ligaments in there.
BENEFITS OF ANKLE PUMPS
Ankle pumps are a relatively simple but highly effective way of strengthening your calf muscles responsible for your general mobility.
REDUCE SWELLING POST-SURGERY
If you are a post-surgical patient who has been immobile for a while, you may notice your ankles getting swollen due to the collection of fluid around the joint.
Doing this exercise can help you move fluid around to reduce swelling around the joint.
PREVENTS BLOOD CLOTS
Blood clots (scientifically known as deep vein thrombosis) affect about 10 million people globally every year.
There are a number of risk factors that could increase the chances of getting blood clots around your ankles, including surgery, pregnancy, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity among others.
Basic ankle stretching exercises like ankle pumps can help prevent the development of deep vein thrombosis.
This movement improves your ankle stability by strengthening and stabilizing the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the region.
You have a better chance at preventing ankle injuries when you have a stable ankle that can support your body weight and external load during weight-training movements.
EASY TO DO
As you can already tell, ankle pumps won’t have you struggling to master the form over a period of three months.
It is arguably one of the simplest exercises that you can use to work your ankle.
Plus, it doesn’t require any equipment, which means you can do it anywhere, at any time.
ALTERNATIVES TO ANKLE PUMPS
Ankle circles help improve the range of motion of your ankle joint with a few simple steps that you can complete either from a seated or lying position.
- Begin by sitting on a chair or lying down on a comfortable flat surface.
- If you are seated, bring one foot over your knee and turn the ankle around in circles slowly to the right, then to the left.
- If you are doing it from a lying position, spread your legs out, place one foot over a slightly elevated surface, and turn the ankle in circles.
- You can make it easier by pretending to draw letters of the alphabet with your foot in the air.
- Keep your movements slow and focus on using only your ankle for the movement and not your whole foot.
10 circles in each direction on each foot would be a great place to start.
The band stretch uses a resistance or pull-up band to deepen the stretch on your ankle.
To do an inward band stretch:
- Sit on the floor with the band around the right foot.
- Hold each end of the band firmly with both hands.
- Slowly turn the ankle inward as though you are facing its sole to your left side.
- Then, pull the band up with the left-hand side to further deepen the stretch.
- Repeat these steps on the other side.
To do an outward band stretch:
- Sit on the floor with the band around your right foot.
- Hold both ends of the band on either side of your foot with both hands.
- Turn your ankle outward slowly, then pull the band up using its left side to make the stretch more intense.
CROSS-LEG ANKLE STRETCH
To do this exercise:
- Sit on a chair with your right leg crossed over the left knee.
- Using both hands, hold your right foot firmly.
- Then, bend the toes of the right foot using your left hand. Bend your ankles downward, like you are pointing up and down with your toes.
- You should feel the muscles around your foot and the front of your ankle stretching.
- Hold for 30 seconds before repeating the steps on the other side.
ANKLE PUMPS MISTAKES TO AVOID
MOVING TOO FAST
Take your time as you perform each rep of this exercise to achieve maximum benefit, making sure you do not proceed until you feel the stretch during the pause.
Ankle pumps, like most strengthening exercises, work best when you perform them consistently.
They do not promise immediate results after just one session or two.
Take your time to complete your reps slowly and with control, otherwise, you may not enjoy the full benefit of the movement.
And if you are a post-surgical patient, elevate the healing leg and support it to take some of the pressure off the muscles around your knees.
Finally, feel free to try out the alternatives in here too if you feel that ankle pumps just don’t do it for you.