Basic Ankle Strengthening

The Warriors' athletic trainer helps Troy Murphy rehab a sprained ankle

Ankle sprains are common among basketball players of every level. In many cases, the sprain will occur when a player steps on another player’s foot. This could occur while jumping for a rebound or making a quick step to get around a player in the open court. We have outlined some simple exercises that can be done at home with no extensive or technical equipment. Our “model” is Troy Murphy, one of the Warriors’ rookies. Troy recently sustained a mild sprain while chasing down a loose ball.

These exercises are to be done after you are sure there is no fracture or instability in the ankle. Any long term bone pain or swelling in the ankle should be examined by a physician prior to doing these exercises.

Flexibility: A tight Achilles tendon is a common after-effect of an ankle sprain. Use a towel to GENTLY pull on the foot. Hold this for 20 seconds and repeat three (3) times. Another exercise to regain flexibility after a sprain is by making circles or writing the letters of the alphabet with your foot.

Easy Resistance UP/DOWN: You can start strength exercises when there is no pain moving the ankle up and down. Have someone use his or her hands to apply a LIGHT resistance to the ankle while it moves up and down. This is a good way to strengthen the ankle. Do three (3) sets of 10 repetitions with a resistance when the ankle goes UP and then repeat for when the ankle goes DOWN.

Easy Resistance IN/OUT: You can start this exercise when there is no pain moving the ankle in and out. As with the exercise for resistance up and down, apply a light resistance against the ankle when it moves in and out. Do three (3) sets of 10 reps for this one also, only for the in and out motions. This might be a little tender to do if it is done too early, so be cautious.

Towel Drags to the side: This is a pretty low tech, but extremely effective exercise. From this seated position, use your foot to “drag” the towel in front of you. Grab the towel with your toes and then rotate your foot to the outside. Repeat this so that you have “dragged” the complete towel five (5) times.

Simple Balance: Good balance is important for basketball, so this is important to restore after a sprain. For an easy exercise, stand in stocking feet or barefoot on the bad ankle only. Begin this exercise when it is comfortable. Place your hands on your hips and bend your knee a little while you are doing this. Hold this position for 20 seconds and repeat it three (3) times. To increase the challenge a bit, close your eyes (and hang on!).

Challenging Balance: Once you have mastered the simple balance, you are ready to increase the challenge. Stand on the injured foot only and toss a basketball with someone. This simple exercise is a great way to restore balancing properties that have been compromised by the sprain. Three (3) sets of 20 tosses is a good volume to achieve.

Tom Abdenour in his 16th season as the athletic trainer for the Warriors. He spent his 2000 offseason serving as the athletic trainer for the gold medal-winning USA Men's Basketball Team at the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He also stays involved with the community as a member of the NBA's National All-Star Reading Team -- part of the Read to Achieve program.

Abdenour is hosting's Athletic Trainer Talk section and will be answering fan questions about health, injuries and rehabilitation through the 2002-03 season.

Sign up and be the first to know when tickets become available and receive presale access.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter