If you’ve been reading our asensei blog posts, you’ll already be well aware of the versatility of the indoor rowing machine. Ideal as a full-body workout with dedicated training programs or as a tool for specific conditioning and strengthening aims, the erg has a great variety of use-cases and is suitable for folk beginning their athletic journey or already well into the apex. In this article we'll explore why injury recovery and rehab through rowing can be a great way to return to fitness.
Why indoor rowing is great for recovery and rehab after injury
What many don’t immediately realise is the erg is not just a machine for hardening glutes and increasing anaerobic thresholds. Many people leverage the indoor rowing machine for rehabilitation after an injury or to recuperate from surgery and get back on the road to full fitness. Health experts, such as physiotherapists and personal trainers, often recommend indoor rowing to manage a health condition or injury. It is a fitness-orientated machine but is flexible enough to allow any ability, age or condition to jump on and build back to their best.
The erg puts you in control of both the pace and resistance of your workout which makes it a fantastic way to ease yourself back into exercise without overdoing it and setting your recovery program back a notch or two. On indoor rowing machines such as the Concept 2 RowErg you can also adjust the resistance level of the machine itself, using the lever (or damper) on the right hand side of the flywheel. By pushing the damper down to level 1 you'll have an easier drive phase, placing less stress on the muscles. Some rowing machines don't allow resistance adjustment, but ultimately the intensity of any session comes down to the athlete and you can control the speed and power in the leg drive phase of the stroke in order to keep a suitable intensity for your rehabilitation journey.
Another important point is that rowing is typically considered to be a ‘low impact’ type of exercise – it does not affect joints in the same way running or cross-training and you do not need to load excessive weight in specific areas. Most of all though, it remains a great way to slowly build up your fitness levels whilst enabling a positive recovery journey for your body.
What are the best ways to use Indoor Rowing for rehabilitation?
There are several things to think about when considering the erg for rehabilitation. First of all, if you’re recovering from a serious injury, make sure you speak to a doctor or healthcare professional before jumping on an erg (rowing machine) – they will be able to advise you on appropriate pacing and load.
It is likely that your healthcare professional will advise that you stay within a range of motion that is pain-free and you may wish to experiment a little in order to establish that. Some people also prefer to use the erg to build up specific parts of their body – after all, the machine is renowned as one of the most complete fitness tools around. You have the freedom to use partial or no leg compression and simply focus on arms/body (and vice versa). For example in the asensei DRILLS AND SKILLS program you will find a number of short sessions that focus on specific parts of the body - arms only, legs only, arms & legs and many more.
One great way to test what feels good and what doesn’t is a simple warm-up piece that most rowers go through before starting a workout. Begin with arms only rowing and do this for 30 strokes. After you’ve completed the 30, move to arms and body for another 30. Keep building up at this cadence, moving through quarter, half and full slide then back down again. This is a great way to get a feel for what is working and what isn’t across a full range of muscle groups and will also give you a good sense of where the resistance should be.
It is also critical to practice proper rowing form on the erg when using it for recovery. If you are a rower this may be second nature, but for others it's good to gain an understanding before embarking on a rehab program involving rowing. At asensei, we have all the tools to help you maximise your workout without risking further injury. To review what good technique and form looks like, there are a range of options, including youtube videos, technique focussed blog articles and of course structured training programs. While many of asensei's structured programs include some technique coaching, the MEET YOUR COACH workout in the MASTER THE BASICS program with British Rowing Master Trainer Clare Holman is a good place to start, with a combination of a short duration session and a focus on the basics of rowing technique. If you are coming back to asensei after injury, you may wish to reset the goals that asensei sets for you, so that you are not being pushed too hard initially.
It's important to note that any type of exercise may be too strenuous for your body immediately after injury or trauma. However, the role sport can play in rehabilitating and recovering your muscles is often understated in public opinion but emphasised as critical by medical professionals. Rowing is low-impact, low-risk and can be programmed with variable intensity, which makes it a perfect fit for your road to recovery and peak performance.
And finally, as we always say, listen to your body. If you feel any pain during a rowing session please consult your healthcare professional, don't push through it, the aim is to help with injury rehab, not hinder!
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