Last issue, we identified that rowers have a pelvis that tilts, a spine that bends, and muscles that act to stabilize and move joints. We can now look at the early part of the recovery; what muscles should be activated, and why flexibility and the core muscles important in allowing the correct body position to be attained and sustained?
What muscles should be activated in early recovery?
At the finish of the stroke you should have your legs firmly pressed against the foot stretcher. You should fee that your gluteal (bottom) and quadriceps (thigh) muscles are activated throughout the finish of the stroke.
From backstops, as your hands lead away, you should draw down on your lower abdominal muscles rather than pulling yourself over using your hips. The momentum of your moving hands, as well as the action of the lower abdominals and activation of the gluteals and quadriceps will allow you to tilt your pelvis forward (pivot from the hips)
If you have co-coordinated the recovery sequence correctly, you will feel your bodyweight on your seat in the front of the bones in your bottom (your ischial tuberosities). By drawing in your lower abdominals as you approach frontstops, you will maintain a strong trunk (catch) position.
How does flexibility affect technique in early recovery?
Rocking the pelvis over to a comfortable and strong position off back stops and achieving all body-swing by half slide is emphasized as part of British Rowing Technique.
Good flexibility is essential to do this; it allows you to tilt your pelvis forward, whilst keeping your back straight and in line with your pelvis. On the other hand, poor flexibility can prevent you from attaining this body position.
Poor flexibility will limit technique!
If you have poor flexibility in your hamstrings (often as a consequence of poor core stability, strength or endurance) your short muscles will restrict the forward tilt of your pelvis with your legs straight. Your pelvis and lumber spine will not therefore be aligned.
What to do in practice…
1. Test your flexibility
One way to test your flexibility is to sit on a good finish posture on a rowing machine and to see how far you can pivot forward from the hips, whilst tilting your pelvis forward and keeping your back straight and aligned. If you have poor flexibility, you may not be able to pivot your body forwards of vertical.
Another way to test your hamstring flexibility is to sit on a table or bench, with your lower legs hanging over the edge. Straighten one leg out. How high can you lift the leg without your pelvis rotating backwards?
2. Make stretching a habit
Warm up properly. Static stretches to develop flexibility should be held for around 30 seconds. Getting another rower to help you stretch can help to improve your flexibility.
3. Ensure good posture and core stability on a daily basis
Practice good posture in your everyday activities. Coach yourself or others to attain and sustain good posture when rowing. Think about how you can develop core stability and integrate it into your training.