Ever twisted your ankles or hurt them due to running? It's very common, and most happens to people who don't run a whole lot, and it makes sense.
Well, recently, one of my clients did them for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and felt extremely happy to be practising them and learning them because he felt that they were really working his left ankle, which he damaged from too much excessive running with no recovery, and bounced right into a game of squash where he ruptured his achilles tendon.
I also had a chat with an old client, Amy (pictured above), who recently hurt her ankle, and it occurred to me that a lot of unconditioned individuals easily hurt themselves by doing the most basic exercises, so I thought I'd write this blog post to highlight some reasons why you might want to do some single leg RDLs to strengthen weak ankles. You don't have to have injured yourself to do these either.
Imagine you go for a run wearing less desirable trainers, no spring, no foam or cushioning or support for the plantar muscles or surrounding peroneal muscles on the sides of the ankle.
So what happens if you pound your feet into solid concrete for the first time in a long time? That's right, a lot of pain.
There is one exercise that you can do though which helps stabilise and strengthen the ankle joint, and this is the Single Leg RDL (Single Leg Romanian Deadlift).
A single leg RDL is done by balancing on just one leg, bending the knee slightly, and then hinging at the hips while keeping the back flat to lean forward. It trains the lower back, core, glutes, hamstring and is also great for ankle stability.
Why Is It Great For Ankle Stability?
With a single leg RDL, you are placing all of your bodyweight onto one leg and foot, which is considered a very unstable environment as your base of support is then smaller, on top of heavy object. Imagine playing a game of Jenga, and right at the bottom are only a few pieces keeping the puzzle up, that's a visual representation of the single leg RDL.
Now imagine making the Jenga more sturdy at the bottom, your chances of the game toppling over are far less, and this is the same for your ankle, the stronger you make it by doing the exercise, the less likely you are to twist your ankle or fall over.
Muscles of the Ankle
When you place all your bodyweight on one ankle where there is less stability, there is undoubtedly going to be some balance issues, and the only way to stabilise a joint is to constantly reinforce the contraction of the surrounding muscles, which in this case will mainly be the plantar muscles (sole of the foot) and the peroneals (outside of the foot).
Strengthening with Extra Weight
When you perform a single leg RDL, the instability will mean more attention to the weak points, such as your ability to keep your ankle still, and so when you put more focus on this element of training, it is usually going to get stronger faster, which means you can add more weight quicker, leading to more strength and stability sooner.