So you have limited range at your ankles...Now what?
Rowing Solutions: The Ankle Video
Note: In this series I'll give you several options. You DON'T have to do all of the exercises in the video. Choose the one's that make a change to your range of motion and make the most sense for your available equipment, technical abilities, and comfort level.
Goal: To relax the body & coax it into giving you your range back.
Tip: You'll get better results if you take long, deep, relaxed, breathes while mobilizing.
1) Breathing: Take 10+ deep breathes.
More info on breathing in our post here.
2) Soft Tissue: Search & Destroy (find a tight/tender spot and spend 20+ seconds focusing on that area. Once you find it you can do small waves over the area or pin the spot while you flex and point the foot. Use a LAX ball for the foot. You can use a massage stick or a foam roller for the calves.
3) Stretching: Stretch your calves for 20+ seconds with a straight-leg and then another 20+ seconds with a bent-leg. You can do this on the floor or any sort of incline.
4) Correctives: Kneel a fist length away from a wall and rock pressure down into the ankle with a fluid and continuous motion for 10+ repetitions. Go as far as you can without lifting your heel or collapsing at your arch or knee. If you feel a pinch in the front of your ankle, try the banded version.
Optional - Confirm a Change
Want to confirm this made a change to your range of motion? Use our advanced assessment prior to trying these, implement these strategies, and then re-screen yourself!
Goal: To familiarize the body with this new range.
Tip: Think about pulling yourself down to the floor with your butt and the tops of your feet. Placing a sandbag on the tops of your feet provides good feedback here. You can also have a teammate hold your feet down as an alternative.
1) Hold: Pick a squat variation that works for you, get tight, sink down as low as you can without compensation, hold for 10 seconds, and repeat 3 times. The body weight squat is the easiest to do because you don't need equipment. The Dunphy squat helps you get tight and tends to improve squat form. The ideal equipment is a stick from Stick Mobility but you can also use a dowel. Push a stick into a rack, pull-up bar, doorway, etc and hold pressure up into the stick as you sink down into your squat. Hold this pressure upward for the duration of the squat. The over-head squat also helps with tension and forces you to engage your core. This tension and core engagement is often what keeps athletes from achieving a solid deep squat or catch position. In the video I have a cable system loaded up to 50% of my body weight. If you don't have a cable machine you could also use big heavy resistance bands.
2) Move: Choose the same movement from above but now move! Get tight, squat down slow and controlled while still thinking about pulling yourself to the floor. Try 5-10 repetitions.
Goal: To strengthen this new range.
Tip: Form matters here. Challenge yourself but keep it within your technical limits. Pull yourself to the floor and resist the urge to drop your chest.
1) Strengthen: Choose any of the 5 squat variations that you prefer, gradually add weight and challenge yourself within your limits. I ordered the options based on difficulty. I intentionally did not list the back squat as I find most rowers move better with the other variations. All of the listed variations also encourage the core to engage the same way we want it to in the rowing stroke. The back squat does not.
Option #1 : Med ball Squats: Hug a heavy sandbag tight to your chest.
Option #2 : Goblet Squats: Hold a kettle-bell close to your chest.
Option #3 : Sandbag Front Squats: Hold a sandbag in a front squat position.
Option #4 : Double Kettle-bell Front Squats: Hold two kettle-bells in the rack position.
Option #5 : Barbell Front Squats: Hold a barbell in the front rack position.
Sets and repetitions are up to you. Just stay within your limits. It's not about setting records here.
Stubborn ankles? Try taking the bullet train. Post coming next week...
Blake Gourley holds a Masters of Science in Sports Performance Training and has over 10 years of experience working with rowers. Read more