While I have done a number of ankle, foot and toe exercises with my gymnasts over the years, I have recently come to understand that a more complete and comprehensive program of toe exercises would be of great benefit on beam. I came to this conclusion after watching a brief 2 – 3 second part of a training compilation video and seeing a toe exercise that I had not used in years. It showed a gymnast digging in with her toes and moving her foot forward with that motion. That digging in motion reminded me of how important it can be sometimes for gymnasts to really dig in their toes to help them stay on beam.
When I began to do a little more research I found this video that shows a ballet student demonstrating her daily toe exercises and I was impressed with how useful this might be to gymnasts.
I found a second video with a more complete set of daily ballet foot and toe exercises that really demonstrates the additional training and care that ballerina proteges take to fully develop the strength and flexibility of their feet and toes. While it may not be as critical for gymnasts to do the same and it only affects beam (and floor), there is a lesson to be learned for all gymnasts and gymnastics coaches. Working to build stronger toes may help gymnasts to stay on beam and balance better on beam. Remedial work to improve gymnasts’ toe point may be a good idea and exceptional toe point can improve scores on every event.
Gymnasts and coaches should take a look at what they are doing in ballet and adapt what they see as needed by gymnasts individually and consider adding an entire toe and foot strength and flexibility program to their gymnastics training.
Other Exercises to Strengthen Your Toes and Feet
High Toe Treadmill – If you are doing cardio work on the treadmill, you can walk on high toe to warm-up and warm-down.
Get High On High Toe – Stand on tippy-toe and just walk around for five minutes each day on floor, beam or both. Stay on toe during the whole time. You may do other things, like practice arm and hand movements, while you are doing this. You can also do this while you are waiting your turn on beam, floor ore really any other event.
Toe Spreads – While standing, sitting or lying down, spread your toes out as far and wide as you can. Work to create space between every toe. Hold the spread position for a minimum of 10 seconds. Do 10sets daily with both feet. Another exercise you can do anytime during practice.
Single Leg Releves – Do leg raises on one foot a time until failure. You can do them with your foot pointing straight ahead or with inversion (turned in) or eversion (turned out) or all three.
Longitudinal Arch Foot Stretching – Stand barefoot in a shoulder wide stance. Slightly bend your knees and roll out onto the outer edges of your feet. Keeping your weight on your outer feet, slowly raise up on your toes and hold. You should feel your longitudinal arch stretching. When you do, hold that position for 5 – 10 seconds. Do 5 sets every day.
Walk in Sand – Walking on toe and running barefoot in sand can strengthen your feet, calves and improve your high toe strength and balance.