Are you able to hop up and down on each foot 10 times without losing your balance? Go ahead, stand up and give it a try. If you can do this on both sides, congratulations, you’re well prepared to run through an intersection, jump for sports, and prevent yourself from falling if you trip, or maybe avoid tripping altogether. If you’re not able to do it, can only do it on one side, or it hurts when you do it, please read on for some exercises you can do to improve your ability to hop on one foot.
You need calf strength to hop on one foot
The muscle group in charge of getting you hopping are your calf muscles. These are made up of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. We have other smaller muscles in the calf that can contribute, but these are the power players.
Below are a few ideas to strengthen your calf muscles. If you are very weak and couldn’t even lift your heel off of the floor in a standing position, start with a basic calf exercise that doesn’t involve lifting your body weight against gravity. Keep in mind, muscles can’t get stronger if they aren’t worked to fatigue.
Resisted ankle pumps
Here is one you can do at home. Wrap a resistance band around the ball of your foot. Push your toes away from your nose. Repeat until you feel fatigue in your calf.
Do you belong to a gym? If so, find a leg press machine. Rather than using the leg press machine to repeat a squatting motion, keep your legs straight as you lift and lower your heel(s) against the resistance. You can do both legs if weaker, or one leg if stronger. Try different increments of weights until you find the right amount for you. Repeat until your calf feels fatigued.
Standing calf raises
If you’re ready to strengthen your calves by lifting your body weight against gravity, standing calf raises are a great place to work. Start by lifting both heels at the same time, if you need more support hold onto something stable.
As this becomes easier, move to single leg calf raises with hand support and then eventually one leg without hand support.
Going through slow controlled movements is great for targeted strengthening, but hopping requires your fast-twitch muscle fibers to act. Additionally, landing on the ground requires more strength than jumping into the air. Therefore, begin to do more ballistic exercises to train the agility required to hop on one foot. Start by hopping with both feet until you feel confident.
Once hopping on both feet feels easier, go ahead and get creative with hopping on one foot. This could be dribbling a soccer ball, hopscotch, agility drills and so on.
Pain with hopping on one foot
No matter what anyone tells you, pain is not normal. There may be some chronic conditions that make it so that hopping on one foot will always hurt. However, until you’ve done physical therapy to rule out all of the causes of your pain, don’t accept that hopping on one foot is supposed to be painful. A physical therapist can examine and treat your foot, ankle, calf, knee, hip or back pain to get you hopping on one foot once again.
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