Having an efficient kick is essential for anyone who wants to be a successful swimmer. Your feet play an important role in how efficient your kick is. For them to do their job properly, you need to have a certain level of ankle flexibility. Not everyone has flexible ankles though. If you struggle with ankle flexibility, there are some things you can do to improve it.
Does it seem a little strange to talk about building strength to improve flexibility? You might think that resistance training and building muscle would decrease flexibility. That isn’t the case if it’s done right, however. Properly performed exercises done through the full range of motion can actually improve flexibility. Build your ankle strength with a resisted ankle flexion exercise. Sit on the floor with your leg straight in front of you. Place a resistance band around the ball of your foot and hold onto the other end with both hands. Push away from your body with the ball of your foot, allowing your hands to create resistance through the band, before returning the foot to its original position. This will strengthen your calf muscles and ankle.
As you improve your strength, your mobility will also improve. Mobility in fitness means actively moving a portion of your body through its range of motion without assistance from another part of your body. For example, pointing your foot using the muscles in your foot, ankle, and leg achieves the result using mobility. If you were to use your hands to position your foot the same way, that does not measure your ankle’s mobility. To improve mobility, combine stretching with strengthening exercises. A standing calf stretch on a step could help with this. As you lower your heels off the step, you stretch the calf muscles. Those muscles are then strengthened by your efforts to return to the original position.
Utilize Range of Motion
It’s important to utilize your full range of motion as much as you can when striving to improve ankle flexibility. The more you use your full range of motion, the more you’ll see your flexibility improve. Go through your full range of motion every time you do stretches or strengthening exercises. That will help you work as much of the muscles as possible, strengthening and lengthening them.
Ankle flexibility matters for swimmers. It’s part of what creates an efficient kick, reducing the workload and strain on your hips and knees. It also prevents your feet from creating unnecessary drag. If that’s not reason enough to improve your ankle flexibility, consider that doing so can reduce your risk of experiencing calf cramps while you swim. That alone could be reason enough to work on it.
Good form is essential for anyone who wants to swim well. Click here for more information about good form for swimming from SwimJim.