Proper Indoor Rowing Technique: Step By Step Guide


Tips For Using the Rowing Machine: Proper Indoor Rowing Technique

While rowing machines (rowing ergometers) are used by competitive rowers for training, they’re also found in many commercial gyms and can be a part of any cardio and strength training regimen. Unfortunately, the rowing ergometer is often one of the most neglected pieces of equipment in a gym’s cardio area. A main reason could be that people just don’t know how to use it properly. In our previous post we have been written about the top 10 benefits of using a rowing ergometer. In this post you will find out the correct indoor rowing technique (using Concpet 2 rowing machine).

Concept 2 rower

There are many styles of rowing machine, but the Concept 2 rower is one of the most common types found in gyms. The mechanisms of this model (and most others) are usually fairly similar, and include:

  • A seat that slides on a rail;
  • An oar/handle connected to a chain that propels a flywheel/damper;
  • A spiral damper;
concept 2 rowing ergometer

concept 2 rowing ergometer

The damper is the lever on the side of the flywheel that controls how easily air can flow in and out of the cage/fan blades. It enables you to flash between light/fast and heavy/slow. The lever sits next to a scale of 1-10, indicating how much air is drawn into the cage on each stroke.

Higher damper settings (7-10) allow more air into the flywheel  housing. The more air that flows, the greater the challenge to keep the flywheel spinning. More air also makes the flywheel slow down quicker between strokes and the knock-on effect of this is that every stroke is a challenge since there is no opportunity to benefit from the power you generated with the previous pull.

Proper indoor rowing technique

Indoor rowing machine technique is broken down into four phases:

proper indoor rowing technique

proper indoor rowing technique

  1. The catch. Take hold of the oar with an over-grasp, shoulder-width grip. Your arms should be straight and your head should be facing towards the console. Shoulders are low rather than hunched. You are leaning forwards from the hips (hips hinged). Your shoulders, if your mobility/flexibility allows it, should be in front of your hips. Your shins are vertical and shouldn’t ever go past this angle. The foot rest straps should be adjusted to allow your ankle to flex and extend as it pivots.
  2. The drive. Initiate the push through your legs. In other words, push your heels down into the foot rests and extend your legs to drive your body back down the slide. So in this phase you should resist the temptation to pull with your arms – instead keep them relaxed and extended and let your legs do the work. Just before the legs are almost fully lengthened (when the oar passes your knees), lean backwards from the hips and pull with your arms so that your elbows bend and the oar draws level with your bottom ribs.
  3. The finish. Your upper body is still leaning back, your shoulders are low/depressed and your wrists are flat. There’s no force being generated during the finish phase; it’s basically the calm before the storm of the next stroke.
  4. The recovery.  Extend the arms fully and simultaneously lean forwards at the hips towards the flywheel. Once your hands have cleared your knees, pull against the toe straps so that your entire body slides along the rail of the rower to get you back into position ready for the next catch.

Closing thoughts

Proper technique is the most important factor when using the rowing machine (rowing ergometer), and more people get it wrong than right. If you get your indoor rowing technique right, you’ll be efficient, produce better scores/results and avoid potential injuries.

Machines do vary between manufacturers in terms of their set-up, so if you are in doubt, speak to a gym instructor or personal trainer on how to use a particular model.

Perfecting a rowing technique takes practice and at the start it can feel like you are being worked by the rower, rather than you being in charge. Of all the cardio kit in a gym, this machine takes the longest to master. If you are inexperienced please make sure that you take your time to work on your skills before piling on the intensity. Once again, “learn it, then work it”.

About Author

Hey! My name is Kruno, and I'm the owner and author of Bodybuilding Wizard. I started this website back in late 2014, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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