Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

General discussion on Training. How to get better on your erg, how to use your erg to get better at another sport, or anything else about improving your abilities.
RowRinseRepeat
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Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by RowRinseRepeat » September 12th, 2018, 11:18 pm

After years away from rowing my wife and I are about 7 rowing sessions in so far with our Model D PM5 and doing great. We've tried to ramp up gradually to avoid injury but probably both got carried away a bit. We're both feeling what feels like a mild rotator cuff issue, each of us on one arm, at the front of the shoulder about an inch down from the top of the shoulder. I know that training the biceps, which rowing certainly does, can put pressure on the rotator cuff.

Is this feeling rotator cuff sensitivity?

What can we do to prevent it in terms of form and training? Is this an indication that we've been ramping up too fast, pulling harder too soon?

For training prevention, I know rotator cuff exercises that could be helpful.

Dangerscouse
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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by Dangerscouse » September 13th, 2018, 4:19 am

I'm guessing a bit but maybe you're yanking the chain a bit rather than pushing with your legs to start with? Is it your dominant arm that is hurting?

There shouldn't be too much strain on the biceps, but doing strength exercises should help.
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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by mdpfirrman » September 14th, 2018, 8:53 am

Dangerscouse wrote:
September 13th, 2018, 4:19 am
I'm guessing a bit but maybe you're yanking the chain a bit rather than pushing with your legs to start with? Is it your dominant arm that is hurting?

There shouldn't be too much strain on the biceps, but doing strength exercises should help.
This is what I would guess too. Also, as others have pointed out in some of the other threads, when you start your drive, your arms should be fully extended, not bent at the elbow. But you have to ensure you're starting the drive with your legs, not your arms. Arms come last. I've ripped my rotator cuff twice but haven't ever had pain from rowing in my shoulder. Elbow, yes. Lower back, yes (probably form there too) and upper back from soreness.
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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by jamesg » September 14th, 2018, 10:27 am

What can we do to prevent it in terms of form and training?
This depends largely on what you are doing now, in terms of style, rating, power and machine settings.
In general, we do not load heavily the shoulders; the legs do most of the work.

I'd suggest you stay low in terms of power and ratings, say 1 to 2 Watt/kg at 20-23.
Try some back stop drills and use the recovery and pull sequences as shown in the C2 technique video. Keep your elbows low.

Drag should be low, so that the pull action can be fast and light rather than heavy and slow.
Keep your feet low so that a strong posture can be reached for a fast catch with the legs.
If needed, fit a front stop so that the slide cannot get near your heels.
77y, 188cm, 85kg, MHR 160. Last 2k (May 1018) 8.37@23

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by Ombrax » September 14th, 2018, 7:31 pm

RowRinseRepeat wrote:
September 12th, 2018, 11:18 pm
After years away from rowing my wife and I are about 7 rowing sessions in so far with our Model D PM5 and doing great. We've tried to ramp up gradually to avoid injury but probably both got carried away a bit.
In my case I've found that ramping up VERY gradually is the answer. 7 sessions are way, way too short in terms of either time or number of workouts to come up to speed. Work at it slowly, giving your body plenty of time to recover between workouts, and after, say 2 months or so, then you can begin to push yourself more and more. What's the rush?

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by RowRinseRepeat » September 15th, 2018, 7:47 pm

Thank you Dangerscouse, mdpfirrman, jamesg and Ombrax. My apologies for not thanking you and responding sooner, but for some reason I only received one email notification of a response and not a response for each reply to the thread.

We have been rowing about every other day, though I did do two days in a row (the second day an easy 30 min).

@Dangerscouse, we may have been pulling too hard with arms early on, but we're paying close attention to drive with feet now.

@mdpfirrman, we'll pay attention to make sure our arms are fully extended and not bent at the elbow. I think they were fully extended, but one form mistake we were both making with arms was dropping our arms a bit before the catch and then raising them, instead of keeping arms straight and feeding the chain straight into the machine.

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by RowRinseRepeat » September 15th, 2018, 7:53 pm

jamesg wrote:
September 14th, 2018, 10:27 am
What can we do to prevent it in terms of form and training?
This depends largely on what you are doing now, in terms of style, rating, power and machine settings.
In general, we do not load heavily the shoulders; the legs do most of the work.

I'd suggest you stay low in terms of power and ratings, say 1 to 2 Watt/kg at 20-23.
Try some back stop drills and use the recovery and pull sequences as shown in the C2 technique video. Keep your elbows low.

