Athletes commonly think of working out their muscles and keeping their cardio healthy. Less players think about their joints. Today, we will focus on the ankle joint. In badminton, the ankle is one of the most important joints in your body, particularly for singles players. Keeping the ankle strong and flexible means avoiding more ankle sprains and twists, keeping you on the court longer and moving faster without any fear or risk of injury. We will take a look at why the ankle is so important in badminton and a few different exercises we can add to our routines to strengthen them.
Why is the Ankle Important in Badminton?
The ankle is core to almost all movements in badminton – it is also one of the most commonly injured. Let’s take a look specifically at its role in badminton.
Change of Direction
When doing badminton footwork, we are always changing directions at extremely high speed and intervals. After going to one corner on the court, you need to be able to explode from that corner, get back to the middle, and then find a way to get to the next corner. In all of these movements, the ankle and the muscles surrounding your ankle are vital. The ankle will stabilize your landing and push-off when you decide to make the movement.
Change of direction is something you need to train and master. Without it, you will not be able to return the high-speed smashes, or recover consecutive drop shots in the front. Agility circuits are a great way to train this change of direction. Take a look at Kento Momota’s defense here and see how he utilizes change of direction to recover each shot.
Balance is another important part in badminton. When you jump to hit a shot, you need to land properly to make sure that you stay safe and are able to get to the next shot afterwards. When you lunge to the front to hit a net drop, you have to balance on both feet so that you don’t fall down to the ground and you are able to push off afterwards. This balance is heavily controlled by your ankles. If your ankle is loose, each of these different movement actions will cause you to slip, fall, and potentially hurt yourself. Take a look at this video below to learn more about balance in badminton.
Finally, the ankle absorbs the impact from all of your footwork actions and helps you get to the next corner. Particularly, when you jump smash, your ankle absorbs the whole impact of your landing. All the force from your jump, swing, and landing all hit your ankle first and then propagates up your muscles. If your ankle is not strong enough to handle this impact, you can get a severe injury from a single jump. Add in all the other movements in badminton and you will start to see how much strength in your ankle is needed to handle the impact from all the different movements.
Ankle Strengthening Exercises
Thankfully, there are many different ways to strengthen your ankle. Here is a list of a few exercises that you can do anywhere to help with your ankles and prevent future injuries.
Calf Raises / Heel Raises
This exercise is the simplest strengthening exercise that you can do anywhere. Simply stand flat, then get your heels off of the floor by getting on your toes. If this is too easy, you can add weights by holding it to give yourself a little resistance. Here’s a quick video on what this exercise looks like.
Single-Leg Exercises on Uneven Surface
The next exercise involves a variety of different single leg exercises on uneven surfaces. If you do not have any areas with uneven surfaces at home, you can grab a Bosu Ball or something similar to perform these exercises on. Some exercises to perform on this include one legged calf raises, one legged squats, or even potentially one legged hops on the uneven surface (if safe). These exercises will train the stability in a single ankle as well as strengthening the ankle and surrounding muscles. Here is a video of someone performing single-legged squats on the Bosu ball.
The final group of simple exercises to do are different jumping exercises. These will all train how your ankle adjusts to absorbing impact. Some simple exercises include jump rope, single leg hops / jumps on a stable surface, or even squat jumps. Squat jumps are the most similar to how the impact and motions of a jump smash would occur. Jump rope is the best for training constant impact absorption. Below is a video with a great form for squat jumps.
The ankle is a vital part of badminton. Take some time to put additional effort into training your ankles and hopefully, you will start to see the benefits. After trying some of the exercises above, let me know how they feel and how your ankle feels afterwards! If you are interested in any more conditioning clips or badminton training videos, please check out the full length videos on my YouTube channel! These are all drills that I go through weekly to improve my current badminton game!