Carlos Dinares Tip #303: Ankle and hamstring flexibility in ROWING = MORE WATER SPEED

How many ROWING programs test their rowers ankle flexiblity and hip rotation?
Do we have a standardized testing in ROWING for ankle flexibility and hip rotation?
Do we really know how much advantage is to have ankle flexibility and good hip rotation?

We all know that if you have a good Concept2 Stationary erg score means that you have a good engine.
What happens when you have this amazing score and cannot move a boat?
Many coaches know that a Fast rower on the water has a good engine so a good Erg score. We keep forgetting that a good erg score doesn’t give us have a boat mover all the time. Sometimes it will give as an ANCHOR. Why? There are many reasons for that. We know that bad ankle flexibility and hip rotation are disadvantages to go fast on the water.

Is ANKLE FLEXIBILITY and HIP ROTATION one of those things that don’t really matter on the Stationary ergo?
The fact that we are using all the inertia of our body mass against the stationary front of the ergo to compress our body is really helping us to reduce the disadvantage of poor ankle and hamstrings flexibility.

In order to solve the problem of bad ankle flexibility you can lower the footstretcher, increasing the distance from seat to ankle to a distance up to 21cm or even more if the boat let’s you do it. The less you increase that distance the more efficient the push will be and the more direct the power application to get the boat going fast.
Also you can change the angle of the fotstretcher. Regular angle is 42 degrees. Rowers with good angle flexibility can go to 43 and 44 degrees.
The ideal is to have a low number on the distance from ankle to seat and a high number on the angle. Why? Because the power application will be more direct.

What are some of the problems on the boat of having poor ankle and hamstrings flexibility?
If you don’t have good ankle flexibility and good hip rotation, you cannot shift your body weight ahead of your hips on the first part of the recovery and compress to the catch holding the position at full compression to place the blade and connect to the water. If you cannot do that well the speed of the boat will be affected.

When you row you dance with the boat. The effective power application gives you speed and this speed gives you rhythm. In order to get good power application you need to be able to load well your blade and lever your body against that blade. Good leverage of your body against the blade will happen when you are positioned correctly on the boat on a powerful way to be able to load and push the boat away.

Rowperfect3 and Batlogic help you to work on that on the land. Batlogic can go to the water. The Rowperfect3 rowing machine has a footstretcher like the one on the boat with a 42 degree angle and the possibility of moving up and down the distance from seat to ankle. Rowing the Rowperfect3 at different footstrtecher settings can show you with the use of the computer software where you are the most efficient and powerful.

This is the text about ANKLE FLEXIBILITY from Batlogic australia:

It would be be frustrating to learn that something as simple as the ankle flexibility you were born with or acquired through an injury would curse you with a disadvantage in rowing. This is especially so since our bodies’ ‘function’ is rarely able to be altered in a significant way.

We began analysing this problem by critically reviewing the equipment athletes are forced to use: a flat footboard fixed at around 40-42 degrees.
This set-up provides a reasonable, whole-foot platform towards the finish of the stroke, but not at the catch or (for most athletes) up to the first 60% of the drive phase.
Instead, when pushing off a standard footstretcher at the catch, the athlete’s foot is in a flexed position, with weight being braced against a small area under the ball of the foot. The picture above demonstrates a typical position immediately prior to the catch. As it shows, the heel has lifted between 30-40 degrees from the position it will be in at the finish (or between 4-8 centimetres depending on shoe size and ankle flexibility).
What was interesting however was that the degree of heel lift (and thus the foot area an athlete has to push against at the catch) is determined by ankle flexibility. Further, it is rarely the flexibility of the athletes achilles tendon which is the limiting factor in ankle flexibility, rather the point at which the bones of the shin and ankle ‘lock up’ and lift the heel during the recovery.

So, the ankle flexibility you were born with will determine what degree of heel lift you have, and the foot surface area you will be pushing off at the catch. We see the importance of this only when we then consider what happens during the rowing stroke when the foot is placed in this weak position.
The immediate effect is that the arch of the foot collapses as pressure mounts on the foot. Further, postural (non- dynamic) muscle contractions are required as the body strives to hold the foot and lower limb in a position to maintain the power on the blade. As the force increases on the blade, further unnecessary stress is placed on the knees, lower back and shoulders in order to maintain a degree of stability.

At best this means wasted energy and muscles that are not recruited to apply power. At worst, we see a mechanism for injury inbuilt into our standard rowing equipment.

We like to compare it to trying to do squats on your toes – you just won’t be lifting the amount of weight your muscles are capable of if your feet aren’t in a strong, supported position. It makes sense when our data demonstrates that peak leg force is applied only when the foot has full contact with the foot stretcher.

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