The Best Rowing Machine Grip

Rowing Technique: The Best Rowing Machine Grip


A rowing coach shows her students the best hand position for rowing on a rowing machine



Not to get all “handsy” or anything, but let’s take a second to talk about something you might not have thought of: Your rowing machine grip.


Hand position in rowing. It’s more important than you think and if you’re not doing it correctly it could be causing you issues.


Why? Because the hands are one of the three main points of connection between your body and the machine (as well as the seat and the foot stretchers).


COACHES! Pay attention here, you’re going to want to know these answers for when your students ask!


5 Keys for the Best Hand Position in Rowing


Your rowing machine handle grip has everything to do with things that happen up the chain.


Like how well you engage your lats on the drive, whether you keep your shoulders down and even whether you have enough room to fully bring your knees up as you move into the catch position.


We asked UCanRow2 / Concept2 Master Instructor Cassi Niemann for her top tips to help you hold the handle correctly.  Read on!


FIRST and foremost: You’re looking for a shoulder-width grip. For most people, that means the pinkies are at the edge of the handle. Not falling off, but right at the end.


This allows for a smooth retraction of the elbows through to the finish (Mmmm that sweet, smooth force curve.). It also helps you keep the shoulders down and engage your lats on the drive, which is important for getting power out of your stroke.  And finally, it creates space between your arms that you might need to bring your knees up into the catch.


SECOND: This one is debated all the time but as a starting point and unless there’s good reason not to, we prefer to see the thumbs under the handle. Why? Because it allows for a more secure, loose rowing machine grip and better tracking of the arms into the finish.


[Want 5 free workouts to help you practice your rowing technique and explore how the rowing machine can help you boost your fitness? Download your free workout set here! ]



THIRD: Keep a loose grip to prevent those downstream issues. Too much tension in the hands can lead to too much tension in the forearms and elbows, and all of that can wreak havoc.


Remember that rowing is a repetitive motion. So if you’re gripping too tightly stroke after stroke it won’t be long before some real problems materialize.


Not only is the “death grip” a risk for injury, but it can also break the chain of power production from the TRUE center of power on the rowing stroke, your legs and hips.


Karl Eagleman of Whiteboard Daily (@whiteboard_daily on Instagram – give him a follow!) did a SPECTACULAR representation of what we’re talking about here.


We often use the external cue, “imagine that you’re holding two birds” when gripping the handle. Keep them from flying away but don’t choke them.


A good internal cue here is: Hook your hands on the handle.



A drawing of two hands holding a rowing machine handle with the handles looking like birds and the text "Hold the handle like you're holding two birds."


FOURTH: We periodically see people thinking they’ll get a great bicep pump from turning their palms up in an underhand rowing machine grip. That supinated grip isn’t the most efficient or effective choice, however.


If building your biceps is your goal, you’ll get it done way better and faster if you put the rowing machine handle down and pick up a pair of dumbbells instead.


Instead, pronate your grip and hold the rowing machine handle with your palms facing down.  This will help you recruit the larger muscles in your back and transfer that force into the machine.


Remember, more muscle recruitment = more meters!


FIFTH: If you row on a Concept2 machine or another with an ergonomic, angled handle, point those ends down! The 10-degree bend in the handle lets you row with a natural arm and hand position. More comfortable and easier than the older straight wooden handle. (Psst… you can upgrade!).


So check your grip and make the changes! You may find it was all you needed to create a smoother, more comfortable stroke.


While We’re At It: Should You Wear Gloves When You Row?

This is another hot topic among indoor rowers. Should you wear gloves when you row? If given a choice we generally recommend that people row without gloves. That way you can focus on keeping that loose grip we mentioned above as well as a more direct connection with the handle.


Most people wear gloves to prevent blisters, especially on long workouts. But blisters are part of the game and a badge of honor in rowing (. Ultimately they turn to callous and poof! Problem solved.


That being said, this one is NOT a hill we’re willing to die on. If rowing with gloves is important to you and helps you stay consistent on the machine, then row on, friend!


There you have it! Everything you wanted to know for the best rowing machine grip.  Questions? Ask in the comments!


Want 5 free workouts to help you practice your technique and explore how the rowing machine can help you boost your fitness? Grab our free workout set here!






