Zenith Performance Physical Therapy


Conquering Low Back Pain in Cleans and Rowing

October 19, 2023

Empower Your Lifts and Strokes with Proper Leg Drive

Are power cleans in your WOD (Workout of the Day) bringing back that familiar, unwelcome back pain? Or do you find yourself being told, while on the rower, that you’re relying too much on your arms? If you answered yes to either of these, it’s time for a discussion about the importance of leg drive.

The Problem: Leg drive plays a pivotal role in both Olympic weightlifting and rowing. When it comes to cleans, a common complaint among individuals with low back pain isn’t the squat catch but rather the initial lift off the ground. The hips should not shoot up first, but instead, your torso angle should remain relatively constant until after the bar has cleared your knees. With proper technique, this transforms the clean so you can recruit your quadriceps for pushing through the ground, as opposed to a hip hinge-dominant movement. As for rowing, it’s that very same leg drive that should generate force with each stroke, transitioning seamlessly from leg drive to a slight lean back with hip extension, culminating in an arm pull.

What It Looks Like: People facing issues with their cleans may experience heightened soreness or discomfort in the lower back, particularly as they tire later in the workout. They often lack the power required to both keep the bar close and execute a strong second pull. On the rower, a similar challenge may manifest.

The Fix:

  • Calm the Painful Tissues: Initially, we focus on alleviating discomfort using techniques such as myofascial decompression, soft tissue massage, high-intensity cardiovascular exercise, and skillful hands-on approaches. Following this, we conduct an assessment to identify any limitations in range of motion and strength.
  • Review Efficient Techniques: We delve into efficient lifting and rowing patterns, providing you with specific drills to practice in the gym. These exercises will expedite your journey toward improved technique.
  • Scalability and Substitution: If it’s necessary to scale or substitute certain movements, this is where our expertise at Zenith Performance truly shines. We’re experts at finding variations that suit your requirements and will collaborate with your coach or trainer to keep everyone in the loop.
  • Load It Up: Once the pain is under control, and you’ve mastered the necessary skills, it’s time to challenge those tissues and work your way back to personal records (PRs).

Are you feeling the strain from low back pain during your cleans and rowing sessions? Reach out to us today at (562) 502 -1767 to schedule a free phone consultation. We’ll be thrilled to welcome you for an evaluation, setting you on the path to a stronger, pain-free workout experience.

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