Yoga for Sports Series: Use Yoga to Improve your Rowing Ability
The sport of rowing may not be well televised for many of us around the world, but if you've ever taken a close look at the athletes that are involved in it, you'll quickly notice how well rounded they are, as far as physique and cardio is concerned.
Truth is, rowing is far from a stationary activity, it's a total full-body workout and has seen a growth in popularity, potentially due to the rise in trainings such as CrossFit. As Cleveland Clinic puts it, rowing has not just an aerobic aspect to it, but also a strength aspect because of the ability to increase tension of the flywheel on a rowing machine. Did you know, according to one research study, the rowing machine uses up to 86% of your muscles!
Now if you're someone who is rowing out on the water, you already know the enhanced difficulties of this sport/activity when under that sort of resistance. Rowing targets major muscle groups, such as the upper back, pecs, arms, abs, quadriceps, and glutes. The art of rowing, in general, requires a lot of focus, strength and maybe the most overlooked aspect, timing!
With this said, if you're someone who is getting into the sport in a more serious nature, whether competitive or leisurely, adding yoga training into your routine may benefit your rowing ability in a number of ways. Using certain yoga techniques and stretching may help rowers become stronger and more effective in this sport.
If you have not had a chance to read our post, "Yoga for Sports Series: Some of the Benefits That Yoga Has on Athletes and Their Training", then check out that post as well, which gives a more broad look at yoga for athletes.
Yoga is a great overall body and mind practice to take on, however if you focus on certain postures and poses, it can help advance specific weaknesses you may have, and make the strengths that much better.
How Does Yoga Help you With Rowing?
One problem that rowers may encounter is the development of muscular imbalances. Just like any other athlete or weightlifter, imbalances can occur from poorly chosen exercises, poorly executed exercises, or merely focusing on one muscle group and neglecting another adjacent or smaller group of muscle(s). In fact, rowing
injuries can be generated by equipment problems, training errors and overuse of specific muscle groups.
RowingStronger.com, actually discusses a common problem being that "rowers who only row" can develop these imbalances. The importance here is remembering balance in your training, making sure to develop both "pulling" muscles and "pushing" muscles. They even go onto discuss common imbalances that can effect you, both short and long-term, such as; quadriceps dominance, hip-flexor tightness, and internally rotated shoulders.
This is where yoga comes into play. Yoga, if done correctly and routinely, can help you develop and focus on more underutilized muscles or muscle groups. Thus, making you more likely to improve performance and avoid injury in both the short and long-term.
What Yoga Poses are Great for Rowers?
A few of the great aspects about yoga for any athlete and their training is that it can be modified for your needs, it's low impact on the bodies muscles and joints, helps focus on posture, and it can be practiced in many locations. Examples include areas of your home, in a dorm room, a gym, or a studio, with very little equipment needed. Most poses only require your focus, and mind-body connection to deliver results. Adding in props, like bands, blocks, or weights, may be beneficial to some, but most often not necessary.
When you think about yoga, specifically for rowers, of course tailoring a routine for those core muscles involved in the movements needed is important, but oftentimes because of the need to stabilize and hold poses, focusing heavily on posture, other smaller muscles are engaged and activated as well.
Having good strength in an area, coupled with elongating that muscle, and increasing strength and flexibility can really make you stand above the rest, decreasing your risk of injury, which is where yoga (and other forms of stretching) can truly make its mark.
Let's also not forget, some forms of yoga, help to improve cardiorespiratory fitness (like vinyasa yoga), and muscular endurance, important for athletes training. Even an article published on John Hopkins Medicine titled "The Yoga-Heart Connection" states, " a large number of studies, show that yoga benefits many aspects of cardiovascular health".
Below we'll discuss some of the common maneuvers, poses, postures that can be beneficial for many athletes, but specifically we have rowers in mind.
1. Sun Salutation A:
This is a sequence that can help in stretching many different muscle groups throughout the movement, including; your hamstrings, lower back, the core, and other major muscle groups in a time effective manner.
Remember the imbalances we talked about earlier. Rowing can create tightness, and stiffness in certain areas of the body, like hips, upper back, lower back. We want to focus on not only strengthening, but elongated these muscles via stretching and other yoga poses.
It's frankly easier to watch then explain, so we've including a short video below.
2. Bridge Pose (Setubandha Sarvangasana)
This pose is great for rowers as it focuses on the upper back, neck and shoulders as it helps to release some of tension often felt from individuals in this sport. Again, one of the focuses here it with your breathing, as with any yoga pose this is instrumental in getting the full effects of the exercises.
A beginner friendly pose, Bridge Pose is done supine, and is a back-bend type yoga posture, focusing on strength and balance as well.
Steps: (see video below)
1. Begin on your back, arms straight on the ground next to your body, and palms facing down.
2. Bend your knees and bring the back of your heels toward your buttocks.
3. Once in this position, begin to lift your buttocks, hips and back off the mat.
4. Release tension in your hands and press your upper back into the mat, continue to lift you pelvis toward the sky.
5. Hold for 30 seconds or a few breath cycles.
3. Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
This is a great pose for any sport and any individual for that matter. A beginner friendly pose, however looks can sometimes be deceiving, as this will test your mental and physical focus.
Plank Pose brings focus to the arms, shoulders, lower back, and abs. It's a pose where you can build-up strength & endurance over time, all you need is a yoga mat!
1. Begin Prone, on your belly.
2. Place your hands slightly more then shoulder width apart, like you're about to do a push-up. Spread your fingers so to help you distribute weight, once-up.
3. Start to press your palms into the mat, lifting your body off the floor.
4. Tuck your toes under. Your feet can be slightly less then shoulder width apart.
5. Keep a straight line with your body, attempting not to arch your back upward or downward, using your core muscles to stabilize.
6. Hold to failure.
4. Cross legged Twist (PARIVRTTA SUKHASANA)
This is another beginner type pose, easy to get into, and a great pose for stretching the lower back.
1. Sit in a cross legged position. Sit-up straight.
2. Simply place your right hand on your left knee.
3. Begin to twist your body to the left, looking over your left shoulder. Use your right hand to help rotate to get a better stretch.
4. Find a focus point, concentrate on your breathing.
5. Hold for 30-seconds to 1 minute, and then alternate sides.
5. Half Pigeon Pose (Ardha Kapotasana)
So we've touched on the core, upper, and lower back as well as poses to release shoulder tension. Half Pigeon pose is another pose that can be done to help rowers release tension, however this focuses on stretching the hip joints and hip-flexors.
We've included a video to help you along with this pose.
In the modern era, yoga has become a very modifiable and accessible training program from athletes all over the world. Yoga can be used for making improvements in many parts of your life, and if using it to gain strength and flexibility, go for it. You can easily do these
poses at home and you’ll still benefit from them.
Performing these simple yoga maneuvers and poses for rowing not only focuses on large muscle groups, but also stabilizer and often forgotten muscles as well. Use these techniques to then move onto more difficult poses and sequences to potentially gain an even more competitive edge over your rowing competition.
Thanks again for stopping by, be sure to share some of your favorite yoga poses that your may use for rowing, or other sports related activities.