Mark Edgar – Physiotherapist on Developments in Core Stability

In rowing everyone is a different size and shape and the skill of coaching is to manipulate those people so they can all row together and make the boat go forward faster.
Differences in anatomy gives challenges – success doesn’t come without problems.  Milan 2003 W2- both athletes had major disc problems (Grainger and Bishop).  Flexibility and core stability tries to address these problems.

–    Disc prolapse – 10 years ago there were lots of them e.g. Tim Foster (got operated on) and made a full recovery and competed again – others didn’t come back.  A disc is a small thing.  Rowers load the back at the point inside the belt line where your trousers go – low lumbar spine.
–    Muscles that support the lumbar spine – transverse abdominus (pilates people like this a lot) Strength here can give the internal spine some resilience. In-boat posture is important as well as having core strength.  
–    Lower back pain and stiffness
–    Functional instability Carry your good form from the gym / ergo into the boat.  Use the right words and descriptions.  Harry Mahon had 8 different commands for the same action for the 8 different men in the Sydney crew.  He was not inhibited by words.  Each understood in a slightly different way.
–    Rib stress fractures – symptoms are it is sore to row, coughing is sore, rolling over in bed is sore.  Generally 3 weeks on cross training and introduce slowly back…. last introduction is bench pull and bench press.
–    Shoulder pain – look at athletes and don’t forget the thoracic area…shoulders going up or down and check what’s happening in the ribs this affects the shoulders.  
Core stability
–    Improved force output – we teach athletes to load
–    Increased neuro-muscular efficiency
–    Decreased incidence of overuse injuries – conjecture and hope!  Better core stability means you can load up better and if you can do that you should be able to go faster in the boat.
–    Provides a solid base around which all athletic movement occurs
–    Improves the aesthetics – really strong people often look like they are rowing well.  Use images of this to improve others
Cylinder of support – transverse abdominus, diaphragm, multifidus, pelvic floor.

Relevance to rowing
–    strength training
–    posture: rock over position (dependent on hamstring length)
–    leverage: longer levers = greater force
–    injury prevention

Step up from core stability – Ensure the loading you are developing isn’t compromised by the following session e.g. core one day and heavy weights the next.  Check the loading mechanism is engaging properly.

Experiment with athletes you work with  – assessment techniques for core is as important as doing it.  Progress from gym to rowing machine to water.  Check they can engage properly before moving to the next stage. Watch closely as baggy clothing conceals what’s going on muscularly
Don’t be afraid of speaking to other coaches I your club if you spot poor posture in their athletes.
Stretching – him flexors, ITB, glutes / piriformis, hamstrings, lower back – flexion/extension/rotation
Very important for young people.  They have to be flexible enough to get into the positions you ask for.  Hamstrings match the quads – as you train one, do the other too.


Big blades for juniors?  When they first came out the big blades were on long shafts and combined with a time when long ergos also were introduced and both contributed to injury.  Watch for failures in the kinetic chain and posture and then decide whether big blades or weights or ergos is causing the bad habit / poor posture. The key is the athlete can’t do the movement  

Do coxes need core stability?  Coxswains can reinforce the coaching and a good cox can feel changes in the boat sometimes quicker than the coach can spot it.  Front loaders sometimes give back and neck problems.  Make sure feet have something to butt up against – polystyrene.  Padding around the back of the neck.  Stop and stand up and stretch during the outing. Coxswains core stability is important.  Remember they try to diet at the same time and can get unhealthy.  Rowley Douglas was integral to the Sydney 8 and he did all the core training with the crew and was a very important part of that unit.

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