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Rowing Injury Prevention: Snapping Hip Syndrome

Snapping hip syndrome (SHS) is a common injury in rowing. The most noticeable characteristic of SHS is a palpable or audible “snapping” sensation around the hip joint that may be painful or not painful. There is Internal SHS, felt more toward the groin and associated with the iliopsoas tendon, and External SHS, felt on the outside of the hip around the head of the femur and associated with IT band tendon or gluteus maximus tendon. Both forms of snapping hip syndrome in rowing are common, uncomfortable, often painful, and are usually a chronic injury, not a traumatic injury (Cheatham, Cain, Ernst, 2015). Snapping hip syndrome in rowing is common due to the seated and bilateral nature of the sport, which can result in chronically tight hip flexors, increasing risk of SHS. Prevention of snapping hip syndrome in rowing revolves around care of the hip flexors and muscles involved at the pelvis, as well as strengthening the antagonist muscle groups to prevent chronic hip flexor tightness and move through a full range of motion (Hannafin, 2011).

Originally posted as a guest post on Rowperfect UK.

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erg fear rowing

Overcoming Erg Fear

With the last few head races of fall complete, this article is for the many rowers who turn with mixed feelings to the erg for winter training. RowingRelated wrote a great article here exploring some of the reasons that many rowers are afraid of the erg, the consequences of erg fear, and how coaches and rowers continue to facilitate erg fear in rowing. A crucial observation in the article is this:

“When compared to other endurance sports like cycling, running, swimming, etc., I have not encountered an equal level of disdain for such fundamental mental and physical endurance training. A track runner might complain if he or she had to be on the treadmill all winter long, but the idea would not strike fear into his or her heart…” [RowingRelated]

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All About Overtraining

Overtraining comes in two main forms, chronic and acute. Chronic overtraining is fairly rare and traumatic, but acute overtraining has broader symptoms and affects many athletes. Acute overtraining can be caused by training with too high frequency, intensity, and/or volume, or by failing to recover sufficiently from training via sleep, diet, and lifestyle. Overtraining is not to be feared, but recognizing overtraining symptoms is key to better managing your training, recovery, performance, and mental state.

The Internet pendulum swings rapidly on the subject of overtraining, and a brief survey on the topic will reveal attitudes both of constant fear of overtraining even in the lowest volume training situations and macho “there’s no such thing as overtraining” attitudes. The reality lies somewhere in the middle and the polarity of opinion is mostly the result of a lack of understanding of what overtraining actually is.

First, let’s clear up what overtraining is not. Overtraining is not overreaching. Overreaching is a strategic training period as part of a taper cycle when fatigue will be incurred past a recoverable level. Many athletes will experience this as a natural part of a training traincycle. This period is strategic, intentional, and should be carefully monitored by the coach and athlete. The athlete overreaches for a short period of time (2-3 weeks) during which time fatigue is very high and performance is diminished, then training is scaled back for another short period of time (1-2 weeks) to allow for recovery before a peak performance. This is the strategy of tapering to produce an immediate short-term spike in performance for a peak event.

Overtraining is different from overreaching in that it is not strategic, does not have a performance purpose, and is the result of a mistake or error on behalf of the coach or athlete.

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Rowing Faster After 50

Regardless of age, experience, and gender, strength training can improve performance and all-around fitness beyond a chosen sport or activity. Intelligently designed, consistent, progressive strength training is one of the most powerful tools to slow and in some cases, reverse, the physical changes that are a natural, biological process of aging. Strength gains are still fully possible via central nervous system (CNS) improvements even after testosterone levels decline [5]. The central nervous system regulates the force produced by muscles. Strength training takes what was once a bumpy gravel road connecting the CNS to the muscle fibers and turns it into smooth pavement, capable of transmitting greater power to the muscles. Aerobic systems lose little with age, so the combination of the improved CNS, healthy muscular system, plus a robust aerobic base can power boats well into one’s masters years. In fact, if you have relied solely on technique and aerobic training to this point in your career, the addition of intelligent and progressive strength training could unlock the door to new personal bests and faster times.

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Lifting for “Retired” Athletes

I frequently get the question from former teammates and athletes I’ve coached, “what do I do at the gym now that I’m not training for a sport?” I’ve written on the discussion of retirement from sport, known in sport psychology as “athlete transitioning,” and my goal for this article is to provide more of a practical how-to guide for lifting for athletes after competitive sport. Read on for how to adjust training, learn to design your own training program, and find new goals to chase down and new ways to enjoy physical activity and strength training after sport.

Note: There is no great word to describe the athlete who no longer competes in organized or performance-focused sports. “Retired” has a negative connotation of age or frailty. Many athletes who have been invested in their lifestyle as a competitive athlete for so long will take offense to the terms of “non-athlete,” “recreational athlete/exerciser,” or even “normal person.” “Post-transition athlete” sounds clinical and like beating around the bush. I’ll typically stick to “retired athlete” in my writing, but just know that this is more for lack of a better term.

