The Importance of Strength & Flexibility in the Sport of Rowing

We are currently in the off season for rowing. If you are an athlete, now is the perfect time to work on strength and flexibility to help you in the upcoming rowing season.

If you are a coach, it is time to start thinking about implementing these principles at your club or school.

It is important to be flexible and be able to maintain a strong body position during the stroke for two reasons:

  1. To reduce the risk of injuries
  2. To improve your performance

Mobility or flexibly refers to the range of movement in a joint or joints.  This is important for rowing, as it enables you to get your body into a good position throughout the stroke.

For example, athletes need to have the appropriate amount of movement in their hips, legs and ankles to achieve full compression at the catch, and sufficient hamstring length to rock over after the finish.  A lack of flexibility can result in rowing short, or breaking the knees too early during the recovery, impacting on performance.  Increased stress can also be placed on other parts of the body as you try to compensate for lack of flexibility in other areas.

As you may be aware, rowing athletes are prone to back and chest wall pain.  Generally, these injuries are caused by sudden increases in training load, equipment or technique, but flexibility can also be an important factor.

Chest wall pain can involve the front, side or back of the chest.  Pain can be due to a number of reasons, the most common of which are inflammation of the thoracic spine joints or rib stress fractures.

In sweep rowing it is important to have enough upper back mobility and flexibility through the hips, in combination with a strong core and shoulder blade control, to enable the transfer of force from your legs to the water. This can ensure a more efficient stroke, and help to reduce the risk of chest wall pain.

Maintaining flexibility of your hips and hamstrings can also reduce compensatory movements in the lower back, reducing stress in this area.

At Physiotas we have physiotherapists familiar with Rowing Australia guidelines to help manage low back pain and chest wall pain in rowers.

Your physiotherapist can identify any areas of tightness that may be contributing to your symptoms, or causing a reduction in performance.  Possible reasons can be tight hamstrings, gluteals and calves, or a reduction in hip range of movement and back mobility.  You will receive advice and a targeted treatment plan to address any factors highlighted during the examination.

If you, your children or your athletes are experiencing back pain or chest wall pain during or after rowing, it is important for them to see a physio to ensure they are safe to continue training.

About the Author:

Annabel Gibson is a Physiotherapist at Physiotas in Launceston.

Originally from Launceston, Annabel spent time completing her Physiotherapy degree in South Australia. Annabel has a special interest in sports injuries and has worked with many leading sports physiotherapists throughout South Australia. Having rowed at an elite level, Annabel now works with athletes in the lead up to their competitions.

Annabel is transitioning into the triathlon and running scene with the hope of completing Half Ironman events!