How to Choose The Right Free Online Workout For You

How to know if that free online workout is right for you

Image of free online workouts with the text "Online workouts: how to choose the right workout for you"

How many times have you looked at a rowing workout somewhere online and thought, “Is that free online workout good for me to do?”


Free workouts are a dime a dozen, and that’s part of the problem.


They’re everywhere: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.  #Sweatyselfie images, reels, TikToks and full videos of all manner of workouts. Often with hundreds of repetitions, huge dumbbells or kettlebells, super low rowing machine splits, all the things. 


Probably hashtagged #beastmode, #nopainnogain, #gainz, etc.


It’s ballooned in the pandemic, too. Now you can find all manner of free online workouts (and paid) from trainers and would-be rowing coaches who may or not actually know what they’re doing.


Bottom line, There’s A LOT of dubious content out there, especially these days as trainers latch on to the explosive growth of indoor rowing.   


How to choose the right online workout for you

Here are some questions to ask:


  • Is the person who programmed the workout qualified? Like, do they have a personal training or rowing certification? Particularly in an online fitness world – and in a world where many of us aren’t in the same physical shape we were pre-pandemic – knowing what to do to keep people safe is essential.


          Certifications aren’t everything, but they let you know that the person had to pass someone else’s test and did more than watch hours of random YouTube videos.


  • How much work volume does it have?  Hundreds or even dozens of repetitions, particularly of unfamiliar moves, is a red flag in many cases.  


  • How long will it take? You should be able to complete most workouts in an hour or less, including your warmup and cooldown.  There’s no need to do anything longer than that on a regular basis; In fact it can be counterproductive.


  • Are the moves familiar to you? It’s fine (and fun!) to have a new move in a workout, but make sure you understand it and are comfortable doing it without load before trying it with weight.  Also if the workout is ALL new to you, you’re better off subbing in familiar exercises for most of the new moves.  Work new exercises in gradually as you get more skilled.


  • Does the workout include scaling options, and can I perform the scaled version correctly? Scaling allows you to vary the workout’s complexity and difficulty based on your general fitness and ability, and also how you feel on that particular day. Good workouts (and good instructors) will provide alternatives for more challenging moves.





Once you decide to do a new workout, be in test mode with it the first time.  You’ll know in the first 10 minutes if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. 


If you find that’s the case, STOP.  Cool down and be done, or move to something that’s more in your range on that day.  Consider this your permission to do that.


Other strategies to try (that can also apply to any workout on any day): If the workout has several rounds, do the first one and see how you feel before moving on.  Or, cap the time: Follow the routine for 20-25 minutes and re-evaluate.


One note: Never be afraid to take a brief break to catch your breath and regroup.  Drop your effort if you’re rowing, or put the weight down if you’re doing an interval workout.  There’s no point in doing a move if you can’t do it correctly.


If at any point your technique fails and you can no longer do the workout correctly or safely you are DONE, and that’s completely fine!


Want an online workout you can trust?


We offer them both live and on-demand, taught by our world-class master instructors.  If you join us live, you get real-time coaching on your rowing technique, and the fun of doing it with a community of friends from around the world. 


The workouts we do at UCanRow2 are tried, tested and true, We’re all about rowing for EVERY body, so making workouts that meet you where you are is built into our DNA. Come row with us




Got a question, or a workout you’d like to see? Drop it in the comments! 

Marathon Row Tips

a rowing machine set to the marathon row distance, with marathon row tips in the title


The marathon row. The Big Kahuna of endurance rowing events.
How many meters in a marathon? 42,195 to be exact.
That’s ALOT of meters.
Sitting on a rowing machine for that length of time definitely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
For some though, it’s a crowning-glory moment that’s worth all the literal blood, sweat, and tears it might take to get there.
Should you attempt it? How to go about it if you do?
We turned to our resident experts for their marathon row tips: Our master instructors!
Specifically, those masters who specialize in this kind of endurance rowing workout, or who have them in their rowing or coaching background:

          Master Instructor Heather Alschuler, who rowed many a long workout – marathons included – in her training as a Canadian Olympian.


          Master Instructor Katie Rosso Recker, a competitive runner and rower who loves marathons AND ultramarathons.


          Master Instructor Nell Aiello, who for years trained marathoners and ran a marathon event at the CrossFit / rowing gym she owned in Chicago.


