Don't have the time? Ankle mobility won't improve? Just rigg around the problem.
Rigging Around the Problem
We always recommend addressing movement first, adjusting the boat to safely fit the rower, and periodically adjusting as the rower's movement improves. This is the safest way to improve performance and reduce the chance of injury. However, if you've tried everything, or just run out of time, you can always rigg around the problem.
There are three solutions for rigging around the ankle.
1) Footplate angle/height
2) Heel lifts/Shims
3) Textured insoles
If you can’t get an athlete to the ideal ankle range of motion you can rigg around the issue. You can do so by lowering the angle of the footplate to as low as 37 degrees. Remember, the closer you get to 47 degrees the higher the power potential. Use our advanced assessment here to help find your ideal footplate angle. You could also experiment with a coach, finding the highest footplate angle that still allows for quality technique. If you don't know how to adjust the footplate angle I highly recommend The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Rigging by Mike Davenport. Another option on the erg and in the boat is adjusting the height of the feet and/or adding a butt pad to the seat. Although both of these will improve position, note that adjustments may also effect the body angle of the rower, which isn't always a good thing.
The other option is to buy heel lifts that you can bring with you to the erg and boat. Much like using heel lifts to improve someone's squat, heel lifts can reduce the range of motion required by your ankles. If you have Bat Logic shoes you can add heel shims using their system. If you don't have Bat Logic you can buy your own heel lifts online.
If an athlete has an asymmetry between ankles it is best to clear it up. However, It may be easier to row to the more mobile side. For example if the athlete is limited on the left ankle, they may make better port rowers. However, beware that this asymmetry may still cause uneven foot pressure as well as other compensations if not addressed. You can address the asymmetry by adding a store bought heel lift to the limited side or by using Bat Logic's system to do the same.
Textured insoles may also help to balance out foot pressure by providing extra feedback and awareness to the bottoms of our feet. Grab a pair online, cut them to fit your shoes, and row away.
Have you rigged around your movement?
Blake Gourley holds a Masters of Science in Sports Performance Training and has over 10 years of experience working with rowers. Read more