Ligament sprains are a very common injury. If you have ever played a sport that involves cutting, odds are you have sprained an ankle at some point. Even recreational off-road runners contend with ankle sprains due running over uneven surfaces. However, an ankle sprain does not need to keep you out of the gym. Always remember to talk to your doctor before engaging in exercise after injury. Once you get the go-ahead, here are 4 tips for working around your injury:
1. Warm up thoroughly.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but warming up is extremely important when dealing with an ankle sprain. Synovial fluid, the fluid inside your joints, has thixotropic properties. This means that the particles in synovial fluid change in structure when they are moved around. This change results in improvements in ligament strength. As a result, it is imperative to warm up before working out with an ankle sprain. With that said, do not mobilize a swollen ankle. Wait for the swelling to go down before doing joint specific warm-ups.
2. Choose exercises that do not load injured tissue.
Nearly all ankle sprains are inversion sprains. These sprains occur when your foot turns inward too far. As a result, it is best to avoid lower body movements that involve inversion. Usually, single leg movements (such as lunges) are very uncomfortable for sprained ankles because the ankle rolls in between inversion and eversion in order to maintain balance. Additionally, any movement that involves a lot of dorsiflexion is typically painful with inversion sprains.
Variations of the deadlift are usually a pain-free choice for people who have recently suffered from an inversion sprain. If your ankle is recently sprained, traditional deadlifting may not be an option as it involves some dorsiflexion. The Romanian Deadlift, Stiff-Legged Deadlift, and Rack Pull involve little ankle movement and are appropriate as long as it does not hurt to perform the movement. These exercises are a great way to maintain lower body strength while recovering from an ankle injury.
3. Train the healthy leg.
While deadlifting variations are a great option for working out your lower body, you should also throw in some extra work for the healthy leg. Research has shown that exercising one limb results in some carryover in strength to the inactive limb. In addition to deadlift variations, you can always do single leg work, such as Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats, Single Leg Box Squats, and other squatting variations for just the healthy leg.
4. Use this time period to focus on the upper body.
While deadlifting can maintain a lot of lower body strength, your overall training volume is likely to decrease. As a result, you should have more time to train your upper body. Use this downtime to focus on any weak points.
While getting injured is never an enjoyable experience, it does happen. Rather than letting a sprained ankle negatively effect your weight-training, try applying the above principals to make the best use of your time in the gym.