When you mention flexibility and stretching to a diver, the first thing that comes to mind are the hamstrings, lower back and shoulders. Now granted, these are very important areas to a diver (and to most athletes in general), but have you thought about your ankles and feet lately?
Yes, I understand that stretching your hamstrings and back allow a diver to get into an all important pike position, and divers need a wide range of motion in their shoulders in order to swing their arms in forward and backward takeoffs.
But here is something to consider as you disregard the poor under appreciated ankle and foot: the feet are the only part of the body that (hopefully) touch a springboard or platform - not counting armstands of course, but rank pretty low when it comes to stretching.
So if you want to jump high and work with the diving board instead of against it, flexible ankles and feet should count as a big bonus in the go high and spin fast department. It also helps a little bit if you want a good toe point! Here are a couple helpful hints that might help as you limber up for your next practice.
Make An Effort
Although it may sound a bit silly, think about this - if you make a conscious effort to push through your feet as you leave the diving board, pointing your toes down at the springboard as you jump, you will go higher.
Too often jumping is taken as a natural movement and as a result, little attention is paid to the technique associated with it. But jumping is pretty important in diving and a little technique will go along way.
And like I said, simply paying attention to what you are doing may be all the change that is needed. So …
A good rule-of-thumb is that if you aren’t touching the diving board, your feet should be pointed. Now of course, you don’t want to point your toes on every step of your approach or platform takeoff, but in the hurdle point your toes!
The result is that as you point your toes while you are jumping, the ankles will extend further down and the push will undoubtedly be stronger.
Range of Motion
Now to the point of the article - work on your flexibility! The more flexible your ankle is the more range of motion you will have, the more strength you can develop and the stronger your push will be.
Think of it this way. If you could not straighten your leg and use 85 percent of your knee’s range of motion, do you think you could jump as high as if your knee and leg could straighten all the way out? Probably not.
And so it is the same with the ankle. Flexibility and strength go hand in hand, so the more flexible your ankle and feet become, the more strength you can develop. With the conclusion that if your feet and ankles are stronger and more flexible, you can jump higher.
Full Range of Motion
When pushing off a diving board, the motion of the ankle is called plantarflexion. What you need to remember though is that when working on flexibility, you need to work as much on flexibility in the opposite direction - known as dorsiflexion, as well as what will benefit you when jumping.
In order to create a full range of motion and the associated strength, flexibility must come in all directions. If you don’t do this, you risk injury.
It Helps Your Toe Point
We know that this ankle flexibility will give you some good “hops” and get you off the springboard so that you can go high and spin fast, but what about the end of the dive?
This new flexibility is going to help your toe point, another pretty important aspect of diving. So the last thing the judges will see is an awesome finish to an incredible dive.
Don’t Forget the Rest
Just as you do not want to neglect your feet and ankles, you shouldn’t fixate on these parts of the body as if this one joint will turn you into Michael Jordan.
The body is a machine that is interconnected and as you work on your ankles and feet, it will affect your knees, hips, spine and essentially, anything that moves. So don’t forget about the rest of your body, it’s pretty important also.
Now when you do learn to jump high because of your new found ankle strength, that tight pike will be a piece of cake.