Are Squats With A Sprained Ankle A Good Idea?

April 10th 2019

Squats are notorious for giving all lifters strength and size gains for the lower body.

They are not only good; they are great.

With the capacity of overloading the exercise, squats are one of the primary drivers for muscular strength, power, and growth when paired with a proper diet and a great night’s sleep.

However, there is no debate that a sprained ankle can limit your potential to squat.

For those that suffer a more serious ankle sprain, walking is even out of the question.

But for those able to put weight on their sprained ankles, should you do squats anyway?

Squats with a sprained ankle

While you may be tempted to do squats when you are not fully healed, making sure that your sprained ankle is 100% healed will be more beneficial to your long term training and health.

One of the most important steps in injury recovery is to make sure your ankle is not being put through painful movements.

You should only be focused on moving your ankle and doing pain-free activities.

So, if you are able to squat pain-free, why not? There is nothing wrong with that.

The issues start to appear when lifters want to push past their pain thresholds, knowing very well that it is not a good idea.

But you are eager to train!

What else would you do?

Learning how to control these frustrations and emotions will further develop your character.

This is another unspoken part of the strength training journey.

Can I heal my sprained ankle quicker to squat?

Eating high-quality foods, rest, heat/ice and massage may help speed up your recovery.

However, your body is doing its best to heal your injury as fast as possible.

There is no doubt that injuries suck.

They prevent us from doing to the gym and from functioning as human beings.

With that in mind, it is imperative that you do not aggravate your sprained ankle by squatting.

Nothing feels worse than trying to make some gains and re-injuring your ankle by doing too much too soon.

You will kick yourself mentally for not being patient enough with injury recovery.

This also applies for deadlifts as well, so you should not deadlift if you sprained ankle is painful.

There are some great rehab exercises I outlined in the linked article above.

As an exercise specialist, I have helped guide patients in rehabilitation through various injuries - one of which are ankle injuries.

Some of the exercises I mentioned in the article are ones I used personally that have helped many patients continue to develop their ankle flexibility, strength, and mobility.

Instead of squats, what can I do with a sprained ankle?

Finding pain-free movements is key to recovering from an injury. If you want to continue working on your lower body, finding pain-free lower body movements, like lunges, leg extensions, leg curls, cardio, etc, may help speed up your recovery.

However, it depends a lot on your personal preference and training motivation.

In my opinion, you should always be doing something to keep moving.

Sure, you may be injured but you are still able to do exercises.

Again, the key is to focus on pain-free movements that do not cause you any pain or discomfort.

i) Walking

Any movement specialist will tell you how vital it is to keep your ankle moving even if it is injured.

If you are able to bear weight on it, take some brisk walks.

Take long walks.

The longer the better.

If you are unable to go to the gym and squat but can walk pain-free, this is good progress.

It will further set you up for a successfully healed ankle.

ii) Swimming

Everyone, including your parents, will urge you to swim.

If you want to swim, you can.

It is just another form of cardiovascular exercise that you can do to get your ankle moving pain-free.

iii) Biking

If you have a bike available or a stationary bike at the gym, that is another alternative.

It is great to get your heart rate up and improve your conditioning if you are unable to squat with a sprained ankle.

It should not be too long before you can begin to put more pressure on your ankles.

iv) Similar squat movements

If you are looking to improve your squats, you would want to do something that closely resembles them.

Are you able to do box squats?

Can you do leg presses?

Can you do lunges?

There are so many different squat alternatives that can build up your lower body.

You just need one or two movements for the time being and try to focus on executing them perfectly.

Should I still do leg day with a sprained ankle?

You can still go to the gym as long as you do not feel any pain in your ankle.

Any exercises that cause you ankle pain will inhibit recovery and healing.

It will be better to rest than to re-injure your ankle by trying to do too much weight too soon.

The best option is to go see a medical professional to make sure your ankle is structurally sound.

Because if you continue to train with an injured ankle, you can throw off your body’s balance and ruin your knees and hips.

If you really cannot tame your gym itch, here are a couple of leg movements that do not require you to put any pressure on your ankles:

  • Leg extensions
  • Leg curls
  • Glute kickbacks
  • Bridges
  • Leg Raises

How much squat weight to do after coming back from a sprained ankle?

Take anywhere between 10-20% off your previous working sets.

If you have been severely deconditioned, you can start taking up to 50% of your previous working sets.

It is okay to start reconditioning your body in order to handle heavy loads again.


Always make sure to get evaluated with a medical professional if you suffer any outstanding injury.

It may make the difference between a two-week recovery versus a six-week recovery.

Medical professionals are there to help you stay healthy and to prolong your longevity.

But regardless, it is common sense to not do anything that is causing you pain.

It is only making your symptoms worse and you will probably not enjoy knowing that your ankle is sprained.

Tags training

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