When you sprint, you move your ankle through different motions. The elevation of your foot off the ground is a movement called ankle dorsiflexion. During the toe-off phase off the sprint, as you raise your heels off the ground, you perform a movement called plantarflexion. If you want to apply a more rapid force and thus improve your sprinting ability, you should perform exercises that involve dorsiflexion and plantarflexion. Doing these exercises will also help improve the shape your lower legs due to the resulting increases in leg musculature.
Standing Dumbbell Plantarflexion
Place the weight plate on the ground. Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip.
Stand with your toes on the edge of the weight plate, keeping your heels off the plate and elevated off the ground. Separate your feet so they are about shoulder-width apart.
Keep your body upright throughout the entire motion. Position the dumbbells by your sides with your arms straight. Turn your forearms so your palms are facing your thighs.
Plantarflex your ankles, elevating your heels and rising up on your toes as much as possible.
Move your heels down past the initial position until you start to feel a slight stretch at the back of your lower legs, or until your heels are almost touching the ground.
Seated Dumbbell Dorsiflexion
Grasp a dumbbell in your hands and sit with your body straddled on the flat weight bench.
Put your feet up on the bench and bend your knees. Position your heels over the edge of the front of the bench, keeping your mid-foot region and toes off the bench.
Position the dumbbell between your feet and squeeze the mid-foot region of your feet close together to keep the dumbbell from falling down.
Dorsiflex your ankles by elevating your feet as much as possible, keeping your heels over the edge of the bench.
Lower your feet past the starting position until your feel a slight stretch at the front of your lower legs.
- Perform five sets for each exercise. Do the first two sets with light weights to warmup your muscles. Then, use heavier weights during the next three sets, which will be your working sets.
- You should perform stretches for your muscles as part of a cooldown after you do the aforementioned exercises. To stretch the plantarflexors, sit on the ground with your legs extended, lean forward and grab your toes or midfoot region. Then, pull your feet toward you and hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. To stretch the dorsiflexors, do the opposite movement. This means you need to push your feet away from you and then hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. Do 3 reps of each stretch as part of your cooldown.
Richard Choueiri is a fitness and nutrition expert and the author of "The Human Statue Workout." He began writing professionally in 2007 and his work has been featured in Bodybuilding.com and "Physique Magazine." Choueiri studied exercise science and nutritional science at Rutgers University. He holds an American College of Sports Medicine CPT, and a National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association CMMACC.