March break is fast approaching and you may be turning your attention to outdoor activities for the break. Skiing conditions are looking great for the next while so you can get the most out of beautiful spring skiing weather.
Improving your skiing technique can be a simple as increasing your ankle mobility. Whether you are downhill skiing or cross-country skiing your ankle range of motion helps. For downhill skiers ankle mobility helps you to improve your stance and balance on your skis. For cross-country skiers improved ankle mobility allows for more drive during the kick phase of skiing and allows the skier to lean forward more during the glide.
What’s the best way to improve ankle mobility?
Skiers can focus on eccentric exercises that lengthen the muscles while contracting. Here we are going to focus on the dorsiflexion of the foot that allows the ankle to fold forward. The lack of ankle range of motion is a compensation for the lack of calf muscle strength and muscle control through the required range of motion. The muscles involved in dorsiflexion are then forced to stiffen up and as it cannot generate force through the full range of motion.
Research supports that eccentric exercises are more useful than static stretching to improve muscle flexibility. Since eccentric exercises cause delayed onset muscle soreness be sure to include a recovery phase or have 1-2 rest days between eccentric exercise strength days!
Start by standing on a step with knee straight but not ‘locked backwards’ throughout the exercise. Allow the ball of the foot to rest on the stair while first raising the heel for 3 counts then second lower the heel to a maximal stretch over a count of 3. Repeat to muscular fatigue. For a more challenging exercise wear a backpack with weights to progress from just body weight.
In this exercise the knee is bent to 20° throughout. As with the first exercise, the ball of the foot is resting on the stair then the heel is raised for a count of 3. Then the heel is lowered to a maximal stretch for a count of 3. Repeat to muscular fatigue. This exercise can be progressed from body weight to increased weight by wearing a backpack with weight in it.
The goal is 3 sets of 15 reps 2 – 3 times weekly
If you are working with ankle mobility concerns or would like to improve your range of motion of any of your joints you can book online with our physiotherapist Anil Rao PT or Duane Brousmiche PT or call us at the clinic at (613) 825-3837.
Duclay J, Martin A, Duclay A, et al. Behavior of fascicles and the myotendinous junction of human medial gastrocnemius following eccentric strength training. Muscle Nerve 2009; 39:819-27. Mahieu NN, McNair P, Cools A, et al. Effect of eccentric training on the plantar flexor muscle-tendon tissue properties. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2008; 40:117-23