If you're new to rowing, you might have wondered about its impact on your back.
Is it safe?
With the rowing movement involving a lot of trunk and back engagement, it's natural to have concerns. In this article, we'll explore the factors involved, discuss how to keep your back safe, and whether rowing is a cause for concern.
While it may appear that the spine bears the majority of the load during rowing, there's actually a significant distribution of force across the arms, shoulders, and the entire junction. The horizontal force applied during the rowing stroke shares the load across different muscle groups. The legs initiate the force production, which travels up the legs, through the hips, back, shoulders, and arms. The trunk acts as the transmission unit, translating the force from the legs to the handle. It's important to maintain a relatively neutral position of the spine to avoid excessive stress on the discs.
Unlike other activities that put vertical stress on the spine, rowing allows for a more horizontal force distribution. By sitting on the seat, a portion of your weight is supported, reducing the overall vertical force. This deloading effect minimizes the stress on the discs and spine. Rowing can be seen as a gentler form of exercise in terms of spinal load compared to activities that involve standing positions.
While it's difficult to guarantee absolute safety for everyone, individuals with previous back issues can often row comfortably by prioritizing technique and proper form.
Optimal Damper Setting
Avoid setting the damper at its maximum level. Experiment with lower settings, typically between three to five, to find the right resistance that allows you to work effectively without straining your back.
Develop Postural Endurance
Practice maintaining good posture during the rowing stroke. Gradually build your postural endurance over time, starting with short durations and increasing as your muscles adapt. Focus on maintaining a neutral spinal position without rounding or excessive arching.
Incorporate Pause Drills
Integrate pause drills into your training routine. Pause at specific points during the stroke to assess your body position and make necessary adjustments. This drill encourages you to slow down, focus on technique, and maintain good posture throughout.
Build Strength for Upright Position
Strengthen the muscles responsible for supporting an upright position. Incorporate exercises that involve carrying heavy loads in a standing position, such as sandbag front rack carries or bear hugs. By resisting the weight, your back muscles will gradually strengthen, leading to better spinal support.
Engage Your Arms Properly
Focus on using your arms correctly during the rowing stroke. Ensure your shoulders are dropped and engaged, activating the lat muscles. This engagement helps distribute the load and takes stress off the spine, resulting in stronger shoulders and reduced strain on the back.
Rowing can be a safe and effective exercise for most individuals, including those with previous back issues, when proper technique and form are prioritized. By understanding the mechanics of rowing and implementing the tips mentioned above, you can minimize the risk of back injuries and maintain a healthy spine.