How to Warm Up for Rowing

The warmup is a critical time to set you up for the best and most productive rowing or weights training session possible with the least risk of injury. Most rowers are great about doing warmups for rowing training, because it’s naturally built into the practice. A short erg or jog, running oars down, some dynamic stretching, walking the boat down, and then skill-and-drill by pairs, fours, or sixes, provides 20-30 minutes of excellent warmup time. warmup rowingThe first important thing a good warmup accomplishes is gradually increasing heart rate and circulation. This is important to lubricate joints, increase blood flow to muscles, and prepare the lungs and heart for pumping a lot of oxygen and blood during training. The second thing a good warmup accomplishes is priming the muscles for efficient, precise movement. Both of these things play a vital role in reducing risk of injury as well as improving performance in training and competing.

Warming Up for Strength Training

The best rowers will treat all parts of their training just like they treat rowing training. You or your coach spends hours planning your rowing training, you read rowing blogs, do rowing mobility exercises, you think about technical elements of the stroke, physical elements of on-water training, maybe you even do mental skills for your rowing training, and of course, you spend hours actually executing the training. The very best athletes apply this same level of focus, dedication, and consistency to their strength training, nutrition, and recovery.

This should take you no more than 20 minutes from the time you walk into the gym to starting your first working set. If you don’t have 20 minutes to safely and effectively warm up, you don’t have time to train. It’s as simple as that.

#1. 5 minutes of low-stress aerobic activity

To erg or not to erg…

In general, I’m fine with rowers using the erg as their warmup, but I can see the counter argument as well.

Many rowers have bad habits or movements on the erg that we’re trying to use strength training to fix. If a rower opens their body early on the stroke, having them erg a bunch before deadlifting increases the chance of them carrying that error over to the deadlift. Many rowers also don’t know “easy warmup speed.” Put two rowers side-by-side and more often than not, the 5-minute warmup will turn into a battle paddle. (more…)

Rowing with Low Back Pain? Give these a shot.

9 times out of 10, when one of my rowers says, “coach, my back hurts,” a few sessions of this stretching sequence plus some general foam rolling of the lower body has them right before their next workout. Even with these stretches, it is crucial to address WHY you are experiencing low back pain, whether it’s a muscular weakness or a technical deficiency, but these stretches should get you up and moving in the meantime. This is also a great 10-minute mobility series during heavy training times and as general prevention of low back pain in rowing.

Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds. Breathe deeply and try to sink deeper into the stretch with each exhalation.

  1. Pigeon Stretch & Elevated Pigeon
  2. Half-kneeling lunge stretch, 3-way hip opener, lunge with band distraction
  3. Banded figure-4 (link here to orange band)
  4. QL stretch

Bundle: Winter Rowing Training

As the fall head racing season wraps up in the US, many teams and rowers are looking to avoid the ice and frostbite by ditching the oars and moving into the weightroom and onto the ergs. Here’s a bundle of articles that will be useful to you as you plan your winter training.

If you’re a spring 2k rower following the block periodization system, the winter training block will be about half specific preparation and half pre-competitive, depending on when exactly your fall season ends and your spring season begins. The typical rowing team will conclude fall in mid-November and resume water training in mid-February. In between the seasons is a great time to restore bilateral (left/right) balance and make great gains to set up the spring competitive training block. Cerg1heck out “The Basics of Strength Training for Rowing” for an overview of annual periodization and how all of these blocks fit together with the goal of peak spring 2k performance, then read the other articles for how to accomplish it!


Learn the Lifts

Improve Your Mobility

The Strength Coach Roundtable

  • Take us with you on those long erg sessions! I break down strength training topics in rowing with fellow rowing strength coaches Blake Gourley and Joe Deleo. Old episodes and upcoming ones here at Rowperfect UK.

Keep in touch over winter training

When you subscribe to my email list, you get my free mini e-book of the “Mobility for Rowers” series, plus regular updates on new website content, Roundtable news, and notes from my coaching and learning.

Hip Health for Athletes

There are a number of chronic and acute pains and injuries in sports that result from a problem in the hips.



The hip girdle is quite complex, with its four directions of motion and dozens of muscles inserting, attaching, and acting on the various structures. However, don’t get bogged down in complex analyses of each individual muscle and joint. There are a few common practices that most athletes would benefit from in their training to enjoy happy and healthy hips for a long career and great performances.


Total Body Warmup for Rowing

In case you missed it, Joe Deleo, Blake Gourley, and I talked a lot about warming up and preventing rowing injuries yesterday on the first-ever Rowperfect Strength Coach Roundtable Podcast. Here’s the link to the recap with timestamps and links!

This 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. This sequence should take no more than 10-15 minutes.

  1. 3-5 minutes of low stress aerobic activity

Before putting strain on the muscles, increase your core body temperature with 3-5 minutes of jump rope, jogging, light erging, or stationary cycling. You should have a light sweat and slightly elevated heart rate by the end of the 3-5 minutes. (more…)

Mobility for Rowers, Part 4: The Ankle


Will Ruth

Part 1: Intro and Thoracic Spine

Part 2: The Hip Flexors

Part 3: The Glutes

Part 4 will deal with ankle mobility and the structures in the ankle and foot.

footRestriction: Ankle mobility

Rowing fault: Poor compression, splayed legs at the catch, poor leg drive at the catch from being in an unstable position  (more…)

Mobility for Rowers, Part 3: The Glutes

Will Ruth

Part 1: Intro and Thoracic Spine

Part 2: The Hip Flexors

Part 4: The Ankles

We’ll now discuss the muscles of the posterior hip, the glute muscles.

Restriction: Piriformis, gluteus medius and maximus



Location: Posterior hip, “the butt muscles”

Rowing fault: Poor compression at the catch, poor leg drive, shortened reach during recovery  (more…)

Mobility for Rowers: Part 2, The Hip Flexors

Will Ruth

Part 1: The Thoracic Spine

Part 3: The Glutes

Part 4: The Ankles

In Part 1, we discussed what “tightness” really is (and what it isn’t), why mobility is so much more than pure flexibility, and how to address mobility restrictions in the thoracic spine. Make sure you understand the introduction of Part 1 before reading on, as this series builds on that premise. In Part 2, we discuss the big bad hip flexor muscles.



Restriction: Hip flexor

Location: Anterior upper thigh

Test: Test hip flexor tightness using The Thomas Test

Rowing fault: Poor compression at the catch, poor reach during recovery   (more…)

Mobility for Rowers, Part 1: The Thoracic Spine

Will Ruth

Main Takeaways

  1. With its unique demands as a seated sport, rowing requires an aggressive mobility regimen to avoid decreased performance, pain, and injury.

  2. Learn how to effectively target these problem areas with a combination of self-manual therapy, dynamic stretching, and static stretching for improved performance and longevity in the sport.

Part 1: The Thoracic Spine

Part 2: The Hip Flexors

Part 3: The Glutes

Part 4: The Ankles

For most athletes, practicing and competing in their sport is a daily break from the usual routine of sitting necessitated by the lifestyle of a student or desk-bound employee, but not so for rowers. While mobility work is important for all athletes, without dedicated attention to specific target areas, rowers can develop severe mobility restrictions that can decrease performance and lead to both short-term and long-term pain or injury. (more…)