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Ankle/jamming strengthening

Original Post
Stever · · Squamish, BC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 20

Could someone recommend some exercises specific for strengthening my ankles and the parts that stabilize my ankle when jamming into a handsize (or larger) crack?

When my ankles are jammed in larger cracks (handsize and bigger), especially if I am on it for several seconds (placing gear), my ankle joint feels very weak and sometimes pain. I think this is due to not climbing regularly, but in any case I would like to start strengthening my ankle area so it is stronger and can handle the unusual positions from crack climbing

Any suggestion is greatly appreciated!

JeffL · · Salt Lake City · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 65

Stand flat footed with your feet together. From this position, rise to your toes, then back to flat footed. It also works your calves a bit. On an unrelated note, place your gear at your waist to chest area. It's much faster and more efficient. You will not spend as much time on one foot placing gear if you do this

Stever · · Squamish, BC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 20

I do that exercise already; however, I am talking about the muscles that stabilize the ankle when rolling it on its side (left to right versus up/down)

Tom Nyce · · Flagstaff, AZ · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 45

Stever, I know just what you mean. I haven't done it yet, but I'm thinking of making a plywood boxlike thing that would sit on the floor to do the job. I'd strengthen the muscles that twist the foot, and also practice supporting weight, while your ankle is cranked to the side.

Artem B · · Vancouver, BC · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 0

I found that the board-thing with a half-sphere on the bottom worked really well for my ankles. I would stand on it with one foot untill I could balance for 5 minutes each. Added body-weight squats for challenge.

Adam Brink · · on the road · Joined Mar 2001 · Points: 490

The surest way to strengthen those muscles is to go crack climbing a lot. I'm pretty sure that will do it.

Colonel Mustard · · Sacramento, CA · Joined Sep 2005 · Points: 1,231

Yeah, climb the terrain. I guess if you think your ankles are particularly bad or unstable you could figure out some exercises.

People think trad climbing is all eating sandwiches and hating stronger climbers, but in addition there is such a thing as "trad calves"; great, mighty trunken extensions of ones legs developed by taking too long to ponder placements while supporting weight that was added while snacking and posting online about how other forms of climbing are ethically (or is that morally?) impoverished.

Once my trad calves come fully into season I can both ponder mightily upon which piece I'll place to essentially toprope my way up a 5.7 "testpiece" as well as compose the dismissive rant I will unleash upon the likes of both beanie wearing boulderers and grigri decking sport climbers once I get home. Not before ticking and further sandbagging the climb (I barely managed to squeak up) on the prodge, of course.

Now you know.

Stever · · Squamish, BC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 20
Artem B wrote:I found that the board-thing with a half-sphere on the bottom worked really well for my ankles. I would stand on it with one foot untill I could balance for 5 minutes each. Added body-weight squats for challenge.
Interesting, I will look into finding one of those.

adam brink wrote:The surest way to strengthen those muscles is to go crack climbing a lot. I'm pretty sure that will do it.
I would like to do this, but it's rainy here and I won't have a car until spring
Hence why I am finding exercises to get ready for when I can go outside
Stever · · Squamish, BC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 20

Besides actually climbing, does anyone have suggestions?

Thanks!

Dobson · · Butte, MT · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 215

Walking around on icy talus with crampons on? That's what I do.

It'll either strengthen your ankles or completely destroy them.

kili · · 29 palms, ca · Joined May 2009 · Points: 155

Stop wearing shoes. You will walk more on the balls of your feet and will strengthen the muscles that stabilize your foot from side to side.

Stever · · Squamish, BC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 20
kili wrote:Stop wearing shoes. You will walk more on the balls of your feet and will strengthen the muscles that stabilize your foot from side to side.
I have been wondering if that would benefit climbing as well. I just finished "Born to Run" and have been itching to try working out barefoot in the field
Dallas R · · Traveling the USA · Joined May 2013 · Points: 181

Find a set of stairs, on one foot place the ball of the foot in the stair, now press up and flex down. Don't over press the down ward motion, until you are stronger it is possible to injure yourself. This will help stretch/strengthen the Achilles tendon. Switch feet.

Downward Dog works also, while in Downward Dog paddle (step) the feet to stretch the calf muscles and the back of the ankle.

Go skating.

Aerili · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,875

Recommendations to train your gastroc/soleus complex (aka your calves a la rising up and down on the foot) is not likely to do much of anything for your problem.

Your issue is more one of eversion of the ankle. The way foot jamming works is that you invert your ankle, stick your foot in the crack, then evert at the ankle to "lock in" the jam and put weight on it. You can train eversion with a theraband, no problem. It isn't hard to find videos of how to do this. That said, I really doubt it will have much impact on your crack climbing abilities. It's pretty unlikely you have true weakness in eversion.... but you can try it.