Top Marathon Row Tips From Our Rowing Experts

Should you attempt a marathon?
Almost anyone CAN row a marathon, with appropriate training.
But should you?
Here are marathon row tips from our masters to help you weigh your options and to have your best performance if you do go for it.

1. Decide whether this is an appropriate distance for you

This is not a beginner distance! Even if you can do similar events in other sports, rowing is a repetitive motion and a total-body exercise.  The combination can be wearing if you’re not used to it.
“You certainly can’t just jump into it if the mileage on the erg hasn’t been there for some time,” says Master Instructor Heather Alschuler. You have to put in the time on the erg to be ready for this type of distance.”

2. Make sure you’re used to rowing long distances regularly

At a bare minimum, you should be able to row 15-20,000 meters at a time easily, without batting an eye.
You should already be rowing for at least an hour, a couple of times a week (Hopefully logging 40k meters or more).
Bottom line: Unless you have more than a month to train, the marathon distance should already feel doable. It should not be a big deviation from what you’re already used to.

3. Set a realistic goal

If you’ve never rowed a marathon before, your goal should be to finish, and that’s it.
Use your first marathon as a benchmark. You can train to beat it the next time you do it, but your goal the first time is simply to see how you do and how it feels.
Hopefully, you will come away from it still liking the rowing machine.
“Rowing that distance indoor can be a much bigger mental challenge than it would be on the water,” says marathon veteran Katie Rosso Recker.
“An outcome you wouldn’t want is, ‘That sucked, that was so painful, I am never doing that again!'”

4. Consider doing it as a team

If you’re not prepared to take on the full distance, consider doing it on a team with one or more people.
“When we would host the annual marathon at my gym,” says Nell Aiello, “we had an 8-week training plan that was for experienced rowers.
“Anyone who was fairly new would be encouraged to split the distance with another person, or people,” she says.

Marathon Row Training Considerations

There is A LOT more that goes into a 42,195-meter row than just the rowing. Keep these aspects in mind too:

5. Have a plan for proper hydration …

Marathon day isn’t the time to be experimenting with what and how much you eat and drink. That should be part of your training.
Experiment ahead of time with what works. Sports drink diluted with water is a great starting point, but do your own research in advance. Full strength? Plain water? Something else?

6. And for nutrition

As with any other endurance event, quick-digesting carbohydrates are likely to be the best fuel. Use your training workouts to find what will be best for you, and how often you need to eat. Bananas, bagels, sports fuel packets, etc., can all work well.

7. Be mindful of chafing

Consider planning breaks and even changing clothes partway through. You can have someone help you keep the Concept2 monitor on by pressing “change units” or “change display” if needed.
“The environment of the room is important for limiting how much sweating is happening,” says Heather, who rowed marathons often when she was training with Team Canada for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“Don’t set out to do this type of work in a hot and humid room. You will run into problems.”

8. PREVENT overuse injuries – CHECK YOUR TECHNIQUE!

High on the list of our marathon row tips is preventing injury. No distance is worth getting hurt over!
Rowing is a repetitive motion. The number of strokes you’ll take between training and the actual event is mind-boggling.
Make it a point to dial in your technique. Errors repeated over and over can easily turn into injuries, or at least cause unnecessary pain.
If you’re unsure whether your technique is up to snuff, watch the technique videos on our YouTube channel.
You may also want to consider setting up a session with a certified coach to give you a technique review.

9. Test your equipment in advance 

Your Concept2 monitor should stay on for a minute or more if you stop rowing during your marathon.
But monitors are variable and can be finicky at the worst times sometimes. We HIGHLY recommend testing yours ahead of time and not the day of, or at least before you start.
Don’t forget fresh batteries!  If you’re using a rowing machine whose monitor takes batteries, use new ones. There’s nothing worse than a monitor that dies when you’re almost done with your row.  Especially if it’s one this long!
And for goodness sake be sure you have working chargers handy for any other devices you might be using like your phone, tablet, etc.

10. Have a plan for the row 

How do you want to accomplish the distance?

          Just keep rowing until you get it done, maybe watching some movies or bingeing Netflix?


          Headphones and music or an audiobook?


          Or do you want to be more strategic?


There are no right or wrong answers here, it’s whatever works for you. You’re probably tired of hearing this at this point, but don’t leave this one up to chance either.


That includes testing out your playlist! Those jams you love in the car can get way annoying over the course of multiple hours of rowing!

