Pilates series 5# – the outer core muscles

Working the outer core will contribute towards an efficient stroke. Wendy Davies explains how


(c) Iain Weir

To achieve an economic and powerful stroke, some of the outer core muscles in the abdomen (the internal and external obliques) need to work in combination with the deep postural abdominal muscles (the pelvic floor and transverse abdominals). This will keep the segments of the spine stable.

The external and internal obliques are particularly important for rotating the spine during sweep rowing, and the internal obliques are also used to bend the spine to the side.


A stability ball is an excellent tool for working these muscles in combination as it engages the neuro-muscular system (a combination of nerve and muscle) to develop strength, flexibility and balance – all brilliant for rowing!


Exercise 1 – Bridge on Ball

Wendy Davies

Wendy Davies has over 20 years working with rowers and elite sportspeople, including at five Olympic Games, three Commonwealth Games and many training camps and World Championships.

Increasing the challenge
  • Place your heels on the ball and repeat the exercise.
  • Hold a medicine ball between your raised arms and resist force from a partner.
  • Decrease the air in the ball. A softer ball means you’re working with a less stable surface which challenges the muscles more.

Increasing the repetitions of these exercises helps build endurance in the inner and outer abdominals and shoulder stabilisers – all very important for rowing.

Exercise 2 – The plank

Increasing the challenge
  • Tighten your buttocks and raise a straight leg off the floor a few inches, then lower. Alternate legs for 20 reps in total.
Exercise 3 – The side plank

Increasing the challenge
  • While in the extended position off the floor, raise and lower your top arm. Raise and lower the top arm and leg. Aim for 10 reps.
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