Complete Guide On: Should I Deadlift With A Sprained Ankle?

April 9th 2019

Ankle sprains are not fun to deal with, especially if you are an athlete. They interfere with regular day-to-day movements and can restrict mobility and power in your leg. Many athletes tend to try to continue practicing their sport despite having a sprained ankle. Usually, these ankle injuries are not severe and can be braced or taped to ensure stability. But can you do some deadlifts with a sprained ankle? Will that mess up your deadlift form?

Deadlift with an ankle sprain

No, you should not deadlift with an ankle sprain as you may want to shift weight to the non-injured ankle to compensate. In more severe cases, lifters that cannot bear weight on the injured ankle should not do anything that causes pain.

In general, should lifters deadlift with an ankle sprain? Again, it really depends on the injury and what you are trying to do. For very mild ankle sprains, lifters can usually walk and run without pain. When in the gym, they can squat and deadlift without pain. However, certain rotations of the ankle are restricted and painful. Should you deadlift?

If you are in no pain, you should do the movement. If you sprained your ankle and experience no ankle pain when deadlifting, why should you not deadlift? Your body responds well to pain-free movements and it is good to keep building muscle and strength.

Moderate ankle sprains and deadlifting

If you have a more serious ankle sprain, it may be more conditional. There is swelling and it is painful to touch. You can bear some weight on the ankle but not much. Or you can bear full weight for only a few minutes before it gets painful. If any of these reactions sound familiar to your situation, it would be best to not do any deadlifts.

Instead, you should concentrate your efforts on pain-free movements if you still decide to go to the gym.

i) Dumbbell Deadlifts

If lifting at least 135lbs on the deadlift causes your ankle pain, how about if you lift even lighter weights? Try to do some dumbbell deadlifts and see if that causes any ankle discomfort. Remember that finding pain-free movements is the big picture idea here. Once you find a moderately challenging weight, do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

ii) Rows

Maybe any sort of ankle pressure causes your ankle to feel tender. No worries, there are hundreds of exercises that can be used to help you grow your posterior chain - one of which is the row. You can do dumbbell rows or barbell rows. Find a decent, challenging weight and let it rip.

iii) Kettlebell swings

It may be lightweight but it helps immensely with core and hip activation and stabilization. This similar deadlift-mimic exercise can help you continue to train your deadlift movement while resting your ankle. A win-win situation.

Cannot do any deadlifts, or any lower body from the ankle sprain

If your ankle injury is more serious, take a week off from the gym and later re-evaluate your ankle condition. In the meantime, some lifters may opt to focus on only the upper body for that week before returning to their original program.

It sucks to not be able to do any deadlifts. You feel you are missing out on this window of opportunity. It is okay to feel frustrated. What is not okay is that you do something reckless that will further injure your ankle and prevent an even longer period of time to not being able to hit deadlifts.

One week in the whole grand scheme of things? That is nothing if your ankle feels back to full strength. You can still hit it hard only if your body is healthy. But if you try to find shortcuts and loopholes and end up making your ankle injury much worse? Would you rather rest only a week or three months?

Should I do nothing on my sprained ankle?

If any sport and movement cause you pain, you will need to rest 100%. If you are able to move your ankle, it is usually encouraged to start moving and not stay dormant.

If you can walk, go try to increase your walking distance. Try to increase your walking pace. If you can bike, go try to bike if it causes you no pain. Again, it is about finding pain-free activities to promote more healing and mobility.

Ankle proprioception may be thrown off

Deadlifts with an ankle injury can alter your body’s balance and should not be taken lightly. Because ligaments and/or tendons were damaged, it is best to rest and do light exercises to regain full strength and mobility of your ankle prior to doing heavy compound movements.

Your body relies on all body parts in order to get feedback to organize itself for balance and stability. This is one way how movement, in general, becomes natural for us. One way this delicate balance system can be thrown off is by lifting with an injury, more specifically an ankle injury.

If you are not already aware, you may have noticed that once you suffer an ankle injury, your body wants to place more weight and pressure on the non-injured leg. This is your body’s natural reaction to try to speed up healing and recovery. If you are not aware of this, you will continue to do so and your body will slowly redistribute weight back to the healed ankle, once it is fully healed.

Bad motor patterns are created when this system is disrupted from external stimulus. After you are putting more weight on the non-injured ankle, you decide to do some squats and deadlifts. You noticed that you are leaning onto one side but that does not matter. You need to go to the gym and get those gains, right? It may not be that simple.

You are creating a dangerous situation for yourself and you are training muscles to be stronger in your compromised state. All sorts of anomalies can occur and can put you at a higher risk of future injuries since your body is not properly balanced.

Ankle sprain rehab exercises

After purchasing your bands, one of the most important things you can do is to rehab and stretch, mobilize and strengthen your injured ankle. Here are some great exercises you should do in order to make sure your ankle is back to 100%.

i) Alphabet Drawing

This is a great mobility exercise to encourage all the ranges of motion for your ankle. Draw them using your big two. You should do the entire alphabet one to three times.

ii) Calf Stretches - wall stretch

Stretch your Achilles tendon and calves by doing the wall stretch. In a lunge position, place both hands on a wall and lean forward while keeping your back leg straight. You should feel a stretch on your calves and ankles on the straight leg. After a few seconds of that, in the same position, try to bend your straight leg with keeping your entire feet planted on the ground. Hold that for a few seconds as well.

iii) Band mobilization and strengthening

Work on your ankle plantar flexion (bend your ankle forward) and dorsiflexion (bend your ankle backward) with the bands. In addition to that, work on your ankle inversion (turn your ankle inward) and eversion (turn your ankle outward). Do this for 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps.

iv) Toe and heel raises

While standing flat on your foot, lift up your heels and get on your toes. Hold it for a second or two on the toe and come back down. Do this for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. After that, lift your toes off the ground and get on your heels. Hold for a second or two and then relax your toes slowly. Do this for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

v) Toe and heel walks

This is a strengthening exercise of bullet iv. In a fixed distance, walk a couple of rounds only on your toes. Then, walk a couple of rounds only on your heels.

How much should I deadlift after coming back from an ankle sprain?

Take 60-70% of your previous working set and work up to your previous numbers. It never hurts to retrain and strengthen your entire body to prevent future injuries.

Your sprained ankle will be coming off fresh from an injury. Why jeopardize your health by trying to ego lift and do your previous working sets from a couple of weeks ago? Keep your ego in check.

You need to retrain your ankle to handle heavy loads. Take 60%-70% of your previous training sets and work up from there. Your ankle will benefit from all the extra sets and reps. You will feel much more refreshed and motivated to continue climbing to higher heights.

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