Drag should be low, so that the pull action can be fast and light rather than heavy and slow.
Keep your feet low so that a strong posture can be reached for a fast catch with the legs.
If needed, fit a front stop so that the slide cannot get near your heels.
Thank you jamesg. A few quick questions:
1) Where can we track "1 to 2 Watt/kg at 20-23?" we're assuming watts is one of the display choices I can cycle through by pressing the display button.
2) Where can we find the C2 Technique Video with back stop drills and use the recovery and pull sequences as shown in the C2 technique video?"
3) What did you mean by "keep your elbows low?"
4) We have drag set to water at 115. Is that too high? What number should we set drag to?
5) What do you mean by "Keep your feet low so that a strong posture can be reached for a fast catch with the legs?" Do you mean a low foot position on the foot rests? Or do you mean our knees should not come up high from bringing the seat to our heels?
6) How close should we get the seat to our heels? I'm 6 ft tall 32 in. inseam and size 11 feet and the Ms. is 5 ft 6 in. tall with a 29 in. inseam size 7 feet.
7) Where do you get a front stop?

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by RowRinseRepeat » September 15th, 2018, 8:05 pm

I'm not exactly sure where to position the height of the foot rests even after reading the C2 guide for that or how far to bring up the seat to my feet before pushing off. According to the guide, I think I'd have 2 holes exposed and the 3rd one on the raised circle. I'm not the most flexible in my calves and hamstrings and really have to work stretching and rolling to keep them from being too tight, especially from sitting at work no matter how many breaks I take.

Where we are now:
1) I was feeling pain on the front/side of my L shoulder, which is not my dominant arm, and on the back of my left arm (opposite my bicep) in the area between my elbow and shoulder. I think I may be causing the shoulder pain perhaps not from rowing but from rolling on a roller, from awkward positioning of my arms behind me supporting my weight as I roll back and forth over my glutes, hamstrings and calves over a 36 in. Long x 6 in. Diameter hard foam roller. Basically a triceps push down while my arms are on the floor and I'm swinging back and forth. Probably not great for your shoulders.

2) After a 40 min intervals session, my hardest one so far, alternating between 22 strokes at 2:45 avg/500M at 22 strokes for lower intensity and at 28-30 strokes for higher intensity, I felt sensitivity in the balls of my feet, probably because I was pushing off too much from the balls of my feet instead of my whole foot. Two days later I did a 40 minute steady endurance session at 22 strokes 2:30 avg/500M and didn't feel any foot sensitivity.

3) The Ms. was feeling a bit of pain in above and behind her R shoulder, which is her dominant arm - mostly in the area between her shoulder blade and spine, which tends to be a sore area for people.

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by jamesg » September 16th, 2018, 3:54 am

The C2 monitor shows Watts if you press Change Display and Change Units. As the machine is an ergometer, this is what it actually measures, based on the work done in the stroke and the overall stroke time.

Ideal weight can be based on height using a BMI calculation, such as 23 H², which would give you 77 and 65 kg respectively. 2 W/kg will be enough for most training. I'm 78y so discount myself to 1.4 - 1.5 W/kg at ratings 19-21, and it seems to be effective nonetheless.

Elbows: at the finish, make sure they come into your sides, not high in the air, and that the chain, wrist and forearm are all in line.

Drag 115 is fine.

A low stretcher (no holes showing) lets us swing well forward, putting our weight on the feet so that there is no slack when we catch. The recovery is hands away, then swing forward, then slide.

The slide must stay about 20 inches or 50 cm away from heels; otherwise the knees fold completely and cannot act fast and hard at the catch. This ensures that the legs do almost all the work, in rowing; if not, we tend to load other smaller muscle groups, which will soon complain.

A front stop need only be a shoelace or rope tied round the rail at 40-50 cm from the stretcher. If you look at a photo from above of any shell you'll see that the rails stop well away from the shoes.

https://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/ ... que-videos
77y, 188cm, 85kg, MHR 160. Last 2k (May 1018) 8.37@23

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by RowRinseRepeat » September 16th, 2018, 11:04 am

Thank you again jamesg, we really appreciate your help and advice. You're lucky to make your home in Trento - it's a beautiful area and we've traveled nearby.

It's very clear the biggest mistake of form we were making was bringing the seat too close to the heels. However, given that we're different heights - the Ms. 5 ft 6 in. tall and me at 6 ft tall - wouldn't we have different ideal distance between the seat and heels? I would assume my distance from seat to heels before the catch would be longer than the Ms. What's the best way to find your ideal distance? I'm guessing:
1) the position that you feel allows you to get the most power push off
2) the position that allows your feet to be mostly flat when you push off

If we want to keep the strap at the ball of the feet, our foot position may still have to be adjusted showing 1-2 holes. We'll try now with the seat stopped a distance from the heels.

I found the C2 rowing technique videos and while helpful, the rower is making a very common mistake over and over - dropping her arms on the return and then raising them for the catch, which loses energy: https://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/ ... que-videos Though we all have form that in some way is off ideal.

