Have you ever rolled your ankle, let it rest for a few days, and then got back to your regular routine like nothing happened? All of us have done this, probably more than once. But that ankle is never going to be the same. After an injury, you lose some amount of strength and mobility in the injury spot. With injuries, of any kind, your body will never heal 100% with or without therapy. But, when you don’t do some sort of therapy or strength training post-injury, you never give that wound a chance to be (almost) normal again.
The ankles and wrists are two of the most common body parts to be injured. They are also two of the most brushed over injuries. If today you go to yoga and feel pain in your wrist, it’s probably from a past injury. So let’s talk about how to strengthen the ankles and wrists to get them a little bit closer to 100%. These exercises aren’t only good therapy post-injury, but they also help prevent future injuries.
To strengthen your wrists you need to strengthen the muscles in your forearm, these include your flexors, extensors, pronators, and supinators. Flexion is when the palm of your hand moves towards your forearm, and extension is when it moves away. The forearm pronates when it you flip your palm down and supinates when the palm faces up.
One great exercise for the flexors and extensors is dumbbell wrist curls. Imagine how a bicep curl looks, and now do that with the wrist. For wrist curls, I want you to grab a light set of dumbbells, keep the rest of your arm still, then flex/extend your wrist.
Seated pronation and supination will also help with mobility. Hold a light set of dumbbells, and, in a seated position, lean forward so your forearms are resting on your thighs. From here rotate so your palms are facing up (supinate) and then rotate so the palms face down (pronate).
Squeezing a stress ball is another way to work the muscles in the forearm. Squeeze the ball as tight as you can, hold for several seconds and then release.
Ankles have very similar ranges of motion as the wrists do. When it comes to ankle mobility, you will also need to work on flexion, extension, pronation, and supination. I recommend using a resistance band to do these few exercises.
Loop a long resistance band around the bottom of your foot point your foot and hold onto the two ends of the band. From here you will be feeling the resistance from the band and your own upper body strength pulling your foot in a flexed position. Now you need to point your foot as hard as you can, hold for a second, then release and repeat. With the band in this same position, try flexing your foot and rotating outward (pinky toe to the ground) and inward (big toe to the ground).
Also with a resistance band, loop band over the top of the foot, ask a friend to help pull the band towards them and try to flex the foot as much as you can fighting against the band and your friends resistance.
Balance exercises are also great for ankle stability. Try standing on a balance tool like a Bosu ball or fold up a towel and balance on one foot standing on that. This will be a challenge for both your core and ankle.
This last one I learned from my ballet training, and I call it the ankle alphabet. Sit down and (one foot at a time) draw the alphabet with your big toe. Try making capital and lowercase letters for more mobility.
Finally, I want you to remember that tight muscles can also cause joint pain. Tight calves or quads can really affect the ankles and knees, so you need to take the proper steps to make sure those muscles aren’t tight! You should be stretching daily to prevent muscles from getting tight and overactive. It’s important that all muscles in your body are strong and stretched to encourage optimal movement.