How Goalies Get Strong, Stable Ankles

Before I get into it, I want to make sure we are clear on the topic of this article. If your ankles feel like they are going to snap when you are in the Reverse VH, making them stronger is not going to help you.

That particular discomfort is actually coming from limitations at your hip, it also explains why it feels so awful on your knee. Here is the two week hip mobility program for goalies that will help with that.

The topic for today is for the goalies who need stronger, more stable ankles.

The goalies who feel the muscles of their feet and lower legs burning as they go through their movement drills or when they are trying to shut down an opponent’s lethal power play.

Have you felt it? It isn’t very nice and what’s worse, as it progresses, you feel like you are losing control of the movements at your feet and ankles. It feels unstable and vulnerable.

I am not super worried about you spraining your ankle on the ice, it does happen, you catch a rut or more often a guy falls on you or into you and BLAM – – sprained ankle. The focus is on improving the interface between the big muscles of your hips and legs and your skate blade, via developing strong, stable ankles.

The focus is on performance.

Level #1 – Can your ankles move

Your ankles are designed to move forward and back as their primary motion, there is limited side to side motion (inversion and eversion) and limited rotation. All planes of movement are important, so make sure you are moving in all directions.

For goalies the dorsiflexion and rotation are of primary importance, here’s why…

If , for some reason you cannot see the video above, here is the link: 

Level #2 – Can you stabilize

I am surprised at how many athletes cannot balance on one foot – you might be surprised to realize you are one of them.

So, start with this progression and tell me how far you get…

  1. Balance on one foot for 30 seconds without drifting, using your arms to balance or touching down with your other foot.
  2. Balance on one foot with your eyes closed for 30 seconds without drifting, using your arms to balance or touching down with your other foot.
  3. Balance on one foot and follow your thumb with your head as you trace a semi-circle (the video shows you how.

Can’t see the video above?  Here’s the link –

How did you do? Flying colours?

If you cannot do all three of these drills then your proprioceptive system (the system that sends input to the brain telling you about your body’s position in space) and neuromuscular system are not as coordinated as they should be.

The proprioceptive system delivers input and the neuromusclular system provides the response – you will see how some of your responses are over corrections or under corrections as you speed wobble to improve.

If you are not perfect at these, this is your starting point. Practice every day until you have all three mastered and then move on.

Level #3 – Can you dynamically stabilize?

The balancing you did above is a static stability – you are staying in one place, your foot is on the ground, there are no deceleration or acceleration forces at play. That add an entirely new wrinkle to the issue.

But don’t worry, I have a progression for that and BE WARNED… you will want to discount these because they look easy to you, but think about the movements and understand how these are the building blocks of your movement in the crease. If you cannot do these on flat, solid ground, imagine how much energy and power you are wasting wearing skates moving on the ice.

  • Single Leg Squat Drop & Stick – keep your hip, knee and ankle in a line. If your knee is buckling in on you, that is a risk factor for developing knee cap pain (patellofemoral pain) and it is an energy leak.
  • Low Lateral Hop & Stick – this is an essential one for every goalie. If you ever move from post to post, you must be able to both accelerate and decelerate effectively. If you cannot perform these lateral hops and stick the landing perfectly each time, you are leaving a missing a lot of speed and limiting your ability to perform a series of movements in sequence with speed and efficiency.

What?? can’t see the video? No worries, here’s the link:

Please don’t for a second think to yourself, “well, I can’t balance very well on that, but on the ice I am fast and I never feel off-balance”.

Training your dynamic stability is about that ‘game of inches’ that Al Pacino talked about in the movie “Any Given Sunday”. You are a second too early, too late and the puck ends up in the back of the net.

Your training lets you move with 5% better efficiency, so your muscles have 5% more energy when the game goes into overtime or when your team takes a dumb penalty in the last 3-minutes of the game.

You must be able to do these things on solid ground and make them look effortless if you are going to maximize your ability on the ice.

You know that old saying…”happy ankles, happy goalie” – – okay, I just made that up.
Have a good one!