Hi! I was looking at this past question from back in October. I know I do this too but, I watched the video and I don’t know if I do the shooting the slide thing but I do get pain in my lower back after longer rowing sessions. I don’t understand how to fix the problem unless I am in a single. My coaches mentioned placing the oars, then waiting to feel something to ‘grip’ on to then take the stroke. How am I meant to apply this in a boat?
To answer the first part regarding the pain in your low back: it’s possible that you shoot your slide a little bit but not enough that you’d be able to see it on video unless you slowed it down. When I’ve watched video before with my coaches I’ve seen things in slow motion that I never noticed at regular speed. It’s usually the really intricate stuff that most rowers don’t worry about until late high school and college, but if you look closely, you can see it. Other causes of low back pain that I can think of are:
Arching your back. In an effort to sit up straighter, some rowers will unknowingly puff their chests out and exaggerate the curvature in their backs
Not enough core strength. If your core muscles aren’t developed enough, it can make your low back sore from trying to maintain good posture. Planks and side planks are two of the best exercises a rower can do in order to develop their core strength. Try adding those into your stretching/workout routine if you don’t already do them and see if that helps. A really basic assessment for core strength is to do a plank and see how long you can hold it for. 30-60 seconds is average, longer than 60 seconds is considered strong, and less than 30 seconds means you’re a weakling.
Herniated disc. This is one of the most common injuries with rowers. This article from the New York Times explains everything you’ve ever wanted to know about them. Even if you think this is a slim possibility, you should still go to the doctor just to have it ruled out. Rowers careers have ended over these things and it’s unfortunate when they find out that if they’d gone to the doctor sooner, something could have been done to correct it.
There are many other causes of low back pain, including just plain poor technique, but these are some of the most common causes. Regardless of whether or not the pain is acute or constant, you should really get it checked out. Better safe than sorry. Also make sure you stretch before AND after practice.
Related: Hi there! I have the unfortunate issue of missing water/not getting my oar completely buried before my drive. My knees go down faster than the rest of my boat, and it’s hard on the timing especially when I’m stroking. Why is this happening? I know how it should feel like on my legs if I get the full drive (it’s more pressure, it’s like how strokes feel on an erg), but my hands don’t seem to get it. What are some things I can do? Thank you in advance.
Going back to what your coach said about “placing the oars”, this is something I’ve heard one of the Harvard coaches say and it’s one of the reasons why you don’t want to have a “death grip” on your oar otherwise you can’t feel what your coach is talking about. When you’re on the recovery you’re pushing the oars away from you (in the direction of your fingertips). At the catch when you place the blades in the water, you’ll feel the oars change direction because there will be a slight push-back into your palms. When you feel that push-back, that’s when you start your drive (which is why it’s important to make sure your slide is synced with your blades).