4 Tips for Proper Form on a Rowing Machine

Young man doing exercises on rowing machine in a gym.

Many people know how great the rowing machine is for a full body workout but they hesitate to use one because they don’t know how. Learn the proper form and technique below so that you can be confident the next time you row.

Although rowing tends to look like an upper body sport, the strength of the stroke comes from the legs.  There are 4 parts to a stroke on a rowing machine.

  • The catch– At the beginning of the stroke, sit tall with your legs bent and feet in the stirrups. Keep your back flat and your core engaged as you extend your arms to grab the handle. Your shoulders should be relaxed and in front of your hips. Your body should be coiled like a spring, ready to release.
  • The drive– At the beginning of the drive, the body position doesn’t change, all the work is done by the legs. Maintain a straight back, tight core, and locked arms and drive your legs back until they are straight. Hinge from your hips and lean your torso backward. As your torso reaches a 90-degree angle with the floor, begin to pull with your arms by bending at the elbows.
  • The finish– Your legs are straight, your elbows bent, and you should pull the handle to your lower chest. Your arms should be slightly away from your ribcage, but not flared out to the sides. It is important to maintain a strong core and a straight back.
  • The recovery– A mirror image of the drive. The arms begin to straighten. When they are almost fully extended, the torso hinges forward from the hips. Maintaining a straight back and a tight core, the knees begin to bend once the handle passes over them.

The key elements of the rowing technique are:

Upper Body Movement

You want to sit tall with a stacked posture. Relax your shoulders so they are pulled back and down. Your spine should always be in neutral.

Your fingers should wrap around the handle so your second knuckles face forward with your thumbs on the underside of the handle. The top of your wrist should also be completely flat, and not rolled to the outside. To improve your grip, try rowing with an overhand grasp and your thumbs on top of the handle to strengthen your fingers.

Lower Body Movement

The leg muscles drive the whole rowing stroke and therefore can cause a smooth or choppy stroke. If your legs push too quickly your seat can bang and your upper body will have to catch up. Instead, keep your leg push controlled and keep your body from jerking forward. Make sure your abs are engaged so that your hands and feet stay connected.

Rhythm and Ratio and Speed vs. Stroke Rate

A common misconception is that the faster you move up and down the slide the quicker your speed. However, speed in rowing is referred to the speed of the boat, not the person moving up and down the slide which is instead known as a stroke rate.

Synchronization (Timing)

The stroke should be a 1:2 count. That means your body should expend lots of energy quickly at the drive, when the legs are pushing and arms are pulling. The second half of the stroke should be more relaxed and controlled. You should spend twice as long to “recover” and come back up the slide as was spent in driving the legs down. When the correct ratio is achieved, there is a satisfying rhythm to the continuous flow of the rowing stroke.

Before or after your next rowing workout, add a Promax bar to help give you energy and rebuild your muscles.

Sources:
http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/rowing-machine-mistakes/
http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/correct-your-rowing-form
http://www.howtorow.com/professional-gym/lesson-4/technique