Rowing strengthen the upper back and impacts posture. Benefit can turn to risk quickly because exercise is stress and should be applied with knowledge. Doing too much of an exercise or performing it improperly places stress on the joints. Everyone’s body is different and should be analyzed individually, but here are some tips to help guide you into proper form when doing rows as a part of your strength training routine.
Rather than focus on the mistakes of rows themselves, here are guidelines to point you in the right direction. It’s always better to cue yourself into what you want to do, as opposed to thinking about what you shouldn’t do. The body goes where the mind leads!
Think about this when you use a seated row machine or use cables/bands
- Keep the elbows in line with the torso when rowing. Going any further induces a huge stretch on the anterior (front) shoulder and isn’t working the major muscles any more. The only muscles likely working past your torso are triceps and deltoids. They are being worked just fine without the extra motion and there are better ways to strengthen those muscles anyhow, with less stress on the shoulder.
- Make sure you’re sitting/standing tall when rowing. Imagine a string pulling the top of your head to the ceiling. If you’re rowing in a hunched position, you’ll be strengthening your body that way. Be careful not to over arch your torso. Neutral spine is different for each person and the ideal position to hold your body most of the day. While you’re at it, relax the shoulders (traps).
- Go the same speed throughout the motion. Think “inch by inch”. Each position of the rowing motion has a different amount of force being induced on they body. It’s natural to gain momentum to overcome the harder positions. Stay slow and controlled. Turn of your music and stop talking to your trainer if it’s interfering with this.
- Build awareness in the upper back muscles. Just because you strengthened the rhomboids, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have good posture. Learn where the muscles attach and how to contract them when you’re sitting in a chair so you can benefit from all the work you did when rowing.
- When you row, keep a gentle grip with your hands. It’s natural to grab on for dear life when lifting heavy weight, but our hands are chronically over-worked as it is. Pay attention to the amount of pressure being put through the hands. You want the upper back muscles to do the work, not your fingers.
This concept is important for all exercises. Your spine is in neutral when the amount of stress is minimal. You’ll know you have a neutral spine when you tune into your body and feel minimal tension. It might not be realistic to have no tension, but you can certainly find a position where it’s reduced. Gravity plays a major role in spine stress. So does pelvic position.
Review your anatomy: Muscles of rowing
Study these muscles using an anatomy book or the internet and see what they look like and where they attach. Knowing the muscles you’re trying to strengthen when performing an exercise will make the exercise more beneficial. Quality is better than quantity.
Tricep Long Head
Common compensators that may cause neck strain: