Hi! I’ve been rowing for four years and recently I’ve been getting some sort of tendonitis in my forearms: the forearm swells up a little and it feels very stiff and it is very painful to row with. This usually happens when I’m in a single or a double, but it has happened before in an eight and a quad. It has never happened to me so often, last year I got this twice throughout the season, but it went away the same day. I’ve talked to my coach and he said I might be gripping too much with my fingers, I’ve changed my grip since then and it was fine for a few weeks, however over the course of this week, it has come back and I’m not sure what I am doing wrong. I know it’s caused when I row long distances and when my forearms tense at the catch, but I don’t think that there is any other way to row (without tensing the forearms at the catch), when I relax my arms I end up pulling more with my fingers. As far as I’m aware, no one else in my crew has this although some say that they have had it before, but very rarely. I was just wondering if you had any tips for correcting my stroke if it is what is causing this? Thank you.
I definitely agree with your coach, I think you’ve got a bit of a death grip thing going on. If you made adjustments though and the pain came back then I’d probably recommend checking in with your doctor just to make sure there’s nothing else going on. At the very least they’ll likely be able to give you a stronger anti-inflammatory than your standard over-the-counter Ibuprofen that might help with the pain.
As far as tips for correcting your stroke, I really think loosening your grip is the biggest/best technical correction you can make right now. It’s a sequential thing too; if your upper body (i.e. upper back and shoulders) is relaxed, your arms will be relaxed, and that will lead to you having a more relaxed grip. If your upper body is tense, which it sounds like it probably is, then your forearms and grip are going to be tense as a result. When you’re at the catch, you want to maintain what I like to call a “common sense grip” – not too tight but tight enough that you have control of the handle – and make sure you’re unweighting the handle rather than lifting it in. If you’re lifting it in then that’s going to contribute to the tension you feel in your forearms. Tension’s not really the right word but if you’re going to feel “tension” anywhere it should be in your lat muscles as you lock on to the water.
From there it gets a bit harder for me to guess what you can do so definitely make sure you’re discussing this with your coach, having them watch you on the water, look for specific technical flaws, etc. and then go from there. Start with the grip thing though, for sure.