Today follows part 3 of our series on exercise sessions for specific muscle groups! The topic today: rowing and flexibility: the gluteus maximus. Especially older people have it – not (anymore). Rowers or not – our sedentary lifestyles have left the gluteal muscle flabby and flat; the so-called office butt was born. But there is hope because the fuss about a round, crisp butt has never been as great as it is today.
Rowing and Flexibility: The Gluteus Maximus
The gluteal muscles act as a counterpart to the hip flexor, and their importance for rowing is at the top of the list because they support a powerful pull-through and keep the trunk stable in all phases, stroke for stroke. However, such a large workload causes it to tire more quickly, and seat complaints due to aching sit bones or even chafed skin caused by the recesses in the rowing seat are common, which is why hardly any rower in the masters classes takes to the water without a seat cushion. Preventive measures such as massages with the foam roller, stretching and mobility exercises as well as strength training are a good investment in health, performance and a long rowing career.
The gluteal muscles are formed by the large, the medium and the small part (gluteus maximus, medius, minimus). The piriformis – the pear-shaped hip muscle – must also be mentioned here.
Importance of the glutes:
The effects of a flabby and weak gluteus are obvious: low pressure on the deadlift during use, ineffective leg thrust, and shortened extension. This horror scenario underscores the importance of the glutes for us rowers. As the counterpart of the hip flexor muscles, they are constantly in a semi-extended position when sitting – as they are in the boat – and for a long time because we never extend our hips to their full range of motion when rowing. The pelvis tilts backward, the legs are spread during use, and the rower does not reach the extension – the gluteus remains inactive in its seated position. Similar to a shortened hip flexor, back pain can result as the muscles interact.
Rowing and flexibility: Here’s how to work the gluteus maximus:
You put one leg over the other and roll your buttocks over the foam roller. If you find a particularly painful area, work on it for a few minutes before intensifying the pressure on the trigger point with a tennis ball or similar. This will help you reach deeper areas, especially the piriformis. Then change sides.
There are many stretching exercises, Will shows you the so-called Pigeon Stretch, Figure-Four and the well-known variation where you lie on your back with one leg bent over the other and pull it towards your body. You can find detailed instructions on Youtube on Will Ruth’s channel under “Strength Coach Will” in the video “Mobility for Rowers: Glutes.” Rowing and Flexibility.
Strength training for the glutes:
Before each workout – strength, ergometer, boat – Will asks us to activate the glutes and warm up the hip muscles, or better yet, the whole body. He recommends his “Full Body Warmup”, which can be found as an article on his homepage “Rowing Stronger” or demonstrated on his video channel. The rowing-specific warmup ensures that the hip flexor is well stretched and the glutes are doing their job in their full range of motion. Appropriate exercises for a strong glute are: Good Mornings with the resistance band, Romanian Deadlifts, X-band walks, and both bilateral and unilateral hip extension exercises (thrusts/pelvic raises and all variations). As well as the squat, for many the queen of all exercises.
With that in mind, stay supple!