Wendy Davies |

Pilates 2: Rowing machine posture

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

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.


Spine curl exercise
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.

Dead bug with arm movement exercise

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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Photo credit: Iain Weir