Why You Shouldn’t Lift Your Heels on the Concept2 Rowing Machine

– Welcome back this week
to Dark Horse Rowing and we are talking about why you still shouldn’t be lifting your heels
when you are on the machine, but the time when you can lift your heels. Alright, let’s address this. Now we coach that you shouldn’t lift your heels on the machine. Now before you go leaving
all sorts of hate comments down below this video, listen to what we have to say about it. Why do we talk about
not lifting the heels? Now, is it a generally accepted principal that in the sport of
rowing you lift your heels? Absolutely, we’re not denying that. Is it possible to lift
your heels when you are actually using the
rowing movement properly? Sure, absolutely. Is it appropriate to lift your heels when you are teaching
somebody for the first time how to use this machine? No, and that’s where we come from. So stick with us and let’s
address why we use the queue of heels down rowing
and when it’s appropriate to allow the heel to lift. Now when somebody is turning
to us for the first time to learn how to use the rowing machine, one of the most egregious
errors that we see is the lifting of the heel and the hips sliding underneath the
shoulders, this catch position. Okay, now for those of you who’ve hung out with us for long enough, you know that this is not a good position. That a strong catch is
being able to have the foot nearly flat, the hips
behind the shoulders, and maintaining a strong midline, okay? Now what do we see 80% of the time with somebody that’s never
learned how to use this machine? It’s this, I’m talking
about the gym goers, the crossfitters, everybody
who uses this machine and has never tuned into rowing knowledge. So why do we talk about heels down rowing? Because the instant I put
somebody’s heels down, look at what it does to my hips? It pushes them behind my shoulders. It eliminates the ability
for somebody to even have this error by pushing the heel down. Now does that shorten somebody’s stroke? Sometimes it does. But guest what. I’m teaching them how to get
into a good catch position, even if it’s half slide,
three-quarter slide, or full-slide catch. And what we need most in
this world, in this sport, and in teaching people how to
use this machine as a tool, because there are so many
more people out there using this as a training
tool for not rowing and simply for fitness purposes, we need to get them using
this machine comfortably. So guess what, we’re
gonna use queue heels down because it teaches
somebody how to get their hips behind their shoulders. The instant the heels
lift, it is literally, if you give them an inch
they’ll take a mile, okay? So you keep those heels down because it teaches a couple things. One, how to press through the entire foot. And two, it teaches us
how to press through the heel and engage posterior chain. Now do we dominate with posterior chain? No, but it does help us to produce some vertical force as well as
horizontal force production. So, it accomplishes
that and it accomplishes getting the hips behind the shoulders, which is overcoming one of the biggest learning hurdles to this machine, is teaching somebody the catch position because the catch is critical
to establishing good movement. So if I miss the catch,
there’s no way I’m ever going to learn the rest of the stroke properly. We have to start with the catch. And that’s why we coach heels down. Now over time, once
somebody has established good movement patterns, let’s say that they can only
get to half slide catch, and that they can only row to half slide keeping the heels down, well guess what? I’m okay with that because we’ve created a good movement pattern. You can improve on good movement patterns as flexibility increases,
as they lose weight, or they get more comfortable
with the position, you can add more range of motion and get them deeper into the
catch and get the length that everybody is so concerned with. That length will come, right? But we have to establish good
movement practices first. It’s kind of like if I were
teaching somebody to squat, I wouldn’t want to teach
them to squat to their toes just because they aren’t
comfortable with that movement. I’m going to teach them to
squat by pushing the hips back, and keeping their weight
somewhat in their heels, basically on their entire
foot and you know what? If they can’t squat all the way down into a seated position,
then I’m going to teach them to squat to a box and then over time that range of motion
will start to increase as they get more comfortable with it. It’s the exact same
principle on this machine. We teach heels down. As somebody commits to the technique, and as they get better over time, and they understand how to
press through the entire foot, and not just the toes,
then I’m going to start to allow them to flash that
heel as they get better. Because now they can
flash the heel with intent and with purpose rather that just because rowing says that the heels
are supposed to lift. The heels should lift with
a purpose, not just because. And that is why we teach heels down for everybody that comes to us to learn how to use this machine
for the first time. We teach heels down
because it is the fastest, most effective way to get
somebody into good position and get into good movement. And as they improve, yeah,
allow that heel to lift to get a little bit more length. But by now you’ve
established good movement and you know how to commit
to it without deviating and getting into poor position, alright? That is why it is still
not okay to lift the heels for a beginner, but as
you get better, sure, let those heels lift and start
to improve on that length. Guys, as always, this has been a fun one. We love this heels up discussion. Leave your comments below
’cause we want to know, agree, disagree, let’s hear it out, right? We’re always open to hearing
other points of view. But that’s why we do what we do. Guys, make sure you go
sign up for our newsletter, the Hustler’s Guide to
Rowing on our website DarkhorseRowing.com where
you will get our latest video and blog article
every Tuesday in your inbox. And also there you can
find our Dark Horse Academy for coaches to be able
to become the experts on this machine and teach their athletes how to use it effectively
and for athletes who need programming and coaching to
learn how to use this machine. We got you guys covered. Alright guys, as always, we’ll
see you on the other side.

