“You can’t build a house on sand.”
People often over look the importance of training the lower extremities of the leg. As a strength coach, we want to build an individual from ground up starting with the foot and ankle. If a client’s foundation (foot/ankle) is unstable and weak it will create a number of problems further up the chain. It is important to understand how the lower leg and ankle function to assure you have a balanced development. To maximize your development of the lower leg and foot muscles, you should work each lower leg muscle as hard as you possibly can in these four basic ranges of motion: ankle plantar flexion, dorsiflexion, inversion, and eversion knowing that each has a limited range of motion.
Now that we understand the function of the foot and ankle we also have to understand the muscles that allows us to move them. There are a ton of muscles in the foot and lower leg but the main ones we want to focus on are the ones that make up the calf (gastrocnemius, soleus, etc.) and the tibialis anterior. If we can strengthen these muscles directly it will help improve the mobility and stabilization of the foot, ankle, and knee. We root our feet in the ground everyday no matter if we are playing a sport or not. So, if we can create a strong and stable foundation it will help us utilize the lower body muscles to the max potential. If we are using our lower body muscles to its max it will then allow us to improve our upper-body movements also.
Tips on Strengthening The Lower Extremities
- Try to walk barefooted daily working on all four basic movements (plantar flexion, dorsiflexion, inversion, and eversion).
- Train the calves and tibialis anterior by doing calf and tibialis raises, ankle hops, ankle CARs, ankle stretches, etc.
- When doing raises make sure you are working in a full range of motion using different variations (seated, standing, unilateral, bilateral). Also be sure to use higher repetitions with slower tempos and pauses.
Benefits of Training The Lower Extremities
- Stabilizes the foot, ankle, and knee.
- Reduces injuries in the foot, ankles, knees, and hips.
- Improves mobility in the ankles which then improves other movements.
- Improves balance and movement awareness.
- Can result in more force production for athletes.
In conclusion, the lower leg is just as important as any other part of the body. Make sure you are taking the time strengthen these muscles. If you want to learn more about how to improve your foundation please contact us.
-B.S. Exercise science
-Minor in nutrition
-BPS Level 1