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Short Mobility Warmup for Rowing

·4 mins

The few short minutes before ORC Rec practices are often hectic as everyone rushes over after work, gets coach boats and equipment ready, and then hops into a boat. That said, I’m hoping to add another wrench into the works this year - a short dynamic warmup to promote mobility and get ourselves ready for rowing.

Short Description #

Two sets of the following circuit:

Halos (5 reps in each direction)

Cossack Squat (5 reps each side)

(Walking) Spiderman with Hip Lift and Overhead Reach (10 total reps)

Focus on body control, consistent pace, and as much mobility as you can manage. Aim to complete at least one set of the circuit before every practice, although if time allows three wouldn’t hurt.

Exercise Details #

Halos #

Focus: Shoulder mobility, posture, abdominal strength (if weighted)

Halos can be done with anything in your hands - a weight plate, medicine ball, kettlebell, or anything similar in size/shape - and weighing something like 10-25 pounds. The goal is to draw a circle around your head at face-level while holding onto the item with both hands and not letting go. If you don’t have something to hang onto, you can get a lot of the same mobility/warmup benefits by interlacing your fingers at the appropriate height.

Cues: Focus on standing tall, keeping your head neutral, and bracing your core. You’re looking to activate the full range of motion in your shoulders. You don’t have to alternate directions every rep - I generally find it simpler to do five rotations in one direction and then five in the other.

Cossack Squats #

Focus: Ankle/Knee/Hip/Groin mobility, core strength, balance

Cossack Squats are a fantastic way to work on mobility and strength at the catch position. This is a difficult exercise to pick up for most people, but it’s extremely rewarding! You’ll want to work on getting better at it over the course of the rowing season - take it slowly and gradually work on pushing your ranges on this a little more every day.

The basic Cossack Squat motion involves an extra-wide stance, squatting down as deep as possible on one leg while keeping heels on the floor, and pointing the other leg out straight to the side with the toes pointing to the ceiling. Transition from one side to the other and sink in on that new side. I find it helpful to hold a weight while doing this (the same weight as from the Halos exercise is usually fine) - this helps counterbalance you and lets you keep a stronger back position while sinking a little deeper.

Cues: [try to add one of these at a time]

  • Keep your heels on the floor!
  • Keep a strong back position (chest up, eyes up, no slumping!)
  • Keep your hips low as you swing across to the other side (activates a better groin stretch)
  • Get a little more depth by sitting a little lower each time
  • Get a little more forward ankle compression by rocking your weight forward on each foot.

This video demo from is quite good - he does a good job of demonstrating body position cues as well as going through a progression from beginner to more advanced Cossack Squats, although I recommend keeping hips low as you go across to activate the groin stretch whereas he prefers standing up between each rep.

If you’re struggling with the initial variations of the Cossack squats, this page details a few more progressions that might help you get there:

(Walking) Spiderman with Hip Lift and Overhead Reach #

Focus: Hamstring/Quadricep/Groin/Thoracic mobility

Walking Spidermans (as designed by Eric Cressey, video demo below) combines a few familiar warmup elements in a dynamic exercise. I would describe it as a lunge (quads/hip flexors/groin), hip lift to hamstring stretch, and an overhead reach (thoracic rotation). This doesn’t have to be done “walking” if space is limited - just come back to a standing position and do the other leg.

The demo below is very straight-forward, although I recommend the overhead reach in the other direction (i.e. rotating towards the front leg as opposed to away from it). This makes the warmup a more similar to the sweep rowing motion.

Cues: Keep your hips low in the lunge, work to find that stretch, and track your overhead reach with your eyes.

Any questions? I’ll be happy to demonstrate these motions over the next few months.