51 Replies to “Why You Shouldn’t Lift Your Heels on the Concept2 Rowing Machine”

  1. Thanks for clarifying that. I noted that you always taught not to lift your heels yet in nearly all videos you actually lift your own. Now can you explain over reaching? You seem to over reach yet you also teach not to over reach. Is it because of your arm length?

  2. Good video. I always lift my heels, mainly due to inflexible ankles from many basketball injuries, but I've been rowing for circa 17 years and average 80-90km a week. Having said that your advice is correct, and should be taught like this to a beginner.

  3. Great video. I am inclined to lean back too early at the catch as you demonstrated. It feels like that helps the force of my stroke, but oddly it doesn't show up on the monitor. Heels down stopped the lean, put some spring in the legs at the catch, and showed up as a slightly more powerful stroke. Thanks

  4. Hey guys at DHR,Thanks for your technique tip on heel lifting.I'm a big skierg user and it's the complete opposite! Heel lifting(and I have to add bent arm as opposed to straight arm pulling to this) has slashed my times beyond belief……8:36 down to 7:44 for 2k
    Yes I know this is a row vid but looking forward to more Skierg vids, you promised!!!
    ,loved the one with Josh Carlson

  5. Turning now to rowing in a boat, I teach rowers to recover by lightly pressing the back of their heel against the heel cup, instead by pulling their toes against the inside of the shoe (or foot strap if clogs are used instead of shoes). Lightly drawing against the heel cup pulls the boat underneath the rower, and avoids any pressure from the sole of the foot against the foot stretcher (i.e pressure which would stop the run of the boat) before the blade is dropped into the water. If the heels are engaged against the back of the heel cup during recovery, leg drive is applied by using hamstrings and gluteals, rather than quads. Feedback is that the rowers feel a lot more relaxed and, as you say, that leg drive is through the whole of the foot, not just the ball of the foot.

  6. Awesome video, makes logic. Now you can reply people from the video with the green elastic band by just linking this video 🙂

  7. You are passionate about your topic! Its pleasant to watch you. Thank you for the top. I'm going to use this with my athletes who slide there butt mire forward, past their shoulders. Great to! I wasnt sure how to correct that but now I know!!

  8. Great Advice!! Ur training videos are extremely useful and applicable. On another video you mentioned how much power one looses when lifting our heals or having a bad rowing posture (ie: knees flaring out). I can tell you that by applying all of your coaching, I row Stronger, Longer and Quicker with less wasted motion, endurance issues and soreness during/after rowing – Great Tips, Keep it up & Thanks!!!

  9. Thank you for the tutorial video. I have been grappling with sore calfs and poor hip position at the catch. Making a slight adjustment in my foot straps, moving from a 3 to a 4 foot position has made a huge difference. I barley raise my heels, have good shin position at the catch. The most surprising thing for me is that I am able to extend my reach by about 10 cm because my hips now roll over and allow me to reach further with little discomfort. I have noticed about an average 5% power improvement at the same intensity level. I just wanted to say keep up the good work and that I have learnt so very much from Dark Horse Rowing.