Woman on a rowing machine, text says "Top marathon row tips for our rowing experts

Suggested Marathon Row Strategy:

We included one of Heather’s favorite marathon race plans in our book 101 Best Rowing Workouts.
If you’re looking for a way to build to a strong finish, this is a good marathon row strategy:
0-10,000m 18-20 strokes per minute
10-20,000m 20-22 spm
20-30,000m 22-24 spm
30-40,000m 24-26 spm
40-42,195m Row as fast as possible, trying to ramp up just a bit every 500 meters
Speaking from experience, you may find that this is too much once you get started, and that faster speeds aren’t happening as you get deeper into it. That’s ok! Some mental tricks for long rows may be all you need to make it through.
It bears repeating though, this is a BIG effort and nothing you should attempt if you’re not already used to bigger distances on the machine.
As always, check with your health care provider first to be sure this is appropriate for you.
So how about it? You in??
Marathon veterans, what tips did we miss? Share them in the comments!

Rowing Technique: Learn the Catch Position

“How can I get more out of my rowing?” Very often, it begins with getting set up properly at the catch. A strong catch = more power from the drive = more results from the workout.


In this guest post, Certified Instructor Alicia Clark shares tips for rowers and coaches on how to optimize this key part of the rowing stroke, and stay safe while doing it.


the Catch Position: A primer






There’s a lot that goes into having a good catch position on the rowing machine. 


For coaches and instructors, it may make the difference between a powerhouse row and a ho-hum one.  Nail the catch and you’re set up for success on each and every stroke.


A good catch position looks like this:


image of a woman sitting in a strong catch position. Her shins are vertical, shoulders in front of hips, sitting on the front edge of the seat



Here are the big things to look for AT THE CATCH:


A good catch is all about getting the right setup, quickly, to allow for a powerful and fast drive.


1- Glutes on the edge of the seat

Sitting on the seat correctly sets you up well for a lot of the following points. We want our sit bones to be going directly down into the seat. 


One way to make sure that you’re sitting correctly on the seat is to pick up your butt cheeks (A favorite phrase of UCanRow2 Lead Master Instructor Cassi Niemann)!


Yep I said it! Pick those babies up so you can get your hips in a more neutral position and lean forward.


[Eds. note: A great cue for this from Alicia is, “Sit on the edge of your seat like you’re watching a suspenseful movie.”]






2- Shoulders in front of hips

Getting your shoulders in front of your hips sets you up for a better drive. After you push your legs down (on the drive) you’ll be able to swing your body open for more power.


The body swing accounts for 30% of the stroke power, and if you aren’t getting your shoulders in front of your hips to begin with, you’re missing out on all that!



3- Sit up tall

Many athletes make the mistake of “overreaching” at the catch: Reaching so far forward that their chest touches their knees as they go for extra length. When we reach too far, though, we lose tension in our shoulders.


So on the next stroke, the first thing that has to happen is the shoulders have to pull back to engage, rather than the first step being the push with the legs.


Long story short, reaching at the catch wastes time and makes you lose power. The extra length isn’t worth it!



4-Shins vertical

Stopping when the shins are vertical (or perpendicular to the ground) is the perfect balance between applying power quickly and lengthening your stroke. 


When we “overcompress” and allow our shins to go past vertical, it takes our heels much longer to come back into contact with the footplates on the drive.


We want to push through our heels on the drive, and when our heels come up too high, it’s easy to push through the balls of the feet instead. 


Not everyone has the flexibility to make it all the way up to their shins being vertical. If it’s a mobility or pain issue, then come up as close to vertical as you can. Let the rowing machine meet you where you are. 


NOTE: Stopping short of vertical cuts your stroke short. It’s OK for your heels to lift slightly at the catch in order to get those shins vertical. 



a person rowing in a concept2 rowing machine



5- Heels slightly lifted

This will vary for everyone, but most people will need to lift their heels just slightly at the catch to get their shins vertical. If your athlete has the flexibility to keep their heels down and still get their shins vertical, that’s awesome!



6-Arms straight

We want our arms to act like straps at the catch. If you follow Whiteboard Daily on Instagram, you may have heard “when the arms bend, the power ends” in regards to weightlifting.


The same is true in rowing!


Imagine you’re hanging off the erg handle when you begin to drive through your legs.


The best way to transfer that power is with straight arms! Bending them wastes precious energy that then can’t be put into getting a faster split. 



