It’s no surprise to any rower that rowing places extreme demands on its participants. The movement itself, the intensity, the technique required, and the traditional approach to training makes injuries a common occurrence. Studies have found that 32-51% of rowers will experience an injury each year. When it comes to back pain, 82% of rowers report pain annually (1).
So, is that just the nature of the sport? Is there no way to get around these numbers? What most people don’t realize is that we are completely capable of flipping the switch on these numbers. Fortunately, there are only 3 ways to get injured from rowing (excluding a freak accident or a serious crab).
Hydration is one of the easiest, and cheapest ways to improve performance. This is an area that most rowers, and people in general, can improve upon. Rowers tend to be very surprised when I tell them the amount of water that they should consume each day. They are surprised and shocked at how far off they have been from reaching their goal. I challenge my rowers to try to meet their hydration goals and see if they notice a difference in how they think, feel, move, and perform. I can almost guarantee every rower who tries this will notice a positive change.
Foam rolling has been under some scrutiny lately due to the fact that what we once thought it did is no longer popular belief. Its been called the poor man's massage, and with this name came the assumption that it was on par with soft tissue work from a massage professional. Although it has been mentioned that foam rolling will never be as valuable as actual hands-on attention, the differences have never really been clearly explained. Due to this fact, some people are now questioning the value of foam rolling altogether. However, just because it doesn’t do what we once thought it did doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.
Below is a post from Kevin Carr at Movement-as-medicine
Without a doubt the push-up is the most widely performed and well known exercise in the world. Everywhere from jailyards to gym classes people are banging out push-ups and in all likelihood it was the first exercise you ever did. Even before you were training with the intent of getting big and strong you were doing them and you didn’t even know it.
Unfortunately, when looking around the internet or the average gym many push-ups I see leave much to be desired. The versatility and efficiency of the push-up makes it an unparalleled choice when it comes to developing upper body and core strength so don’t miss out on the benefits or risk injury by performing them with bad technique. Follow the progressions below and get your push-ups up to par.
There is no exercise that replicates the catch position of the stroke more so than the deadlift. There also isn't a lift that is more beneficial for rowers. Take a look at the two photos below.
As you can see the main difference is one pull is coming from straight ahead and the other is coming from the ground. The only exercise that seems to replicate the stroke more closely is the erg.
If you want to design a safe and effective training program use the 2 essential rules listed below as guidance. Do your best to make them your priority and keep them in order. Remember, an injured athlete can't improve, or perform.
Through all my research I have not found an article that has done a better job than "Training the Energy Systems" by the late Dr. Fritz Hagerman. Dr. Hagerman was the exercise physiologist for the U.S. National team for about 30 years. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for his contributions to the sport of rowing. I've attached the document below since it has been rather difficult to find online. If you would like a copy sent to you in an email feel free to contact me.
I profiled a few key points that stood out to me, and that help to define my program, but please take the time to read the article for yourself. There is a treasure trove of information in these 8 pages. It took me about a year of research to learn all of this on my own. You will be saving yourself a lot of time by diving into this piece of work.
In the sport of rowing injury rates are staggering. I've read figures that range from 30%-70%. This means that at least one in every three rowers will find themselves without a seat. Yet the biggest issue is that these rates are accepted as normal in our sport. Every season athletes fall to injuries and the cycle repeats itself year after year. The simple truth that is commonly overlooked is that keeping our athletes healthy is the easiest way to improve performance. If our athletes are healthy then they have more time to train and thus more time to respond to training adaptations. More importantly, we then allow our athletes to live their lives without dealing with the consequences of a serious injury.
The truth is that there are only 3 ways to get injured from rowing (excluding any freak accidents or a serious crab).
It's unclear what the cause was for my injury. What was clear was the fact that my five year rowing career had just come to an end. I found myself lost and confused. My coaches and teammates made me feel like I was weak and exaggerating the injury to remove myself from the competitive rigors of Division 1 rowing. After five months and five different doctors it was clear that I wasn't exaggerating anything. I had spondylolisthesis at L5 and two herniated discs. Surprisingly, I was told that this injury was common in rowers and that it was completely possible to continue my rowing career. In actuality this may have been true but I feared continuing would only make it worse. I eventually decided against continuing with the hope of being able to play with my kids in the distant future.
I didn't know it at the time but my injury happened for a reason. I've spent the last 4 years of my life trying to figure out how to reduce the chance for injuries in the sport of rowing. I don't claim to be the best coach by any means but I do believe I'm making a difference in these kids lives. What I hope to do by sharing my experience is to create some thought that may help more kids than I can personally reach.