Mobility and Recovery

How to Warm Up for Rowing

The 9-step process that will get you ready to train at your best! If you don’t have 20 minutes to warm up, you don’t have time to train.

Total Body Warmup for Rowing

This 10-minute series of exercises is designed to stretch and activate target muscles of common problem areas for rowers to be used before rowing, erging, and strength training. Warming up is an important part of maximizing performance in the short-term and health and longevity in the long-term. In the short-term, warming up helps prepare your body to execute the coming workout as effectively as possible. This is especially important for rowers who practice or train first thing in the morning. For rowers, this means activating the glutes, stretching the hip flexors, and getting the muscles of the upper torso firing.

Comprehensive Lower Body Warmup

Activate your muscles, gain mobility in target areas, and enhance performance with this <5 minute lower body warm-up. This will work for any athletes as most people in our desk-bound society have tight hip flexors and groin muscles that need to be stretched and slack glutes that need to be activated. This warm-up also helps groove the squat and hip hinge movements used in almost all sports and lower body workouts.

Mobility for Rowers: The Thoracic Spine

Restriction of these muscles most often displays as a rounded upper back, referred to as thoracic kyphosis or hunchback posture. The inability to reach thoracic extension or maintain a neutral thoracic spine under load causes uneven handle heights and difficulty with a “soft hands” approach at the catch, as rowers will naturally round further at the catch, making it more difficult to smoothly place the blade in the water. This also may look like overreaching, but it is really just what the rower perceives as a neutral spine because neutrality feels like extension to them. Finally, hunchback posture puts great stress on the anterior side of the spine, compressing discs and possibly causing damage to the thoracic vertebrae, especially when under load.

Mobility for Rowers: The Hip Flexors

Hip flexor restriction is a major problem for rowers. Spend all day sitting in a chair, at a desk, at work, in the car, then sit for another couple hours a day on an erg or in the boat in a sport that doesn’t train hip extension, and you get restricted hip flexors. This is a major cause of low back pain, common with many rowers, as well as poor gluteal function and inefficient drive mechanics. Tight hip flexors can also cause anterior pelvic tilt (APT), which results in slack hamstrings, weak glutes, and lumbar lordosis, which all contributes to an inability to sit up straight while rowing. Additionally, the hip flexors often contribute to snapping hip syndrome, a common complaint among rowers, which often results from a tight or restricted rectus femoris.

Mobility for Rowers: The Glutes

On the opposite side of hip flexors, the gluteal muscles are in a constant semi-stretched position during long bouts of sitting. Because full hip extension is never reached in rowing, the hip extensors are not often worked through their full range of motion. Inhibited compression, posterior pelvic tilt, and poor reach during the recovery are common results from gluteal restriction. Legs splayed during the recovery or at the catch is also common with rowers with tight glutes. Similar to hip flexor tightness, restricted glute muscles can be a culprit of back pain as the muscles all interact with the lower spine and hip region.

Mobility for Rowers: The Ankles

Poor ankle mobility results from muscles of the lower leg, including the calf muscles of the soleus and gastrocnemius, and the tibialis anterior and posterior, and even the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a sheet of connective tissue covering the muscles on the bottom of the foot. Any or all of these tissues can become restricted to result in poor mobility of the ankle, which will limit the rowers’ ability to get to full compression without another fault at the catch. Rowers with restricted ankles may splay their legs at the catch, lift excessively from the heels, or round at the lumbar spine (posterior pelvic tilt) to compensate for the lack of ankle mobility. Knee pain, ankle pain, and shin splints can result from restricted muscles of the lower leg.

Injury Prevention: The Rowing Rib Stress Fracture

The rib stress fracture is a rowing injury that plagues up to 24% of rowers and is to blame for the most time lost from on-water training and competition [13]. Because bone injuries can only be healed by time, prevention, not treatment, is everything for this injury. In 2007, the Journal of Sports Medicine claimed that, “the pathology and prevention of rib stress fractures will be one of the most useful areas of research in rowing training.” It’s been nine years and we’ve gone through two generations of rowers since then, and where are we on that? It’s time for rowing to break into the 21st century and get current with injury prevention.

Injury Prevention: Snapping Hip Syndrome

Snapping hip syndrome is an injury that I struggled with personally and know how frustrating it is to be sidelined by an injury with an unclear diagnosis and path to resolution. Like all of these injuries, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so start including some of these preventative measures to stay healthy and keep getting faster!

All About Overtraining

  1. Overtraining comes in two main forms, chronic and acute. Chronic overtraining is fairly rare and traumatic, but acute overtraining has broader symptoms and affects many athletes.
  2. Acute overtraining can be caused by training with too high frequency, intensity, and/or volume, or by failing to recover sufficiently from training via sleep, diet, and lifestyle.
  3. Overtraining is not to be feared, but recognizing overtraining symptoms is key to better managing your training, recovery, performance, and mental state.

Overtraining, Part 2

Training considerations for lightweights, youths, and coaches.

5 Tips for Optimal Rowing Performance

The single most important reason to weight train is prevention of injury. Immediate performance improvement is a distant #2. This is contrary to the beliefs of most, but does it matter how strong or how fast you are, or how great your endurance is, if you hurt too much to display it? What if you can out-run everyone on your team, but due to a shoulder injury, can’t row in the big race? What if you have the best technique in the boat, but can’t race or go 100% because of a hip injury? Weight-training can prevent muscular imbalances that lead to injury, which keeps athletes in the boat longer, providing more time to practice form and gain opportunities to improve in the sport, which can earn a longer, healthier, and more successful career. This is why injury prevention is #1 and immediate performance is #2. 

Recipes for Strength

All of these meals have a solid amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. I’m a strong believer in a balanced diet being the answer to most nutritional issues and recommend staying away from fad diets. You’ll be surprised at how far diligent attention to basic balanced nutrition will take you. Especially as athletes, reducing caloric intake from one macronutrient in particular can really be detrimental to health and performance. Carbohydrates are essential to an athlete for maintaining energy and fruits and vegetables carry fiber and micronutrients that are essential for health and recovery from training. Fats are necessary for energy and health (like hormone balance). Protein builds muscle. Rather than hop on the latest fad diet by reducing or eliminating completely one of these macronutrients, just focus on getting them from healthy sources