Jonathan Drake is a newcomer to rowing having lead a life teaching Alexander and Tai Chi – and this gives him an unique perspective on rowing technique. What can we learn from “normal” body movement which can improve our rowing and sculling?
Try this exercise for identifying “Sway Back”
Standing, notice what happens when you let your abdominal muscles go floppy: the pelvis moves forward – pulling your body weight onto the front of your feet – and your leg muscles tighten. This “sway-back” posture – let’s call it the “male pee position” so we can identify the offence! – is how many of us stand, unwittingly, often with weight more shifted into one leg, twisting the back. You are pressing down in your hips and your lower back. Here’s how to begin altering this stance:
First, to feel what’s going on, place the back of one hand against what is often called the “small!” of the back, with your little finger resting on the tailbone, thumb higher up on the spine.
While gazing into the distance, invite this sense of “up” along the spine as I described earlier and pull in the belly button – by a fraction of an inch – towards the backbone. As the deep abdominal muscles engage or activate (avoid tightening the more superficial, higher, “six pack” muscles) – and your weight shifts back towards the heels – the pelvis and the lower back will be drawn backwards a little as well. This is quite a subtle experience: can you register your thumb lifting a little, your tailbone moving back towards your heels? The word “small” no longer applies to a lower back that is now more expanded, longer and wider and you may find you breathe more easily. You are now experiencing some “up” out of your hips.
Glance in that mirror and you may be able to see that you are standing more vertically – even though it might feel that you are leaning forward, somewhat – and that you are sticking your butt out!
What you will probably also observe is your behind behind and your back back! Notice the angle across the top of your pelvis with your improved stance: that it is not horizontal but tipped slightly forward. This will be more so in women.
The next exercise he describes is how to “Rock Over” this is Chapter 2 of the booklet.