Question about the foot plates on the ergs – what number do you find it’s best to keep them on? Is there a standard it’s “supposed to” be at or is it best for each girl to change them for herself? What do those numbers even mean?
Where your feet are placed on the erg make a huge difference in your technique and power output. When I explain this to novices, I tell them to think about what their feet look like when they go up on their toes or for girls, what it feels like when you’re wearing heels. Where your foot bends below your toes (on the balls of your feet), that’s where you want the strap to be. This allows for the most natural movement as you come up to the catch. If the strap is above that (over your toes), it’s not helping you out at all and can actually lead to you over-compressing (meaning your knees are in front of your ankles, which is an entirely separate issue). Over-compressing means that your legs won’t activate immediately at the catch and you’ll end up becoming fatigued faster due working harder than you have to. You always want your toes to be in contact with the foot stretchers, and having the strap too high (meaning the number is set too low) prevents that.
On the flip side, having the number too high will put the strap down over the center of your foot (closer to your ankle), which is extremely uncomfortable. I don’t even know how people can row like that and not assume it’s wrong. This prevents your heels from coming up as you move on the recovery (at the very least it doesn’t let them come up enough) and doesn’t allow you to get fully compressed at the catch, which means your stroke is short and you’re not generating as much power as you otherwise would. It can also lead to a lot of lunging, because if you can’t get all the way up the slide you might compensate by trying to reach farther than you normally would to increase the amount of length you’re getting.
The shorter you are, the higher the number will be. The taller you are, the lower the number. I’ve seen some guys who row with it on 1 or 0 with no problems. It’s both a personal preference and … not. The strap has to be on a certain part of your foot in order for your stroke to be correct but the number that the stretchers are at is different for everyone. There is no “standard” so each rower should set their feet themselves just like they would in the boat.
I’ve never really looked into it so I’m not positive what the numbers mean but it might be how many inches of shoe is left over once you’ve adjusted it … but that’s a total guess that could be completely wrong.