Pilates series 2# on rowing machine posture

Pilates exercises can help improve your posture when you’re training on the rowing machine. Wendy Davies explains how


(c) Iain Weir

So, what is the correct posture on the ergo?

You need to aim for a smooth, stable movement which effectively transfers the forces through the arms and legs, while maintaining perfect balance on the seat.


At the catch, sit up tall on the sitting bones – the two bony protrusions in your bottom – and maintain a neutral spine.

Your shoulder blades should be gently sliding down towards your waist to minimise activation of the upper trapezius muscles of your neck. This is particularly important in sweep rowing as over-engagement and dropping forward the shoulder of the inside arm can make injuries more likely.

At the finish, you should maintain a neutral spine and avoid the ‘fatigue slump’, or C-shaped curve of the spine. This will minimise lumbar (lower) spine problems. Hamstring flexibility combined with strength and endurance of the abdominals will help to achieve this position.


Exercise 1: A graphic explaining the Spine curl position. There is a photograph of a lady laying on a mat with her two feet on the ground, knees bent and her hips lifted. Her arms lay flat on the floor. This exercise improves control of the different segments of the abdomen. Step one: Lie on the floor with your knees bent and heels about six inches from your buttocks and your arms on the floor. Step two: Engage your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles. Step three: Slowly roll your tailbone under and lift one vertebra at a time off the floor, using your gluteal muscles to achieve the position above. Step four: Pause, and then slowly roll back down one vertebra at a time. Perform three sets of 10. As your form improves, you can progress to extending one leg from the knee at the top of the movement.

Hamstring flexibility combined with strength and endurance of the abdominals will help to achieve this position

Why do it?

At the catch in the boat or on the ergo, the knees may drop out to the side. This means that the muscles on the outside of your thigh will become tight which may overload the hip and lower back. Doing the spine curl with a small pillow or folded towel between the knees will minimise this and help you engage the deep postural muscles.


Do not over-arch the lower back – keep the spine neutral. Don’t over-extend and use the spinal muscles or let the knees brace out to the side.

Exercise 2: A graphic explaining the dead bug position. There is a photograph of a man laying on a mat. His arms are raised pointing towards the sky and his legs are elevated and knees bent at a right angle. Step one: Lie on your back and bring one leg at a time up to a 90° angle. Step 2: Maintain a neutral spine (not braced), engage the deep abdominals and keep the shoulder blades into the floor as you bring the arms up into the air, palms facing. Step three: Slowly take one arm out to the side and back while maintaining a neutral spine. This will challenge the opposite obliques and stabiliser muscles. Step four: Repeat with the opposite arm. Perform three sets of 20 arm extensions (10 on each arm).

Wendy Davies

Wendy Davies has over 20 years working with rowers and elite sportspeople, including at five Olympic Games, three Commonwealth Games and many training camps and World Championships.

Why do it?

The dead bug will help you to move your upper body while maintaining a stable pelvis in the boat and on the ergo.


Don’t allow your abdominal muscles to move outwards.

Exercise reminder!

Exercises should be done at 30 to 40% of maximum muscle contraction.

Consider doing the sessions after land training so you are engaging the muscles under fatigue, which is appropriate to the endurance nature of the sport.

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