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I grip rowing oars too tight – how to cure it?

Lately I have been having problems with my left forearm and hand. When I have been rowing the … read more

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Lately I have been having problems with my left forearm and hand. When I have been rowing the muscle in my left forearm spasms and twists which then pinches the nerves in my arm and shuts off the blood flow.

My coach thinks it may be happening because I take the catch slightly with my arms and because I hold the oar to tight with my left hand. I was wondering if you had any ideas about why this would be happening or anything I could do to try and fix this.

Cures for tight rowing grip

Photo of scull grip in recovery Photo of scull grip in recovery

Thanks for this – great question and a real knotty one!

You don’t say if you sweep or scull but I’m going to assume you scull.

With regard to holding on too tight – try ‘playing the piano’ on the recovery.  wiggle your fingers as you come up the slide and this helps to release tension in the grip.

Your coach may be right about this – and so if you can un-learn your grip habit, you may have an easy cure.

The second thing to try is to take the catch with your LEGS or FEET not your hands.

Try doing the Straight Arm Rowing exercise.  

Have someone else hold the boat steady for you (or practice on the ergo) and don’t use your arms at all – leave them out straight just holding the oar handle.  So all the work is being done by your back and legs.  See if you can keep your grip appropriately loose.  Do you still get spasms?

Lastly, try an alternative grip.  Here’s a Rowing Grip article written by a reader 

I haven’t tried this myself but it may be worthwhile for your particular situation.

I can put you and your coach in touch with the author if you’re keen to discuss it further.

About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

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