Training

Foot and Ankle Exercises for Cycling Performance

For this year’s off season I’m making a commitment to address my imbalances and weaknesses. One of those weaknesses that has been limiting my cycling performance this year is foot and ankle strength. It’s important. More so than I had appreciated until the Congleton CC 50 mile time trial in August this year.

Slowly my left ankle became uncoordinated. My left foot was also fatiguing, becoming sloppy on the pedal.

It was about 40 miles into the race and I was up on schedule I was feeling great I had a second wind if you like. I decided to lift the pace for the final 10 miles. The power was there and I was flying. Slowly my left ankle became uncoordinated. My left foot was also fatiguing, becoming sloppy on the pedal. I was doing my best to steady it but ultimately I had to just hold my power back.

This was a frustrating experience. Fixing it was something I chalked up for off bike work in the off season. It is that time so now I am going to address the issue. Since August I’ve had hill climb training so I am sure my ankles are a bit tougher. However the longest hill climbs around here are 20 minutes. Fatigue over a 50 mile TT will be greater even if the forces are reduced.

A weak link in the chain will cause problems. Having had knee issues this year. Particularly on the medial side of the knee. I am convinced that correcting my feet and ankles will prevent my knee from becoming medially loaded. I have tried G8 orthotics but I’m unconvinced that they are helping so for the time being I’ve removed them.

Why I think off the bike work will help

A lot of people suggest that off the bike work is not beneficial to cycling performance. I disagree. They will tell you that we don’t push the pedals any harder than 25kg at 300 watts so why do anything for strength. I think this is a good point. However strength is not a priority to the below exercises. The biggest priority is to correct form and activate dormant muscles. If you wake up muscles that are inhibited and under active next time you’re on your bike the awakened muscles should begin to kick in and take some of the slack. We’re unlocking the muscles for our next training ride.

Foot and Ankle Exercises for Cyclists

These exercises will only work if you focus on keeping a stable ankle and foot.

From what I’ve read it is best to do compound exercises when it comes to correcting imbalances. I.e exercises that are multi joint. The reason being that in practice we don’t use a muscle in isolation so to train it that way has the potential to created it’s own set of issues. I can also see that a weak hip and gluteal complex could off load their issues to the ankle. So it might not be an ankle issue at all! So compound exercises will cover us there.

Important: Do all exercises bare foot. Trainers with arch support will invalidate exercises. These exercises will only work if you focus on keeping a stable ankle and foot. Unsure of the muscles we’re targeting? Have a go at the Tibialis Posterior exercise first.

Time required: 30 minutes

Hide/show videos

Activation

First set of exercises switch on the correct muscles and wake up those that have been hiding away. These are low load exercises that most cyclists should be able to do with any issue. It is all about correct form. I love activation exercises because they seem to provide instant results. Because of this I quite often do this set as a warm up pre training ride.

  1. Tibialis Posterior: Do 3x 10reps.
    Here is a brilliant activation exercise to get the muscles that control the arch of the foot firing. You need a physio band to do this.
  2. Gluteal Activation ‘The Bridge’: 10-20 reps
    Make sure you squeeze your glutes before rising up
  3. The founder exercise: 10 reps
    Really gets that posterior chain woken up
  4. And finally The Squat: 10 reps
    Form is key to do a beneficial squat. Were not going through the motions here.

Strength

  1. Pistol squat: Do 3x 5-10reps alternating legs
    Remember to hold that arch we worked on above.
  2. Single leg balance board control: 3x 1-2 minutes on each leg slowly controlling the board forward and back
    Again hold that arch we created above.
  3. Turkish get up – with or without kettlebell: 10 on each side
    Hold the arch? that’s right.

Frequency

I propose to do this 3 times a week. Monday, Wednesday & Friday. Weekends are usually when my I do my longest and most tiring training rides. My base period will last 12 weeks before I start building which means 36 sessions.

Day to day

I’ve found that once I’ve woken up these muscles that I feel the difference just walking around, standing from a chair etc. My feet feel more aligned and primed. That’s got to be good.

Hope the above helps.

My Progress

To keep me honest I am publicly logging my sessions here. Feel free to beast me for missing a session below 😉

Wk 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
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