How Soon Can You Weight Train after an Ankle Sprain?

Ankle Sprain

It happens so quickly! One second you’re walking or running and the next you’re gripping your ankle in pain! You can sprain your ankle if you plant your foot and twist your body suddenly. That’s why basketball players and soccer players are prone to ankle sprains. It’s not uncommon for an ankle sprain to happen when lifting weights and taking a misstep too. You’re more prone to ankle sprains if your lower body lacks strength or flexibility.

An ankle sprain is usually caused by inversion or eversion of the ankle. This means your ankle rolls inward or outward. A shift like this can stretch or even tear the ankle’s stabilizer ligaments. Ankle sprains usually involve torn or stretched ligaments on the outer part of the ankle. It’s less common to break ankle bones too, which is more serious.

Sprained ankles are usually painful when they happen. You’ll probably have swelling too if it’s a more serious ankle sprain. With a sprained ankle, most people have trouble bearing weight on the injured ankle and even feel pain when they move it. The rate at which ankle sprains heal varies. The ankle can take 2 to 12 weeks to heal.

Some Ankle Sprains Need Medical Attention

You can often treat an ankle sprain at home but should always see your doctor if you have a weakness in the ankle, significant bruising, or cannot bear weight on the ankle. Also, see your doctor if the pain doesn’t improve within a week. Otherwise, you can usually treat an ankle sprain at home. Until the swelling goes down, wrap the ankle in an elastic bandage to keep it stable and minimize swelling. Also, keep the ankle elevated. For a more serious ankle sprain, you might need short leg brace or a cast brace for added stability until the ligaments heal.

Rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the ankle are what most doctors recommend, at least that’s the way it used to be. That’s changing, though. According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, gentle exercise boosts blood flow to a sprained ankle. Therefore, if you have a mild ankle sprain, you might not have to sit in a chair. But what about exercising and weight training? When is it safe to work out again?

When to exercise a Sprained Ankle

It might be tempting to get back to your workout as soon as possible, but your ankle needs time to heal. A sprain stretches the ligaments, which can lead to a re-injury if you exercise too soon. But keeping your ankle immobile isn’t always the best strategy either. Try gentle pressure once the pain goes away, and the swelling goes down. You can do this as soon as three days after the injury, as long as the swelling and pain don’t worsen. Move your ankle gently to boost blood flow.

Once you can put weight on your ankle and the swelling is down, do gentle range-of-motion exercises for the sprained ankle. One exercise that many health care professionals recommend is tracing the alphabet with your toes on the affected side. Start with A and trace all the letters through to Z. Then, repeat. This is a good exercise for building strength in your feet and ankles too.

Another range-of-motion exercise for the ankles is the towel curl. Put a towel on the floor. Place your toes over the towel and contract them to try to move the towel closer to you. Then, use your toes to push the towel away. Repeat 10 times. As with tracing the alphabet, this exercise builds strength in your toes and feet.

Focus on doing ankle stretches too.  Here are some that many orthopedists and sports medicine doctors recommend:

Ankle Stretches

  • Sit in a chair.
  • Dorsiflex your ankle slowly by pointing your toes up toward the ceiling.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Reverse the exercise:

  • Sit in a chair.
  • Plantar flex your ankle by pointing your toes downward.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Then, try gently inverting (turning inward) your ankle and holding for a count of ten. Switch the movement so that you’re everting, or turning your ankle outward, for a count of ten.

For each of these exercises, let pain be your guide. If you experience significant pain, stop and apply ice. Don’t push through the pain.

Once you can bear weight without pain, stretch your calf muscles. Place your hands on a wall or other secure surface. Place the leg to be stretched behind you. Bend the front leg until you feel the stretch in the back leg. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Do this exercise several times a day once you can comfortably bear weight on the ankle and the swelling has subsided.

How about Weight Training?

In general, you should wait to do standing weight training exercises until the swelling has subsided and you can bear weight on the ankle without pain. Until then, you can do upper body exercises that don’t require standing. You may also do one-legged exercises, like one-legged squats while holding on to a bar for support.

When your ankle has mostly healed, there’s no swelling, and you can bear weight without discomfort, it’s safe to return to lower body weight training, using pain as your guide. Ease back into training by reducing the amount of weight by 20% and gradually work your way back up. Strengthening is vital once you’ve had an ankle sprain, since you’re more susceptible to a second one once you’ve had one.



  • “Eight “Steps” to Return to Action After a Sprained Ankle ….” 10 Jan. 2013, https://www.stack.com/a/return-sprained-ankle/.
  • Glasoe WM, Allen MK, Awtry BF, Yack HJ. Weight-bearing immobilization and early exercise treatment following a grade II lateral ankle sprain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1999 Jul;29(7):394-9. doi: 10.2519/jospt.1999.29.7.394. PMID: 10416179.”
  • 4 Steps To A Faster Ankle Sprain Recovery | Everyday Health.” https://www.everydayhealth.com/pain-management/4-steps-faster-ankle-sprain-recovery/.

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