Back problems are a notorious issue for anglers, and it’s no wonder, given the demands of the sport.
Fishing can be a very physical activity that often requires lifting and carrying heavy, awkward items such as full coolers and buckets. Fishing also often involves bending and twisting the torso, as well as walking and standing on a boat deck for long periods of time.
A significant issue for many, however, is all the sitting. Long drives to fishing locations, long rides on the boat and often a week of sitting in front of a computer waiting to go fishing on the weekend can all contribute to lower back pain. When we sit for long periods, we get “short” in the front of the hips – that is, tense and inflexible – which can cause issues in the lower back. In this Mercury Angler Fitness video, Mercury Pro Team member Tom Rowland discusses three crucial stretches he uses to help take care of those tight hips, which can help prevent and alleviate associated back pain.
1. Helm Stretch
Rowland calls this stretch the helm stretch because he usually does it while standing at the helm of his boat – using the helm pad to assist. You can use anything of the right height, such as two stacked coolers as shown in the video. A gunwale or the leaning post on your boat are also options. To do the helm stretch, stand in front of the helm pad or whatever object you’ve chosen, bend one knee and bring your foot up behind you as if you are sitting on it. Your thigh will be straight with your torso, your heel will be up near your glutes and the laces of your shoes will now be on the helm pad. Keep your body straight, and use the helm pad to maximize the bend in your knee and the pull in your upper thigh. You’ll feel this throughout your quadriceps and the crucial hip flexors. Move your body and legs around a bit to find the tightest areas in your thigh and hip and hold the stretch for two minutes. Switch and do the other side.
2. Couch Stretch
You can do this stretch while you watch TV or relax, using any item about the height of a couch. This stretch also works the hip flexors and quadriceps, but do both the helm stretch and couch stretch as they work different areas of the muscle groups. To do the couch stretch, get down on your right knee in a lunge position, then reach back and lift your right foot behind you, putting the laces of your right shoe on the couch while your right knee remains on the floor. Your left leg will remain out in front of you with your left foot on the floor. You’ll feel the pull in your quads and hip flexors so be careful, but stay with it as this tension is a clear sign that they are in need of stretching. Get to the level that you are comfortable with and stay for as long as two minutes. Then change legs and repeat.
3. Lying Hamstring Stretch
A belt, strap or even a dock line will be needed for this one. Start by lying on your back, then hook the belt on one of your feet and extend your leg up at a 90-degree angle from your torso. Your other leg should remain flat on the ground. Keeping your raised leg straight, pull on the strap to maximize the bend in your hip and stretch out your hamstrings. Again, hold the stretch for two minutes, and then repeat with the other leg.
All three of these stretches are great for helping to avoid or reduce lower back pain and increase the time that you can spend out on the water. Naturally, you’ll want to consult your doctor in advance if you have any concerns about performing these stretches, or if you have intense back pain. Then start slowly so you can gradually but steadily increase your flexibility without hurting yourself.
About Tom Rowland:
Mercury Pro Team member and television personality Tom Rowland grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, fishing with his father. He eventually moved west and became a drift boat guide based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, shepherding clients fly-fishing for trout. After seven seasons, he changed paths and moved to Key West to try his hand at saltwater angling. After becoming a saltwater guide and tournament angler of note and appearing in some 30 nationally televised fishing shows, Rowland co-founded the “Saltwater Experience” TV program, which is in its 17th year of production. Rowland and his wife, Cynthia, have two sons and a daughter and are based in Islamorada, Florida. For more information on Tom Rowland, his TV show or his podcast, visit saltwaterexperience.com.