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Every golfer knows that their game depends on their swing and their swing depends on balance. If you have poor mechanics or tend to shift your weight, your balance will suffer and your swing will go off the rails. Strong ankles are key to maintaining your balance and hence your swing, so you'll spend less time in the sand trap. Or complaining of back pain.
The exercises below are meant to strengthen ankles and calf muscles, including ankle inverters and everters, responsible for the side-to-side movement of your feet. Strengthening these groups of muscles is extremely important for stability through your golf swing, especially on uneven surfaces.
1. Raise yourself on your toes. This is pretty self-explanatory. It's simple and very effective at strengthening the muscles in your calf, foot and toes.
While lightly holding on to the back of a chair to mainatin balance, slowly raise yourself on the toes of both feet. Repeat 10 times. For a challenge, try raising one foot off the ground, shift all of your weight to the opposite foot, and raise yourself on the toes of just one foot.
If you're in decent shape and would like a bigger challenge, hold on to light free weights while doing this. Don't go too heavy on the weights or you'll place undue stress on the muscles and do more harm than good. For balance training, alter your stance by pointing your toes in or out, or place one foot in front of the other.
2. Balance yourself on one leg. Not much explanation needed here. Pick one foot off the ground and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat with the other foot. If you're just starting, make sure you have a table or chair close by to hold onto until you maintain your balance. For "advanced users", stand on a pillow, which will simulate an uneven surface.
3. Stretch your heels and calf. Runners will be familiar with this one, as it's excellent at stretching out your heel cords. Stand facing a wall, keeping your back straight. Place your hands on the wall. One leg should be slightly forward and bent and the other leg extended behind you with the heel flat and the toes pointed in slightly. Keep both heels flat on the ground and press your hips toward the wall. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat. Then switch legs and repeat. To add an ankle stretch, perform the stretch from this position again, but bend both knees slightly. Keep your hips centered over both feet.
4. Sitting calf and ankle stretch: Sit on the floor with both legs extended straight. Loop a hand towel around the ball of your left foot and grasp the ends of the towel. Gently pull the towel towards you while keeping your leg straight. You'll feel the stretch in your calf and ankle. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the right foot.
5. Increase your ankle's range of motion. Sit in a chair of sufficient height so your feet do not touch the floor. Leading with your big toe, write each letter of the alphabet with your foot. Keep the movement small, using just your foot and ankle only, not your leg.
6. Strengthen your ankle's dorsiflexion and plantar flexion. You'll feel the muscles going to work in your calf, shin, the back of your heel, and the top of your foot. With your legs straight our in front of you and your heel on the floor, anchor an elastic band on a chair or table leg, and then wrap it around your midfoot. Pull your toes toward you and push your heel forward. Repeat 10 times. This strengthens dorsiflexion. To strengthen plantar flexion, loop the elastic band around the ball of your foot and hold the ends in your hand. Without pulling on the band, point your toes forward and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Keep your ankles in tip-top shape and you'll have a much better time on the greens.