What's the function of the core? It would be very easy to start off this article describing what muscles you need to train and more than likely I would lose you right after this sentence. This is not an anatomy lesson!
It is more valuable for you, the reader and rower, to understand the purpose of the core. Dr. Stuart McGill provides a simple and easy explanation for the role and function of the core in the human body. The primary purpose of the core musculature is to stiffen the torso and prevent motion. (1,2)
When the muscles of the torso co-contract, the torso stiffens and the result is that all of these muscles become synergists. This simply means they help generate movement. The stiffening of the torso enables greater power and velocity to be generated at the shoulders and hips and thus transmitted through the core musculature. Greater power and velocity at the shoulders and hips translates to generating more power in your rowing stroke as well as preventing injuries.
The different classes of core training World renowned strength coach, Mike Boyle, breaks core training into 3 different classes:
Boyle makes a paramount point in his new book, New Functional Training For Sports, “ The key to understanding core training is realizing that the respiration is not passive but active.” (3) This means that any exercise you do must begin with the breath. Breathing is the most fundamental layer of every movement we do.
3 core exercises for rowers
The Deadbug (antiextension)
The Side Plank and Side Plank Row (antilateral flexion)
The Paloff Press (antirotation)
The Deadbug Begin with the bodyweight progression and start at 5 reps on each side. Build out to doing 3 sets of 8,10,and 12 reps. Once you have demonstrated control progress to the more difficult version with mini-band and counterweight. The key for this exercise is to improve your endurance without sacrificing your position. As you fatigue make sure you do not move into lumbar hyperextension.
Deadbug & Paloff Press
The Side Plank and Side Plank Row - Begin with the bodyweight progression first (Side Plank). Build to 6 sets of 10 second holds on each side. Once you can do that with ease and control, progress to doing the Side Plank Row for 3 sets of 8 reps on each side. Each week add 2 reps.
How to Side Bridge
Side Plank Row
The Paloff Press - Hold for 6 sets of 10 seconds on each side. For this exercise I prefer to increase the time and will progress to 6 sets of 20 seconds, then 30 seconds and eventually a minute. Note: An alternative for increasing the intensity of this exercise is to have the time remain constant and either a) use a heavier band or b) increase the weight on a cable machine.