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by RowRinseRepeat » September 16th, 2018, 11:09 am

jamesg wrote:
September 16th, 2018, 3:54 am
The C2 monitor shows Watts if you press Change Display and Change Units. As the machine is an ergometer, this is what it actually measures, based on the work done in the stroke and the overall stroke time.

Ideal weight can be based on height using a BMI calculation, such as 23 H², which would give you 77 and 65 kg respectively. 2 W/kg will be enough for most training. I'm 78y so discount myself to 1.4 - 1.5 W/kg at ratings 19-21, and it seems to be effective nonetheless.
Where are you getting the "23" from? I'm 6 ft tall 170 lbs and the Ms. 120 5 ft 6 in.tall, both slim athletic build. Is it better for us to calculate a good watts range by actual body weight or by ideal weight using BMI calculation?

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by jamesg » September 16th, 2018, 4:38 pm

I use BMI 23 because it's better than nothing and in the middle of the "normal" range, 20-25. If within that or close (but not well below) then I'd use my own weight and a typical Watt/kg ratio as a training target or even as a check on stroke quality. In any case you'll know that 2 does not mean 2.00, but anything between 1.5 and 2.5: it's a rough guide only, aiming to remove one variable only, fat weight. Other variables such as age and strength remain.

An idea of W/kg ratios in real use can be estimated from data in the C2 online rankings. MLWs 40-50y average about 14k for 60 minutes, which is 165 Watts. They weigh no more than 75 kg, so average at least 2.2 W/kg for an hour.

The position of the front stop should let us get to vertical shins, so depends on leg length. This is to limit the knee angle to about 45° at the catch, this taken with the legs. Once standard technique is in place, you won't need the stop at all.

Some time ago I read that the lady in the video is an international sculler; so presumably knows what she's doing. On the erg there is no need to keep your hands at any particular height during recovery; relax, the chain tension is enough to do that for us, just like the weight of sculls. Keeping the hands higher does require force however, so could well be the cause of your shoulder pain.
77y, 188cm, 85kg, MHR 160. Last 2k (May 1018) 8.37@23

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by RowRinseRepeat » September 16th, 2018, 6:40 pm

Thank you again James. Already did a rowing session today and the changes to form really helped, especially making sure shins don't go past 90 degrees because it helped us drive more efficiently with the legs.

Even though we are capable of working at higher power, we are staying well below 2 watts/kg for now because we are giving our bodies time to adjust as Ombrax suggested.

Right now we've been rowing about 2 weeks, 40 minutes every other day.

Would be a problem to now row 4-5 days a week, of those 1-2 interval sessions (shifting between 50-70% max HR and 70-80% max HR) and the other 2-3 sessions at a steady state in the fat burning zone of 50-70% max HR? Interested in the intervals because they are the most effective for improving aerobic capacity.

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by jamesg » September 17th, 2018, 2:07 am

Intervals are important for racing, teaching us to row at high ratings, how to move the boat off the start, how to cruise fast, what to expect in a race and how to respond. They also reduce the amount of work and so fatigue, before racing. They can be very enjoyable, offering a splendid feeling of program completion, readiness, relaxation and speed before the final test.

When intervals are done, endurance/strength/waste removal rate/aerobic capacity/technique and style must already be in place, so it will not be easy to identify any substantial advantages beyond those noted above.

For general purpose fitness, mileage with a reasonable style is enough; style is a hard master as no doubt you have noticed.
77y, 188cm, 85kg, MHR 160. Last 2k (May 1018) 8.37@23

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Re: Preventing Rotator Cuff Issues from Rowing

Post by RowRinseRepeat » September 17th, 2018, 11:48 am

jamesg I'm referring specifically to heart rate intervals, so I would partially disagree with: "For general purpose fitness, mileage with a reasonable style is enough."

For maintenance, or improving from a very low level, then yes. However, for increasing aerobic capacity, especially for people who already have a good basic fitness level, it's necessary to do intervals where you are shifting between all out 80-85% max HR and active yet slower 50-70% max HR - for example, sprinting all out and a slow jog. There are many methods - one for example is Norwegian 4x4. Each such session can increase overall aerobic capacity 1/2 %. A 1/2 % improvement every session at two sessions a week really adds up over time, whether you are rowing, running, swimming or cycling.

"When intervals are done, endurance/strength/waste removal rate/aerobic capacity/technique and style must already be in place." Again, once people are at a good basic fitness level, the only way to increase aerobic capacity is to do heart rate interval training shifting between 80-85% of max HR and 50-70%. Of course you have to have sufficient strength and aerobic capacity to do the intervals.

What did you mean by waste removal being in place?

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