The Heel Drop Exercise is a Beginner level strength osteoporosis exercise and is part of the Exercise for Better Bones program. The Heel Drop Exercise targets the calf muscles and the hips.
Heel Drop Exercise
Follow these instructions to complete the heel drop exercise. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
- Maintain your best postural alignment when doing the heel drop exercise. This is important for all exercises and especially important with your heel drop exercise.
- Keep your feet hip-width apart with knees ever-so-slightly bent, or unlocked.
- Keep the back of your ear over your shoulder.
- Engage and recruit your tummy muscles.
- Hold a surface in front of you with a firm grip to ensure that you have good balance.
- Lift yourself onto the balls of your feet — onto your toes and the balls of your feet.
- To do the heel drop, you literally drop your heels onto the floor.
- How hard you want to drop (and cause impact) depends on your fracture risk.
- If you’re at a low fracture risk, you can go for it and drop really hard.
- If you’re at a moderate fracture risk, you might want to drop moderately hard.
- At a high fracture risk, drop a little bit more gently.
- A high velocity drop would look like this (demonstrated in the video), where there’s a lot of pounding.
- When they looked at a study where they actually put force transducers in the hip, it was approximately three times the body weight. So it’s very forceful.
- If you don’t want to drop quite so hard, you can come up and let your muscles take some of that force.
- If you want to get the benefits of strengthening your calf muscles, but without the pounding to the skeleton (perhaps because of joint pain or as a result of a compression fracture), then come down gently.
That is the heel drop exercise.
Heel Drop Exercise Tips
If you have any joint pain in your lower body or have had a compression fracture, then you should lower your heels gently rather than drop quickly.
If you have stiffness or pain in your toes, I suggest you wear running shoes while doing the heel drop exercise.
You can do this exercise even if you have had hip or knee replacement. Consider lowering your heels gently instead of the sudden drop.
If you experience incontinence or if you have had a prolapse, consult with a pelvic health physiotherapist before doing this exercise. They will likely prescribe a set of exercises specific to your pelvic health.
In Exercise for Better Bones, I provided a detailed workout plan that recommends the frequency of this exercise (and other exercises in the program).
The first study listed below, by Bassey and Ramsdale and published in Bone, showed a “maintenance effect” in postmenopausal women who were more than 6 years postmenopausal. During the menopausal period “maintaining is gaining” because you are not losing bone.
- Bassey J, Ramsdale S. Weight-bearing exercise and ground reaction forces: a 12-month randomized controlled trial of effects on bone mineral density in healthy postmenopausal women. Bone, 1995 Apr;16(4):469-76
- Bassey J, Ramsdale S. Increases in femoral bone density in young women following high impact exercise. Osteoporosis Int, 1994;4:72-75
In the book, AstroFit, the author refers to Bassey’s research which leads her to believe that “heel drops exercise are an easy way to preserve and increase bone mass in premenopausal women.” The authors recommends that if you are a premenopausal women that you perform the 50 repetitions of the exercise 5 times a day.
Osteoporosis Exercise Plan
Visit my Osteoporosis Exercise Plan page for more information on this topic.