7- Lats activated

Before we start our drive, when we are at that catch position, we want to activate those lats and pull our shoulders back and down. Thinking about sitting up tall will help you get into this position. 


This creates tension in our upper body that allows us to hang off the handle. When looking at the upper back and shoulders, imagine creating a letter J.


It’s the same kind of tension in our upper body that we create before we deadlift, clean, or snatch with a barbell. In order to lift properly, we need those lats engaged before (and not during) the lift. 


Working on your catch position will help you with the rest of your stroke. After all, starting the stroke right is the first step!


Want help with your rowing stroke? Join our free Facebook group RowStrong


Want free workouts? Grab our GetFlywheelFit workout set

Notes For Coaches / Instructors:

As coaches, it’s important to look carefully at your athletes’ catch position. Most importantly, it will help you keep your athletes safe, but it will also help them generate more power!


Notice how your athletes look when they start to change direction on the erg, going from the recovery to the drive. This snapshot in time can help you identify parts of the catch they may need to work on. 


There are two areas, in particular, to look for.  Read on, or scroll down to check the video. 


1. Check that your athlete’s shins are coming to vertical

This is the easiest and most important thing to look for.


It’s pretty easy to see if a rower is overcompressing at the catch and their shins are going past vertical (see the photo below). This is important to check because knee pain can start to creep in if they are overcompressing.



image of a rower overcompressing, with the shins past perpendicular

Overcompression at the catch can strain the knees and reduce power on the drive


A cue that I’ve found helpful here is to tell them to start the drive as soon as they feel their heels lift up.


This typically prevents athletes from lifting too much, overcompressing, and then delaying the push down into the drive.



Try this hack to stop overcompression


A physical cue that helps stop rowers from coming up too far is to wrap a band around the monorail right where their shins come to vertical.


Let them know that when they hit the band they need to start their drive.  It will be rough at first, but over time your athletes will learn where the bad is, so the drive back will be more natural.


[Eds. note: Another way to do this is to use a piece of electrical tape on the top of the monorail. Put it in the same place as you would the band, just ahead of the front seat roller when your athlete is at shins vertical. Be sure to use only electrical tape and not duct tape, for example, which is hard to remove and leaves a sticky residue.]


2. Make sure the shoulders are in front of the knees


The next big thing to check is that your athlete’s shoulders are in front of their hips at the catch. If your rowers start their drive by leaning back first before they push with their legs, this can cause back pain over time. 


A tactile cue that works well here is to use your hand to press down on their shoulders when they start the drive. This resistance from your hand will teach them to be patient before they open their hips. 


Legs-only rowing would also help those athletes that lean back too soon. 


Help your athletes start every stroke the best and safest way possible! Let’s get rowing!



Want MORE COACHING TIPS? Check out this video, then subscribe to our YouTUbe channel!





Did you try these tips, either for yourself or with your students if you’re a fitness professional? Let us know in the comments how it went!



Want help with your rowing stroke? Join our free Facebook group RowStrong


Want free workouts? Grab our GetFlywheelFit workout set


For Further Reading:



The Best Warmup to Do Before a Rowing Workout


How do you typically warm up before your rowing workout? Do you even warm up at all? And if you’re a coach or instructor, do you take a few minutes to actively plan and think about how the warmup is going to support the rest of the workout? It’s time well spent, to be sure, and in this post we’re diving in on why the rowing workout warmup is important, whether you’re a fitness professional or you row on your own. And we’ll give you a rowing workout warmup you can row along with, so no more excuses!


Why it’s Important to Do a Rowing Workout Warmup


Hey, life’s busy.  Sometimes you can barely find the time to get to the gym or get on your home rowing machine. Who’s got time to do a proper warmup?


You do!


Or at least you should if you want to make the most of it. And by “most of it” we mean your workout, not the warmup.


If you’re like most people, left to your own devices you’ll spend less than 5 minutes just randomly sliding back and forth on the monorail, paying more attention to the TV or your friend on the machine next to you.


We get it, we’ve all done it. Especially when we’re in a hurry or coming into the workout feeling frazzled and still “buzzing” from the rest of our day.


And news flash, it can happen to trainers, too!  We sometimes get a little lazy about being intentional with what is actually a very important part of the workout.


Good workout start with great warmups. So be intentional with those few minutes!

