Bottom Up Dryland Goalie Training: The Ankle

Before I introduce you to my new series called Bottom Up Dryland Goalie Training I want to thank everyone who turned out for the VIP Rapid Response Goalie Training Q&A webinar yesterday.  It was fun – even though I lost my internet connection for a while part way through.  Luckily I phoned in using my iPhone, so I was still able to keep answering your questions.  If you were invited to the event and had to miss it, you can just follow the link to the webinar that I sent you in a separate email and you should have access to the replay for the next month or so.

Okay, no let’s talk about your dryland goalie training.   In this new Bottom Up series of videos I will take you joint-by-joint through your body and show you some ways to test your function and to fine tune those areas.  I am not going to show you the big basic exercises, for example I will not give you squats to improve the function of your hips and knees.  Although I love squats, in this series I want to get at some of the finesse stuff, some of the little things that your competitors are missing – heck they don’t even know that they should be thinking about this stuff.

Today we are starting with the ankle – in a previous post, I wrote about how ankle function can contribute to shin pain in goalies, but the exercises for today are more geared toward symptom free players.  I even shot a video showing you all of the exercises – it is at the bottom of the post.

Movements of the ankle.

The ankle is a mortise and tenon joint – similar to what you would see in carpentry.  The bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula come down and actually extend along either side of the bones of the foot that make up the ankle.  This structure gives the ankle good range of motion when moving the foot up and down (dorsi-flexion and plantar-flexion), and allows for some movement side-to-side (inversion and eversion) but with bony limitations.  The ankle really is not designed to rotate at all – if your ankle is spinning, you are in trouble.

Now in addition to the bony structure, of course there are muscles, ligaments and tendons that help support the ankle.  Ever sprained your ankle?   Then you have damaged a tendon or two in there to some degree.

So, now that we know what the ankle should and should not do, let’s look at a four exercises you can add to your dryland goalie training that will improve the function and reduce the risk of injury to your ankle.

Ankle drills for your dryland goalie training

Active Dorsi-Flexion –

I am sure 99.9% of you have never thought about active dorsiflexion and how it relates to your dryland goalie training.  Am I right?

Active dorsi-flexion is the movement where you bring your shin bone forward over the top of your foot.  And without enough dorsiflexion your entire gait cycle is messed up.  You cannot roll forward over your foot, you need to compensate; typically by turning your foot outward which just sends the impact of this dysfunction up the kinetic chain to the knee, hip or back.

So, check out the self evaluation I have in the video below and see if you can still touch your knee to the wall when your feet are three inches away from the wall.  If you cannot then you better add this to your off-ice training routine.  You can do this with or without using the cable column.

If you have access to a cable column, then lower the pulley as close to the floor as you can get it and attach the ankle cuff so it is low on your ankle, right above your foot.  Then simply repeat the testing motion.  Keeping your foot pointing straight ahead and your heel flat on the floor, glide your knee forward over your toes as you perform active dorsiflexion.  You will likely see some big improvements in only 1-2 weeks of working on this.  Do it once daily for 20-30 repetitions – that will take about 30-60 seconds total.

Single Leg Static Balance

I have trained elite players who cannot balance on one foot – do you think that may impact their ability to produce precise and powerful movements?  Is you said yes, you are right.

So this exercise is so simple you may think that it is too easy, but try it anyway.  Stand on one foot, cross your arms over your chest so your hands rest on the opposite shoulders.  Now, can you hold your balance for 60 seconds without taking your hands off your shoulders or ‘travelling’ with your foot that is on the ground?  Oh yeah, if you find that you want to wrap your ‘free’ foot around the lower leg of your balancing foot – stop it right now – that is cheating.

If you cannot balance for 60 seconds without taking your hands off your shoulders or travelling with you balancing foot, then practice it once per day until you can.  It won’t take too long.

Need to make it harder?  Try closing one eye.   Need to make it way harder?  Try closing both eyes.  No kidding, that is what you are working toward.

Single Leg Dynamic Balance

Now that you have some static (stationary) balance, time to add a dynamic component.  With this first off-ice drill you will stand on one foot and swing your other leg back and forth across your body – like when you do leg swings for warm up.  You are not allowed to hold on to anything for balance and your goal is to do 30 swings without losing your balance or travelling with your stabilizing foot.

This is actually a little sneaky because swinging your leg back and forth across your body actually moves your ankle through inversion and eversion as well, so it is a good mobility drill for those movements.

Box Hop & Stick

This final dryland drill will help with dynamic balance, quickness and movement control.  Mark out a box shape on the floor (do not use permanent marker on your Mom’s fine silk rugs – please!), it should measure approximately 18 inches square.

Stand on one foot in the centre of the square and then as quickly as you can hop out of the square to your right and immediately back to the exact centre of the square.  Now, stick your balance and hold it for about 3 seconds.  Then, as quickly as you can hop out of the box backward and back in to the exact centre of the square, sticking the balance and holding for three seconds.  Continue around all sides of the square.

If you land back in the centre of the square, but lose your balance, battle to recover and then hold that balance for three seconds before making your next hop.

Can you see how this quick, precise acceleration and deceleration can help fine-tune your crease movements?  I hope so.

Click on the video below to see demonstrations…

The next installment of Bottom Up Training for Goalies will focus on the knee so stay tuned.  Add a few of these new exercises to your dryland goalie training and see how your control on the ice responds; I guarantee these small changes off the ice will show huge returns in the blue paint.