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ankles rowing mobility

Ankle Mobility for Rowers

This is the final installment of mobility for rowers, where we’ll cover the importance of ankle mobility for rowers and how you can improve flexibility and strength in the calf and shin muscles for better compression, cleaner catches, and stronger drives. In Part 1, we discussed what “tightness” really is (and what it isn’t), why mobility is so much more than just flexibility alone, and how to address mobility restrictions in the thoracic spine. In Part 2, we broke down the big bad hip flexor muscles. In Part 3, we went to the posterior hip and dug deep into the glute muscles. The goal of mobility training is to improve flexibility, strength, and stability in major muscle areas to improve rowing performance and reduce risk of common rowing injuries. Knee, hip, and low back pain often happens as a result of something going on at the start of the kinetic chain. Ankle mobility for rowers is crucial to set the rest of the body up for great performance and to minimize excess force on other structures.

ankle mobility rowers

Restriction: Calf muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus), shin (tibialis anterior), bottom of the foot

Location: Calf area, shin area, feet

Test: Power Rack Test

Rowing fault: Poor compression, splayed legs at the catch, poor leg drive at the catch from being in an unstable position

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glutes rowing mobility

Glute Mobility for Rowers

In Part 1, we discussed what “tightness” really is (and what it isn’t), why mobility is so much more than just flexibility alone, and how to address mobility restrictions in the thoracic spine. In Part 2, we broke down the big bad hip flexor muscles. We’ll now discuss the hip flexor’s counterpart, the glute muscles of the posterior hip. The glutes are super important muscles for rowing. Not only are they responsible for a serious amount of power in the drive, but they are also major stabilizers of the hips and spine in all parts of the stroke and daily life. Much like the hip flexors, glutes can get fatigued, sore, and achey without any acute injury or condition, and are well worth the time in preventative massage, flexibility, mobility, and strength training for rowers to enjoy healthy bodies, good performance, and long careers.

glutes rowing
Restriction: Gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, piriformis

Location: Posterior hip, “the butt muscles”

Rowing fault: Poor compression at the catch, poor leg drive, shortened reach during recovery 

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mobility for rowers hip flexors

Hip Flexor Mobility for Rowers

In Part 1, we discussed what “tightness” really is (and what it isn’t), why mobility is so much more than just flexibility alone, and how to address mobility restrictions in the thoracic spine. In Part 2, we discuss the big bad hip flexor muscles. Hip flexors have become a popular one to smash on, and with good reason for rowers, but there’s good reason to understand this muscle group, what it does for you in performance, and the specifics of how you can care for it. Rowers use the hip flexors almost all the time in training, so even if there isn’t a specific injury or condition, this muscle group can really benefit from a little extra care to facilitate recovery and effective training.

hip flexors rowing
Restriction: Hip flexor

Location: Anterior upper thigh

Test: Test hip flexor tightness using The Thomas Test

Rowing fault: Poor compression at the catch, poor reach during recovery

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mobility for rowers thoracic spine

Thoracic Spine Mobility for Rowers

With its unique demands as a seated sport and a taxing repetitive motion, rowing requires an informed and specific mobility regimen to maximize performance and minimize risk of injury. In this four-part mobility for rowers series, you’ll learn how to effectively target common problem areas with a combination of self-manual therapy, dynamic stretching, and static stretching for improved performance and longevity in the sport. Ideally, you’ll implement these routines before you experience pain, restriction, or another problem. Each area only takes 10-15 minutes to work through, so these are great to incorporate into your training as a regular part of your recovery plan. Simply taking care of your body with a little extra attention goes a long way toward preventing minor aches and pains through a hard rowing season.

Part 1: The Thoracic Spine
Part 2: The Hip Flexors
Part 3: The Glutes
Part 4: The Ankles

For most athletes, practicing and competing in their sport is a daily break from the usual routine of sitting necessitated by the lifestyle of a student or desk-bound employee, but not so for rowers. While mobility work is important for all athletes, it is especially important for rowers to maximize performance and minimize risk of injury in both the short-term and long-term. Rowing is a difficult repetitive motion requiring great flexibility, stability, and strength. If you lack range-of-motion to even achieve basic positions of the stroke, how can you expect to generate and sustain race-pace force from those positions? 

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rowing peak power training cover picture words

Rowing Peak Power Training

Rowing peak power is the main training goal of the pre-season or pre-competitive block of training. This phase of training occurs between the off-season and race prep or the in-season phase of multiple races. We take the base of general strength, muscle mass, and aerobic fitness that the rower developed in the prior off-season training phases and turn it into boat-moving, flywheel-spinning peak power for fast starts, power moves, and sprints.

This article is Part 3 in my annual programming series. Read “The Basics of Strength Training for Rowing” for the general overview of the annual strength training plan, and then individual block-by-block articles for Part 1 Off-Season/General Prep, Part 2 Specific Prep, and Part 4 In-Season/Race Prep.

Table of Contents: 

rowing peak power training cover picture words

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