So you have limited range at your ankles...Now what?
What's breathing have to do with your ankles?
The biggest mistake people make is blindly stretching.
The screen mentioned in our last post (add link) is good for rowers who want a quick pass or fail test. For those who want a more advanced, specific number, here is a way to quantify your ankle range of motion.
Here is an easy to do screen for your ankles. This can be done alone, or in a group setting. All you need is a wall. Conduct the screen with or without shoes. With your foot a fist length away from a wall, kneel and drive your knee towards the wall without allowing your heel to rise from the floor. If your heel stays down, your knee and arch don't collapse, and you touch the wall, you have 40-45 degrees of ankle dorsiflexion (the recommended amount for rowers).
Lacking ankle range of motion? Limitations here will cause issues with compression and body position into the catch. It will also limit the athletes ability to get their heels down quickly (an ideal ability). Common injury potential includes the foot, knee, and back.
Below are some common faults seen in the stroke when the ankles are limited.
We know from several studies that an asymmetry exists in foot pressure on an erg and on the water, whether that be sculling or sweeping.
This asymmetry in foot pressure may affect boat speed and cause a sheering force at the hips and spine. This could contribute to back pain or back injuries.
Symmetrical ankles may play a part in limiting these asymmetrical forces. Asymmetrical ankles may play a part in contributing to these asymmetrical forces.
One study found that high density textured insoles may help rowers balance out foot pressure, increase stroke length, and apply greater force to the footplate. May be worth looking into...
Are your ankles symmetrical?
Our goal as coaches should be to ensure our athlete’s safety and optimal performance.
One way to do so is to make sure they are physically able to reach positions required by their sport. This is the first post in a series that will explain what is required from a rower to safely and effectively move boats.
As human beings we are meant to move freely and effortlessly. However, as we have evolved our daily tasks have become automated and less and less movement has been required from us. Most of our athletes sit all day in class and then head to practice and continue to sit in a boat. For this reason as well as others, our movement has been altered. If proper human movement isn’t addressed we will develop movement limitations. Movement limitations act as roadblocks or emergency brakes. They slow us down and cause unnecessary wear and tear. With clean movement, we find ourselves in an optimally aligned position which produces the most amount of force with the least amount of effort.
From our experience we have found that those athletes with the fewest movement limitations tend to have the opportunity to be the best technical rowers. They respond to technical changes effortlessly. On the flip-side, you know those rowers who never seem to make a change? They’re trying, trust me. They want to make a change but they’re hitting a roadblock. Clear up their movement and you’ll see a change.
Is your movement clean? What’s holding you back? Do any of your athletes have trouble making a technical change?
Blake Gourley holds a Masters of Science in Sports Performance Training and has over 10 years of experience working with rowers. Read more