Find out why you need to strengthen your ankles and how to do it.
A swimmer’s ankles are extremely important for a very simple reason: they connect your legs to your feet. A swimmer’s leg kick is completed by their feet, but without good ankles the entire movement is basically wasted.
For an ankle to be strong it must be flexible.
In other words, if we assume that your foot forms an “L”-shape with your shin when it is in its normal position (a right angle between your foot and lower leg), then if you have good ankles you should be able to extend your foot so that it forms an “l” shape with your leg (foot extended).
The freestyle, backstroke and butterfly leg kicks are all based on the assumption that you can extend your foot as far as possible. Take two people who are exactly alike except for their ankles: one person’s ankles are more flexible than the other’s. It goes without saying that if these two swimmers sprint using their legs only, the swimmer who can extend his/her ankles more effectively will be able to apply more power.
A flexible ankle is also less likely to suffer one of the most common injuries: a twist.
Here are some exercises to help you increase the flexibility and strength of this specific joint.
The first exercise is very simple. In a sitting position, describe circles with your toes (without moving your leg) making the circles as big as possible, first clockwise and then in the opposite direction.
10 circles in each direction, repeat three times.
Skipping with a rope.
This is an excellent exercise because it helps you extend your ankles while also working all the muscles used for extending-flexing your foot.
Jump rope for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds recovery, repeat 4 times (2’ exercise). Take a 1 minute break and then repeat the exercise a second time.
Rubber ball squash
Here, as above, the exercise focuses on both flexibility and strengthening your muscles, particularly your calves. With your heel on the ground, press down as hard as you can on a rubber ball placed under your foot. You can also do this exercise without a ball focusing specifically on the flexion-extension of your foot.
20 reps, repeat 3 times with 30 seconds recovery.
Using fins in the water forces you to work your ankles harder, strengthening them and increasing their range of movement.
Swim with fins, possibly using only your legs in different positions, for 400/500 m during all your training sessions.
Enjoy your training!