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Advice on Working Around a Nasty Ankle Sprain?

I’ve been running 531 programs for the last year +, with great success. I’m on phase two of Widowmaker circuit, and have broken PR’s at the age of 44. As luck would have it, I sprained my ankle playing soccer on a turf field yesterday, and it’s a pretty bad sprain that’s swollen to the size of a softball. I know squats and deadlifts will be out a while, and even OHP will be a couple of weeks away.

What would people suggest to do while a recover and can run 531 programs as intended?

Here are the exercises I think I can do:

Bench press, seated DB presses, pull ups, dips, hangling leg raise, ab wheel rollouts, any seated DB move like curls, lat raises, etc…

Should I keep doing BP on 531 as scheduled, or take a break from any 531 template and essentially do assistance-style training for the next several weeks? I have an airdyne bike I can probably start using in a couple of weeks for conditioning, but likely won’t be able to run for some time.

I appreciate any thoughts/advice from others. I know in the “big picture” it won’t really matter but I’m keen on choosing the most effective training style while limited to sitting down.

I’d just make sure that you’re still working your lower body in some capacity with machines that don’t require two healthy ankles (leg extension and hamstring curls basically). Seated DB press is a great idea I think. If you aren’t able to bench with your feet on the ground, lift them up. It’s a fun challenge when you have to fight to stay extra stable on the bench with no floor contact. Overall though, just do something. Keep your body working in some way.

That’s all just my opinion. I’m interested to see what Jim says

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Sucks to be injured mane. How to work around or if you even have to work around an ankle sprain comes down to the severity of the sprain mostly.

For example you could barely disrupt a ligament and have a bit of pain and swelling when you poke it but stability wise the ankle is still 100 or maybe 99% ready to go squat the next day. Oppositely you could roll your ankle and fully disrupt ligaments crucial to the stability of the ankle joint and/or fracture bones forming the ankle joint in which case you wouldn’t be able to put any weight on your ankle and may need surgery. Obviously we fall somewhere on the spectrum but in all likelihood an ankle sprain isn’t really going to hold you back from lifting as much as you’d think.

There’s other factors to think about also like how you squat e.g. if you spread the floor a lot when you are squatting it could be worse on your ankle.

Ankle sprain recovery time depends on the severity of the injury. How long you take off lifting is definitely shorter than the time that you’d take off soccer or running cos the demands are different.

I’d recommend following standard protocol on the ankle i.e. RICER for now during the acute stage. As soon as symptoms clear up you can test out squatting and deadlifting again. Whether or not you return to full lifting begin early ankle sprain rehab and progress from there until you can return to soccer/running or whatever you do.

If its so bad you can’t put weight through your ankle then you should probably go see a doctor for examination and referral on.

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Here is how I trained around ACL surgery. It should have similar lessons learned.

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Great stuff. I appreciate the advice and motivation.

Honestly I’d probably just sit the week out and let your ankle heal - no need to aggravate an injury when it needs times to get better.

I’ve had a serious ankle sprain from volley ball in gym class in high school (I jumped up, my foot didnt land flat, and all 200lbs of me came down on my ankle as it rolled over). I was on crutches for the better part of 2 weeks. Just wait it out.



Thanks for the advice. One week down, and I’m still limping but getting more mobility and strength in my ankle each day. I do mobility drills with my ankle, followed by icing it, each day.

For my workouts, I have been trying a push/pull split and working out each day for a short(er), less intense session compared to what I was running before the injury.

Example (push): 531 BP, seated DB OHP (3 sets, last set double rest pause), Ab roll outs (3 sets of 15), dips (3 sets, last one AMRAP). Then 15-20 min airdyne, which doesn’t bother my ankle.

Example (pull): weighted pull ups (3 sets, last set AMRAP), ring inverted rows (3 sets, last set AMRAP), curls (3 sets, last set rest pause), Hanging leg raise (3 sets x 15). 15-20 min on airdyne.

I switch things up, so I don’t do heavy bench each day but swap it out for incline DB press or ring push ups. At the gym at work, I also worked in leg extensions and leg curls last week. I plan to stick with this style of training for 2-3/4 more weeks until I can squat, DL, OHP on my ankle.

These workouts feel pretty easy compared to Krypteia or Widowmaker circuits, and last only ~25-30 minutes for the weightlifting part. I guess in a way it’s good to have a break and change of pace, but I miss the feeling after completing a 531 session.

Any other advice or comments are welcome.

Keep whatever main lifts you can; you can probably train the bench press specifically two or three times/week. On the other days, simply use the “total reps” in each of the three assistance categories and have at it. As for the total reps, start with 50 total reps and assess from there. You may be able to do more or less, all of which is pretty specific to you/your time/your fitness level, etc.

As for exercises, that is going to be up to you. You are going to have to experiment a bit but it’s just a matter of testing things out. Obviously, you can do a ton of basic abdominal exercises for the “single leg/core” movements. So just adjust and improvise.

So to recap: keep the bench press and on the other days, use assistance work.