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.
Knees & Arches
As you approach the catch limited ankles will lock out and cause compensation at the arches of the feet and at the knees. The arches will drop in and "hug" the erg. This is typically followed by the knees caving-in and bumping each other. A collapse of the arches decreases force potential as well as places excess load on the foot (athletes will commonly complain of foot cramps). The knee cave will also decrease force potential and place extra stress on the knees, hips, and back.
Shins & Heels
Limited ankles can also cause issues with compression and heel contact. If the ankles lack range of motion rowers will be challenged to get their shins vertical at the catch. Rowers who lack compression tend to have a shorter, less effective stroke. The heels will also lift early and excessively. Remember heel lift is perfectly OK and normal. However, an excessive lift may decrease the force potential of the strongest muscles in our stroke (glutes, hamstrings, and quads) as well as place excess stress on the foot and big toe as more foot mobility is required to reach this position.
Back & Shoulders
Another way to compensate around the ankles is through the back and the shoulders. When a rower reaches their ankle limit they will round forward excessively through the back and overreach with the shoulders. Overreaching into the catch throws your weight against the run of the boat making you less efficient. Overreaching also stresses the back, shoulders, and ribs with each stroke.
Do you have any of these problems? Have you checked your ankles?
Blake Gourley holds a Masters of Science in Sports Performance Training and has over 10 years of experience working with rowers. Read more