  10. I dig it!! As a CF coach, I've started teaching new members to row using the 5-10-15 you showed in the banded row, just without the band. It works well with the calorie display to show how little the arms do, how much the back adds, then the huge change in cals/hr that the leg drive contributes. Thanks for the videos!!

  11. Good video and good explanation of your point. My only comment is that as a rower for 9 years now and someone who's very tall who always was always taught to row shorter, make sure that there's an awareness early on that length isn't the bad guy, putting yourself into strong and safe body positions is more important but don't make people be afraid of length because of it. I had to spend a long time relearning how to use the length I have because I was always told that I'll be in a weak position if I try and be too long.

  12. Hey DHR, just bought my own concept 2 last week and am struggling through getting my technique right by videoing myself, comparing to your tutorials and trying some of the legs drills you suggested. This video and the comment from Stu about basketball injuries / inflexible ankles had me wondering if you had come across any particular stretches that addressed that kind of ankle inflexibility? In any case this video was very helpful for me to understand the importance of good movement and that I may just have to force myself to stick with half slide catch for the time being.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge with this and all your other videos!

    Edit: looking further through your videos I see you have one devoted specifically to my ankle mobility question that provides me with some homework, thank you! Link for the lazy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C51os3TgbaA

  13. Why did you decide to go with the Concept 2 instead of going with eg. the WaterRower? I'm still deciding between these 2 machines for usage on my apartment.

  14. As someone new to rowing this is very helpful, heels up at the beginning of the stroke was/is one of my biggest problems! I didn't even realize how it affects the whole stroke. Well explained, ty

  15. Is there a way to fix using my right half of my body more than my left when I row? or is that just typical for a right handed person?

  16. Sounds good in theory… but watching videos of people like a Steve Redgrave, James Cracknell, Matthew Pinsent- some of the best rowers of all time- they all lift their heals on the ergo. And if you're not very flexible like me, then keeping your foot flat really limits the length and power of the drive phase. Ok, so I could do with getting more flexible and loosing some stomach weight, but still, not sure I'll ever be better off not lifting the heal.

  17. Nothing wrong with lifting heels and you should definitely push with the toes at the start of the drive: http://www.biorow.com/RBN_en_2008_files/2008RowBiomNews07.pdf

  18. Novices: Do NOT follow this advice! Instead, Learn to row properly.

    Reasons to NOT row heels-down:
    • Trains you into a pattern that does not help you get better times and is harder to break than learning to row properly (natural heel lift at the catch)
    • Shortens the reach which trains the muscle power for a shorter stroke (i.e. weakness when you eventually learn to row properly at full stroke)
    • Shortens the reach which surrenders an opportunity to stretch your body into a full reach
    • Needlessly overstresses the Achilles tendon that increases the risk of injury

  19. Long time rower doing Crossfit for first time. Crossfit athletes work really hard and deserve to produce more power with their rowing. I have held one clinic, I start as well teaching "Good squatting technique is good rowing technique." Crossfit Athletes that can perform a Clean and Jerk, (the one overhead?) understand proper movement. If ankle flexibility is causing them a problem then you just identified a problem with their squat and flexibility. I am for the idea. Novices, if they understand that one concept at the end it is win. They and their lower backs are safer with the knowledge. I believe it can lower splits by resulting in power as well. Can you share the development of the athletes who have adopted this approach and their evolution to a rowers stroke? How many flexibility issues?

  20. Also because it will give you some terrible blisters haha, great video thanks.. I’m a rookie and this helped a ton!

  21. i row for fat loss/toning and general fitness, and there is no point extending the ankles/heels for drive range if all your targets are is to exert yourself, just have good form so you dont get any injuries or RSI and keep that heart rate up

  22. I’ve just jumped over to rowing from being a long term road cyclist,I am really struggling with the heel being flat. Do you reckon due to so much training on a bike,I have probably got short hamstrings which is causing my heels to raise.

