Monday, January 9, 2017

Keeping Your Back Healthy and Injury-Free During Erg Season

Rowers on both coasts are off the water and onto the ergs ahead of 2K season, CRASH-Bs, and the important erg tests that start recruiting processes or slotting rowers into 1V, 2V and 3V. Staying healthy and keeping your body feeling good is critical to getting in the training you need to succeed.

Back Pain in Rowing

I'm not a doctor or a PT, but I can share some of my experiences and my teammates' experiences. Here is why your back may be hurting. The gist is that your back can get tweaked either because you don't have good body position from the get go, or because you lose your good body position as you get tired - from a long session or from taking hard strokes. As you get tired, you stop sitting up well and using your core as much (because you're tired), and start having more flexion through your back. Back fatigue or back pain that you only feel at the end of a training session can be different than back pain that you have all the time on the erg - if it's hurting from the first few strokes, it's a good idea to go see a PT or doctor.

Strong and weak body position at finish. Image via +WorldRowingFISA.

Your coach may have a series of warm up or cool down exercises or stretches that you do as a team. Current thought for rowers and all athletes says that it's important to warm up and strengthen your muscles through their functional range of motion (the movement range you'll be using during rowing). If you're looking to add in bodyweight exercises that activate, warm up and strengthen some of the really important muscles for keeping your core strong and engaged, I've put together some good ones below. Each is linked to a video showing good form.

Warm-Up (2 Sets of 10 each)

Do 10 of each exercise, going through all exercises twice (2 sets of 10 each)
Good Mornings (put your knuckles on your temples if behind your head is uncomfortable)
Back Extensions
Lunge Series (Front and Back, Lateral, Spiderman - do 10 each leg for each direction)
Deep Bodyweight Squat

Post-Practice Stretching (2 sets of 45 seconds each)

Do 45 seconds on/15 seconds off for each stretch, going through all stretches twice (2 sets of 45" each)
*Can also use these between erg pieces to help relieve tension in back. Good Mornings, above, also provide a good stretch.
Half Pigeon
Figure 4
1 Leg Across

Bonus: Strengthening Your Functional Range of Motion

These exercises will help you build and strengthen your core. These can be done with bodyweight or using a 10 to 25-pound plate or dumbbell. Do 2 sets of 10 of each exercise.
Back Extensions (if using weight, hold against chest with arms crossed)
Bulgarian Split Squat (hold weight in front of chest, just below chin, and keep chin and chest up)
Deep Bodyweight Squat (hold weight in front of chest, just below chin, and keep chin and chest up)
Reverse Hyperextension (if using weight, works best with a medicine ball held between feet. You can use a bench pull or weight bench to create a platform; the range of motion is similar to a back extension.)

If you have other bodyweight warmup, stretching or strengthening exercises that have made a difference for your back, share them in the comments below!

Stay healthy and happy erging!

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