My new project – The Deep Squat – hip and ankle mobility for rowing

So I have a new project – a focus on hip, ankle, and lower back mobility in order to improve rowing performance.  I have stiff hamstrings and ankles, as do many rowers who have focused for years on exercises that work the quadriceps exclusively.

My question is:  what would be the effect if I could comfortably and safely get an extra inch of compression on the slide on each stroke?  At its simplest, this would mean an extra inch through the pin, and would make it possible for me to gain the same length through the water with a shorter oar length.  The effect would be easily measurable on the Concept 2 ergometer because splits on the machine are directly related to how long your pull on the chain is.

One way to work on this is to achieve good form in the truly deep squat.  To date in Crossfit, I have tried to increase weight, but I just can’t get LOWWWWW with it because I am not flexible and my knees have traditionally hurt from running.  Switching to a FiveFingers “barefoot” approach solved the latter, but the former is still there. 

Here’s my plan:

1.  Lighten the weight, go for perfect form.  This is a sequence with 205 lbs, which I consider my new “PR” because it was done correctly with a rack to gauge my depth.  Even though this is about 50lbs. less than my squat PR, my legs were cooked from it.  You can see in the right hand picture that my mobility limitation is causing me to rotate a little at the bottom of the squat – gotta work on that!

2.  Focus on mobility exercises for hip and ankle flexibility.  I have been doing the deep squat (also called the “Asian Squat”, the “Indigenous Peoples’ Squat” and the “10 Minute Squat” as part of my warm up for both Crossfit and rowing.  There is a funny video on “How to do the Asian Squat” linked from Mark Sisson’s blog and a post from Kelly Starrett on his Mobility WOD blog.

3.  Measure the impact through the upcoming winter on the Concept2.  More TBD on this.

I hope that this approach will not only help my rowing and Crossfit results, but will also help prevent lower back injury when doing heavy erg work this winter.

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