In rowing, smaller stabilising muscles responsible for balance and posture, are just as important as the big muscle groups such as your quadriceps and hamstrings.
A strong core is an essential aspect of rowing successfully. It helps to provide stability through the stroke, encouraging better posture and improving power transfer through the body. Also, a strong core protects the lumbar spine, decreasing the chance of lower back injury.
What is Core Strength?
Core workouts do not mean lots of sit-ups! Sit-ups should be avoided as they bend and load the lumbar spine, which can lead to lower back pain.
A good core programme should target all the major trunk muscle groups, these are:
1. Anterior trunk: (stomach muscles)
- Rectus abdominis
- Transverse abdominis
- Abdominal obliques
2. Posterior trunk: (lower back muscles)
- Spinal erectors
- Quadratus lumborum
- Gluteus maximus, medius and minimus
These muscles work together effectively to ensure stability in the body when taking the catch, a powerful hip swing during the drive, and a strong, stable position at the finish and during the recovery.
Core exercises that involve movement are important as this stimulates the muscles to work together which simulates aspects of the rowing stroke.
Like any other muscle group, once basic strength has been developed it is important to progress the exercise in order to provide progressive load to the trunk area to encourage it to continually get stronger. You should look to progress from the basic to the advanced exercise in each example.
Start with 30 seconds on each basic exercise, aiming to build to a minute. Then progress to the advanced exercises starting at 30 seconds again. Try to complete three rounds of the exercises.
Remember also that maintaining the correct posture is essential so the correct muscle groups are activated and compensatory movements are avoided.
1. Plank - torso stability
Basic - static plank
Advanced - swiss ball plank or shoulder touches
2. Side plank - torso stability
Basic - static side plank (left and right)
Advanced - Hip ups (left and right)
3. Glute Bridges - activate the core and hip flexors
Basic - double leg glute bridges
Advanced - single leg alternating glute bridges
4. Crunches - upper abdominals
Basic - crunches, ensure only your shoulder blades are lifted off the floor
Advanced - bicycle crunches
5. Dead-bug - lower abdominals
Basic - dead bug - alternating legs and arms
Advanced - plank leg and arm lifts (alternating)
6. Twists - Obliques
Basic - Russian twists
Advanced - Oblique twists - slow and controlled