I think this is mostly a case of needing to HTFU. Learning to endure the pain is part of crack climbing imo. In which case taking some ibuprofen could make all the difference.

Stever · · Squamish, BC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 20
Aerili wrote:Recommendations to train your gastroc/soleus complex (aka your calves a la rising up and down on the foot) is not likely to do much of anything for your problem. Your issue is more one of eversion of the ankle. The way foot jamming works is that you invert your ankle, stick your foot in the crack, then evert at the ankle to "lock in" the jam and put weight on it. You can train eversion with a theraband, no problem. It isn't hard to find videos of how to do this. That said, I really doubt it will have much impact on your crack climbing abilities. It's pretty unlikely you have true weakness in eversion.... but you can try it. I think this is mostly a case of needing to HTFU. Learning to endure the pain is part of crack climbing imo. In which case taking some ibuprofen could make all the difference.
I have no problem enduring the pain. It just worries me when my ankle area swells up after one pitch of ankle jamming.
I will look into eversion of my ankle

thanks
Aerili · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,875

You never stated you were swelling up. You also don't say specifically where, but I've never seen this type of side effect from foot jamming (regardless of conditioning). Sounds like you might need professional medical advice to rule out some problem other than just muscle weakness. Swelling typically indicates injury and inflammation.

Stever · · Squamish, BC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 20
Aerili wrote:You never stated you were swelling up. You also don't say specifically where, but I've never seen this type of side effect from foot jamming (regardless of conditioning). Sounds like you might need professional medical advice to rule out some problem other than just muscle weakness. Swelling typically indicates injury and inflammation.
Sorry I never saw this... I sprained/rolled both my ankles in the past so I think they swell due to the previous injury?

I climbed lots this summer but had to avoid hand cracks because they continue to bother my ankles... the ankle feels weak and unstable when I twist and torque it in the crack.

I have tried the physio mats (half sphere as well as inflatable pad) and besides working my muscles and improving my balance, the ankle is still effected

I'm planning on climbing in the desert this winter and I am worried it may be a waste of a trip if my ankle can't handle a weekend of jamming...
Long Ranger · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 331

If you've sprained you ankles, they're going to come out of it way weaker than before, and you're set up to injure them again, just this time, more easily.

Just like your hands, there's no real muscles in your feet. What is causing pain is rubbing/annoying all the connective tissues in your ankle, as well as straining an injured, weak area already.

I have been going through PT for a painful ankle impingement problem, which has strengthened my ankles, so that rolling it won't happen again. I don't know if I really want to suggest something I was specifically prescribed, but may of the advanced exercises deal with controlled trauma to the ankle to invoke a response from the body to strengthen that area. We're talking tendons, so it takes forever.

One of those exercises was walking around on the outside side of your foot. Then progressing to basically running.

These types of exercises may help, but man, they could also be dangerous, as these aren't for strengthening muscles, they're for micro tearing your tendons. You could f- yourself up MORE if you do the wrong ones (And IANAD).

So my suggestion is to strengthen your ankles from your sprains, THEN work specifically on getting them ready for cracks.

dperry427 Perry · · La Habra, California · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 70

I'm not sure if this will help with jamming specifically, but check out these videos from Dr. Lisa Erikson (The Climbing Doc)

youtu.be/R_pZ2lYDRig

youtu.be/6m1UguVoOXc

She has a great channel on how to care for your body as a climber.

Long Ranger · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 331

Those videos are generally really good IMHO and a lot less drastic in what I'm doing. Some points I'd like to hit home from the first video is the ankle is encapsulated by many layers of tissue, and this is the tissue that makes an ankle tight - it's not usually because you didn't stretch your calf muscle.

The second video is also good, and may pertain to crack climbing specifically, where she shows you to roll your ankle to the outside, and back, then tells you to walk on that side of your ankle. If you think about it, this will help with that camming action you do in a crack. You literally are going to have to toughen up that area, though.

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 612

Stever,

From the way you describe the pain, "twisting", I don't think it's a muscle issue at all.

You're talking about dropping your knee to the side, put your foot higher in the crack, big-toe up, bringing your knee back to vertical and standing on it, right?

In that case, it's more of a flexibility issue and can be addressed via stretching exercises. Make a crack out of 2x4s, or just put a wedge of some sort on the floor to put your foot at an angle. Or just climb shitloads of handcracks (your choice). ;-)

Whenever I don't do a lot of jamming, my ankles stiffen up and I get the same kind of feeling. After climbing cracks again for a few weeks they stretch and my ankles feel good again. (Sprained my ankles MANY times playing basketball.)

One other thing you might try, if you haven't, is a stiffer shoe. Something with a stiff mid-sole will allow you to twist the sole to create the jam instead of twisting your foot. This greatly relieves the overall amount of stress on the foot and ankle. Using a TC Pro (for example) over a slipper will make a world of difference.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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