Why Do You Get A Sore Neck From Rowing?
Do you experience neck pain during or after row sessions? One of the common questions we get at DH HQ is what can you do about it? Obviously we never want anyone to ever experience rowing with pain, having to spend money on treatment or losing the love of this fantastic sport. So here’s our step by step guide to addressing neck pain, its root causes and some simple drills you can implement with a little perseverance to get you back to sliding through the water pain free in no time!
Why Do I Get Neck Pain?
Since 2015 our slogan for rowing has been “Push Don’t Pull.” The reason for this? Quite simple really – you want to be using the musculature of the legs to be the driving force on the stroke and those to be the way in which we generate all of our power. The first common mistake we see as a cause for neck pain, is rather than the initial drive from the legs, a throwing back of the head in an attempt to initiate power from a pull of the upper body and then god only knows what other movements tend to follow.
Fancy giving yourself whiplash on a rower? well in doing this movement that’s pretty much the effect you’re creating.
Our second favorite sayings is “Smooth is Slow and Slow is Fast.” If something’s going to go wrong in your stroke, it’ll go wrong when you breathe. And that’s definitely true when it comes to the cause of neck pain!
When you go to breathe, you should keep your head looking at the monitor. But the tendency is to lift your face further and further towards the sky (natural reaction of the respiratory system as this enables extra room in the rib cage for the lungs to expand): however for a rower raising or twisting the head places a large strain on the neck which over time, and due to the repetitive nature of the sport/movement, leads to soreness in the neck and the trapezius muscles.
If this sounds familiar to you then what can you do to stop your head looking towards the sky as you breathe?
Grab a Towel & Adjust The PM Height!
As you set yourself up in the catch position, remember the optimum position for the monitor should be at eye level. The idea with this is it creates a focal point for your eyes as you row and encourages you to maintain focus throughout the session. Now grab your towel (hand towel works best for this), roll it up like a pillow and place it under your chin. You are now going to maintain your normal rowing stroke with the towel rolled up under your chin and head focussed on the monitor. Should the towel slip or fall out then you know you moved your head. Simply stop, reset and retrain your brain to ensure you are keeping that head level and nothing is moving. This isn’t going to happen overnight if you habitually move your head, so take your time and implement this drill for 10-15mins before your main rowing session as a way of training your brain to get your body into the right position.
What About Breathing?
When you breathe you simply open and close your mouth to take the breath rather than raining your head and your body and head to position – sounds simple right!?
Grasping this concept can be a real challenge for many rowers especially if they experience anxiety when learning new techniques or simply just putting it all together. Here’s a great exercise to help:
Set up a camera at the side of you, at head height and set it to record. Row normally (or what feels normally for 10-20 strokes at a good pace (24-28spm). Now playback the video in slow motion and be super critical of your head movements from the catch all the way through the drive, at the release and then on the recovery back to the catch.
What you should see in the video, is your head remains in a constant position (eyes looking forward and head low) and dramatically reduces the twist and strain on their neck. Practice this a few times and once you get the hang of it, simply imagine you’re on video and have to review it whenever you need a reminder. Remember where the head goes the body leads so if you are moving your head then chances are there’s also little things happening downstream with the rest of your stroke.
Don’t forget we implement all of our drills as part of our training plans to ensure not only are you working towards your goals but you’re also mastering the movements involved with rowing along the way.
Yours in fitness, education and less of a pain in the neck.