How to carry my rowing shell

Spine Sparing Boat Carrying

In this guest post Joe DeLeo, CSCS and Dr. Stuart McGill, PhD review some important environmental factors about rowing. Read their blog here: 

“Earlier this year, I attended the FISA World Masters Regatta in Sarasota, Florida. During that weekend, I had the opportunity to catch up with Dr. Stuart McGill, who was there supporting his wife who was competing in the regatta.

We discussed some of the habits and movements executed by rowers as they carry their rowing shells to and from the launch dock. Dr. McGill shared the following wisdom, “Some rowers are stealing capacity from their performance on the water by how they are walking, carrying, and picking up and putting down the boat.”

Athletes and coaches may look upon this act as trivial. When you are training twice a day 5-6 times a week, the little details add up quickly and have a major impact on your health and performance. So, how to carry your racing shell can become an issue. 

Let’s review some important environmental factors unique to rowing as well as the proper steps and execution to carry your rowing shell to and from the water that will spare your spine. During sleep the intervertebral discs become super hydrated with excess water. Subsequent to this swelling, rowers are at a higher risk for injury in the early morning. Our discs are more resilient under load if a natural curve (hollow) is maintained in the low back while carrying).

When getting off the water, some rowers are stuck in a spine flexion posture – this adds to the stress when carrying the boat. Taking a minute to address this is wise. Additional resources for spine hygiene can be found by subscribing to the LEO Training Newsletter.

How to carry my rowing shell

When we pick up and carry our racing shell and place it in the water there are some key movement principles we want to ensure we execute.


  1. Be sure to execute a proper warm up
  2. Whether taking the shell from rollers on the floor or from a shoulder/head high rack hip hinge and pull the hips through as you stand upright. Maintain the natural curve in your low back.
  3. Stay tall with the boat carry to the dock
  4. Roll the [from?] your shoulder/head to your waist and hip hinge back as you place the shell into the water beside the dock
Great way to carry your boat ….  Photo Credit: Mass rowing

Post Row

  1. After your row, exit the shell
  2. Stand and arch upwards, with arms overhead, to counter the repeated flexion movement from your training session
  3. Hip Hinge to the shell, grab the gunnels and bring your hips through as you stand up
  4. Stay tall and carry your shell back to the boat bay
  5. Finish with a tummy lie. Lay on your stomach, placing your hands underneath your forehead for a minute

By making this small change in your movement habits and moving from your hips vs. your spine you will give yourself the opportunity to have your best performance in the boat and not leave it on the dock! 

If you are interested in deep dive learning about Spine Hygiene for Rowers, Dr. McGill and his wife Kathryn Barr-McGill will be coaching at the 2019 Avizaqcua Rowing Camp with Olympic Champion Dr. Mads Rasmussen and myself from May 30-June 3rd, 2019 in Avis, Portugal. As a special gift for RowPerfect readers we are offering a promo code for 100 Euros off the Camp RSVP Ticket and Rest & Relaxation Tickets. Enter Promo Code “ROWPERFECT2019” at Checkout. 

→ Join us in Portugal at the 2019 Avizaqcua Rowing Camp


 About the Authors: Joe DeLeo is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Portuguese Rowing Federation. In addition, he works full time as a Strength & Conditioning Coach at Lawrence Memorial Hospital Performance & Wellness Center in Lawrence, Kansas. He coaches inside a sports performance and physical therapy clinic at Rock Chalk Park. He works with athletes returning directly from sports rehabilitation as well as athletes focused on performance in the sports of baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, swimming, track & field, and volleyball. You can learn more by visiting his website at

Dr. Stuart M. McGill is a professor emeritus, University of Waterloo, where he was a professor for 30 years. His laboratory and experimental research clinic investigated issues related to the causal mechanisms of back pain, how to rehabilitate back-pained people and enhance both injury resilience and performance. His advice is often sought by governments, corporations, legal experts, medical groups and elite athletes and teams from around the world.

His work produced over 240 peer-reviewed scientific journal papers, several textbooks, and many international awards. He mentored over 40 graduate students during this scientific journey.

During this time he taught thousands of clinicians and practitioners in professional development and continuing education courses around the world.

He continues as the Chief Scientific Officer for Backfitpro Inc. Difficult back cases are regularly referred to him for consultation. Any product associated with this website has been tested in Dr. McGill’s laboratory. You can learn more by visiting his website

This is a guest post. Rowperfect is not reposible for guest posts content.

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