  23. The comment "those who never tune into good rowing knowledge, I'm talking the gym goers, the Crossfitters"😒😒 what's that about? As a Crossfitter that looks to you trying to tune into good rowing knowledge feel like it was kind of uncalled for. What was that supposed to mean?

  24. Steve Fairbairn always coached his crews to drive through the stretcher.

    “Summary of Body movement

    “The body movement in slow motions would show something like this: just as the oarsmen is arriving at the full reach forward, the weight comes off the slide and gathers on the stretcher, and the feet push the behind away, and somewhat upward, and so stretch the body, and hang the weight on to the lower part of the back. Really that is putting the whole back into it. Then as the draw couples with the drive, the top part of the body is driven right back with all the weight applied, and the body carries further past the perpendicular than it can with the back held straight. The thought should be: come down on the stretcher and stand on it. Imagine that at the movement of the catch the oar and boat got fixed immovably, and the seat disappeared, and one had to hang there. To do that he would have to keep pushing the behind away. So in rowing one should use the behind as a propelling weight. The more one thinks of holding the back straight and getting the shoulders over, the heavier one sits on the seat, and the less one uses the legs. Drive your behind to hit the rowing pin and stand on it, and row standing up; do not row for showy form which is rowing sitting down. As regards the use of the feet I have frequently heard a discussion as to whether one used the heels and the ball of the foot, or only the ball of the foot. Think only of coming up on to the stretcher, and springing off it, and our old pal, the Subjective Mind, will do the rest; and as you spring think of pulling, or, shall we say, hauling or heaving at an invisible rope. To get a true heave the heels must be put into the work. I used to get good results from “drive your heels through the stretcher.”
    -"Steve Fairbairn on Rowing," pp. 437-438

  25. Be securely fixed in position on the stretcher before pushing off.

    “See that the FEET are firm and flat on the stretcher … the stretcher is as important for rowing against as the ground is for standing on … Too much stress cannot be laid on this point … There is no hope for the oarsman who neglects his stretcher; on the other hand a person firm on his feet will always attract a coach, no matter what failings there may be.” R. S. de Havilland, "Steve Fairbairn on Rowing," p. 521

  26. For further discussio: https://www.rowperfect.co.uk/the-science-behind-heels-up-or-heels-down/?mc_cid=715f59ed68&mc_eid=c9be763157

  27. Heels Down…..just like a perfect SQUAT….who could possibly argue with the ergonomix of this. It's a perfect "grammar" for the stroke. Luv it. I'm a newcomer to this "sport" and this very accurate coaching directions is just what I want to see. I never paid any attention to this machine in the gym until recently. It was "waiting" for me……mwahahahaha

  28. Hi ! I just got into rowing and have watched pretty much every video there is on youtube on the mistakes made, on the perfect stroke…still, I feel like my legs do not get worked out enough as opposed to my arms. What could I be doing wrong? Thanks!

  29. For me, I was raising my heels and getting a pain in my right knee. Saw your video and learned to keep my heels down and the pain went away. I am new to rowing as I started about 8 months ago, so this advice helped me greatly. I am still learning to row correctly with your videos and Training Tall videos.

  30. is it possible for me to lose weight by having someone else to row for me while i sit on the couch, watch netflix and eat ben and jerry's ice cream? i will remind them to keep their heels down.

  31. I strongly agree with you on this issue….I used to lift heels while rowing resulting a blisters and Achlis tendonitis……
    Just a year ago i wached one of yours videos on how to row without lifting heels and i got benifit from that..

  32. I used to do CrossFit and my rowing form was pretty bad for a while. Now my form is pretty good. I spent time working on proper form.

  33. That my friend is excellent. I am 63 and started on the erg before YouTube. Back in 1998. And ive pick up so many bad habits. I wish I knew all this when I started. Cheers

  34. DH, Great topic and as always it’s well appreciated. Good news for you I’m about to buy a C2-D brand new from amazon using their financial program. Is it a good idea to use amazon’s choice? Pls give me your feedback on it. Thxs a lot.

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