Ah, stretching… sometimes it can be a pain, literally, but it’s the only way to prep yourself for any form of dancing, especially ballet!

And, once you get used to stretching, the easier it gets and the better you’ll feel. Along with the other laundry list of stretches dancers are supposed to do before class and before performances, ankle stretches may seem like an extra chore, but they are absolutely necessary for any ballet dancer, especially those on pointe, or those about to go on pointe. Don’t run the risk of rolling your ankle because you didn’t give them the love and attention they deserve. Whether it’s between dance classes or in front of the TV, stretching doesn’t have to be something you dread!

Ballet Ankle Strengthening Exercises

These easy stretches will help you work out your feet and your ankles anytime and anywhere:

Roll your feet out

First, a great way to stretch your ankles and your feet, is to roll them out using a bouncing ball or a tennis ball that you have around the house. Put the ball under your foot and gently apply pressure to the arch of your foot. Then you can start to move the foot back and forth. Applying a gentle pressure should help you feel the tension loosen in your feet and help exercise the mobility in your ankles too. This is especially great for ballet dancers on pointe as both a warm up and cool down after class, since pointe can be very strenuous on the ankles. Maintaining ankle strength not only keeps you from getting hurt, but helps you keep up your stamina!

TheraBand exercises

TheraBand’s are used by a lot of dancers to stretch before dance class or to work through muscle pain. They’re really great for stretching the ankles too! If you don’t have a TheraBand, you can even use a scarf or a long-sleeve shirt. The goal is to find something you can pull against for the best stretch. First, sit with your legs straight, and feet flexed. Take either foot and place your TheraBand around the center of your foot, then pull forward to create tension, and alternate between flexing and pointing. Then switch off between your left and right feet for an even workout. This helps to strengthen your ankles and creates a cleaner, prettier point during ballet combos and routines!

Plié into Relevé

This exercise is best to do at the barre, or if you’re at home, use a chair or wall to act like the barre. Still, make sure to maintain your center, as you would during any other barre exercise! Start with your feet in first position, plié, then go up into a relevé while you’re still in plié. Check to make sure that your knees are over the top of your toes in a demi pointe, then straighten into a full relevé and finally, gently, lower back into first position. Now, reverse it! This time, start in relevé with the legs straight, bend into plié while still in relevé and return to first.

Altered Relevé’s

Use a small step stool, one you would normally use for a workout, and if you don’t have one, you can use a large book or a bottom step. Place your feet close together with the balls of your feet on the step stool or object, toes firmly placed, and heels on the ground. Then, rise up into a relevé and slowly lower your heels back to the ground again. Make sure to fully stretch the toes while in relevé, instead of scrunching them. It may feel a bit weird at first, but using a step stool or object allows for even more of a stretch than your typical relevé’s. Not only will this exercise help you stay in relevé longer, but with more practice, the more pirouettes you’ll be able to do!

Do the Alphabet!

Another great and easy exercise to work your ankles is to draw the letters of the alphabet with your feet pointed, something recommended by the famous Rockettes themselves! It’s a great workout for the muscles of your lower legs also! You can do this whenever you want, and for an extra stretch, you can go through the alphabet twice through, backwards, or even spell your name!

Final Thoughts: Ballet Ankle Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening and improving the flexibility of your ankles is essential for ballet. Below are some other resources you might find helpful:

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