Tagrowing injuries

Learn Good Erg Rowing Posture

Did you know that there are 1000’s of things that you can do to make yourself a better rower – starting right now. And almost all of them are non rowing tasks.

Changing habits are hard. And the bad news is that this tip requires you to change one of your habits.

But first:

 

I Have a (non Rowing) Question for You…

Where are you sitting right now? Are you at a desk – crouching down looking at these very words on your monitor? Or maybe you’re on the couch at home slouching down flicking through your ipad? Or are you on a bus or train, on your way to work reading this on your phone?

You could be anywhere reading this.

Wherever you are and whatever device you are reading this article on, I want you to  think about one thing – right now.

 

Just one simple thing.

 

And when you think of it, I want you to do something immediately afterwards.

 

Ready?

 

Your posture.

 

How is your posture?

 

Are you sitting correctly?

 

Or, are you slouching down with a curved back, tense shoulders and protruding chin?

 

If it’s the last one – change it right now. Make yourself sit correctly so that you are maintaining your back and spine in a good neutral position.

How to correct it:

Uncurl your back, rotate your pelvis and sit on the bones of your ass. That’s the same bones that stick down those 2 holes in your seat as you are rowing in the boat. And same bones that sit on the seat of the erg (and somehow always get really sore after a really long erg session).

 

But What Has All This Got to do With Rowing?

And more specifically, helping you to row faster?

Well let me show you by telling you a short story. I heard this once a couple of years back and was amazed by its simple brilliance. At the time Peter Haning was coaching some rowing crews.

Haning was 3 times World Champion in the Lightweight Men’s Single Scull from 1993 – 1995. In some ways he was ahead of his time because he rowed with a particular style and technique that is not unlike the current rowing styles and techniques. Most notably was his flat back and upright body position.

But though he rowed upright with a flat back he still got a great dynamic body action with lots of length generated from swinging his body both forward and back.

I don’t know if it was by accident or design that he rowed this way, but the fact is that it was great to watch.

And deadly effective.

Anyway – back to my story. When he was coaching, he once subtly corrected a rower who was on a public computer on a hotel lobby checking his email. Very courteously and helpfully he motioned to the guy to sit up a little. To correct his posture from the slouching position he was in.

Before you say anything – this wasn’t a case of Haning getting involved in something that was none of his business (even though the rower was not one of his athletes). This was a guy who had seen this rower actually row out on the water and saw his limiting problem.

And like all good coaches he took his opportunity to impart his knowledge freely and helpfully – in the right context.

The rowers problem was a pronounced curved back. This curved back was – with time – making him inefficient and have some of the following adverse problems:

  • Weak finishes of his rowing stroke
  • Tired a lot especially towards the end of races
  • A generally a poor performer into strong headwinds
  • Have thoracic back tightness (which lead to injury threats)
  • On more than one occasion in a rowing race had difficulty breathing (his chest was constricted with the curve)

You would think that this guy should have been able to solve this problem, long before Haining came along. Especially since he was getting intensive (and good) coaching from his university rowing coach. But no matter how hard he tried in the boat to correct his problem, he still reverted back to his old habit when he was under pressure.

 

That is until the day he got a subtle bomb dropped on him by a 3 time world champion. Who showed (and fixed) him his problem for him in 10 seconds.

 

You see, it was not about his posture in the boat that was the major cause – it was about his posture out of the boat.

So Remember This:

Sit up and be aware of your posture until you have created a new (good) habit. And you will go a long way towards avoiding some of the problems this guy had with his rowing technique.

Rowing Tips Crucial to Prolong your Career (and prevent an early exit)

Ergers are used to tolerating hardship on the erg and afterwards paying the price with tiredness and soreness. But when we get older this is not always a good thing because it can ultimately be the difference between a few more years erging and rowing or having to call it a day.

# 1. Listen to the messages your body is sending you.

Back off.
Sometimes you need to know when to back off and use your brain a little more in order to protect your longevity in erging. You should avoid the sessions and exercises that aggravate your body. For example if you know that sitting on the erg for 1 hour will cause your back to be in discomfort for 2 days then don’t do it.

It’s not worth it.

And don’t worry – it’ will not be a show of weakness. Nor will it harm your erging progress because there are other equally effective and safer methods of getting a good workout that is still specific to rowing.

#2 Adapt

With the 1 hour erg example you could do a shorter erg and supplement your workout with another exercise (like stationary bike). Or break your session up into 2 x 30 minutes, 3 x 20 minutes or 4 x 15 minutes. Get off for a short break between sets, stand up move around and do some mobility exercises before getting back on and resuming.

# 3 Other Training

If you workout to support  your erging program by lifting weights then there is a good chance that some exercises will become aggravating to your body as you get older. Avoid the particular exercise at all costs.

While it’s important to maintain a strength program (for lots of reasons) – especially as you get older, you should look to be innovative and adapt to your particular needs in avoiding the aggravating lifts.

Lots of athletes in other (more damaging and injurious) sports, at the latter stages of their careers adapt their strength workouts to suit their needs and avoid flaring up any injuries they may have.

Baseball players, American Football players Soccer and Rugby players all have specialist strength coaches who help them adapt and replace aggravating exercises.

Instead of racking a power clean they might do dead lifts and supplement the upper body with an upright row. Instead of squats they might do isolated leg and core exercises specially adapted to protect the injured area.

Try Something New

If erging continuously starts to cause you problems – maybe you are doing 3 -5 sessions (or more for some ergers I know) per week you should begin to think about replacing some of those sessions with other workouts. Like stationary bike, cross trainer, swimming, winching, treadmill, hill walking/running… the possibilities are endless.

There is a triple advantage to doing this.

1. You don’t keep aggravating the problem.
2. You find a new motivationally boosting exercise.
3. You get a new fitness stimulus which can improve your performance.

The third point is an important one.

One winter a few years back, I was erging 5 times and rowing 3 – 5 times a week. I was getting a little fried mentally and facing the erg day in day out was very challenging. Even dreaming up new innovative sessions wasn’t really cutting it for me. I needed to renew my erging. So I began to run a lot more.

Over an entire winter season I probably erged 2 times(maximum) in every 3 week cycle. In March I pulled a new PB.

I put it down to a few things

  • Mental Freshness
  • A new Physical stimulus that enhanced my core fitness
  • A new perspective on erging and technique.

But running might not be for you. It might be swimming or cycling or whatever exercise you discover that taxes you like the erg. Last year I was involved with a group of rowers who wanted a new stimulus and we spent 12 weeks mid winter hammering ski cross trainers. The benefits were predictable, profitable and brilliantly refreshing.

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