4 Tips For The Best Rowing Workout Warmup

1. Use the warmup to pattern quality movement in the main workout


 The primary purpose of the warmup is to bring up the body temperature and prepare the heart, joints and muscles for the work ahead. It’s also the time to shake off the rest of the day and bring your head into the room (Whether you’re the instructor or the student!).


If you’re going to be doing strength moves off the machine it’s important to take time during the warmup to get the muscles and joints ready for that work as well.


Stretching and some light dynamic work or bodyweight moves should be targeted to whatever muscle groups are going to be center stage in the main workout. 


2. Use the time to zero in on rowing technique and establish any technique themes for the workout


The warmup is prime time for practicing rowing technique. One of the best ways is to do the pick drill and use that to imprint good technique.  We also love feet-out rowing as a way to uncover and address any technique errors.


COACHES: Pick one or two key things you’re going to focus on in the warmup and then refer back to them in the workout. Hip swing, knees down, ratio, proper order of operations, etc. 


Whatever it is, start to work the language and the technique elements into the warmup and then reference them the same way during the workout so they register with your students.


REMEMBER: Don’t give your rowing clients too many things to focus on in one session, they’ll just get overwhelmed




3. The shorter the workout, the longer the warmup


We all wish we could get warmed up in just 5 minutes! But particularly if you’re 40+, you likely need a little more time than that.


Even 10 minutes can be enough to prep for a longer workout, but if the workout is short you want to be sure you don’t skip the warmup! 


Short, high-intensity workouts require you to already have a good sweat rolling so that when the timer starts you’re ready to HIT IT! You want to make the most of that 15- 20-minute workout so get to the point where you’re working hard right out of the gate.


COACHES: When you’re warming up for a higher-intensity workout be sure to include higher-intensity bouts in the warmup as well. Don’t wait until the main workout to take those first hard strokes.


One good way to approach it is to do a hard 10 strokes (known in rowing as a Power 10) at the top of every minute of the warmup. 


4. How to know if you’ve done a good warmup


There’s a Goldilocks zone where you’ll know if you’ve done a good warmup:


You should be starting to sweat “around the edges” and feel like you’ve done something. Definitely feel ready to take off any sweatshirts or outer layers you started with.


But if you’re breathing hard and need to take a minute to rest before you can get off the machine, you’ve probably gone a little too hard.


4 Best Rowing Workout Warmups

Even if the main workout doesn’t involve rowing, the erg and its total-body, non-impact exercise is a fantastic place to prepare for any other kind of effort.


PS: Warmups also make fabulous beginner rowing workouts: If you’re just starting out with rowing, pick a warmup you like, do a round of it, and check in with how you’re feeling. Then do a second or even a third time through if you’re feeling up for it!


Here are three warmups we love. They’ll get you ready for your workout, and you’ll have fun doing them, too!


Whichever workout you pick, do a few minutes of easy rowing first.


If rowing at full slide (coming all the way to the catch position) doesn’t feel good at the very beginning, this is your chance to warm up into it. Start out rowing at half- or three-quarters slide first!


Want some technique refreshers and drills to work on while you warm up? Our YouTube channel and our RowReady training program are chock-full of drills and other helpful rowing hints.

On to the workouts!

From our RowReady workout program

4 minutes at a stroke rate of 22 strokes per minute

3 minutes at 24 spm

2 minutes at 26 spm

1 minute at 28 spm


From our book 101 Best Rowing Workouts

For each round, row 10 strokes at the prescribed stroke rate, then 20 strokes at whatever rate feels comfortable for a warmup. On the early rounds, that rate may actually be higher than what you’re doing on the 10 “on” strokes.


Round 1: 10 strokes at 20 spm

Round 2: 10 strokes at 20 spm

Round 3: 10 strokes at 22 spm

Round 4: 10 strokes at 22 spm

Round 5: 10 strokes at 24 spm


An on-water rowing classic

Total time: 15 mins (approx.)

1 stroke hard, one easy

2 strokes hard, two easy

And so on up to 10 strokes hard, 10 easy


No prescribed stroke rates here, just do what feels like a good effort on the hard strokes and catch your breath on the easy strokes.


BONUS: Row Along With This Workout Warmup

Ready to row in less than 10 minutes! Do the all-important pick drill plus a stroke rate pyramid with UCanRow2 / Concept2 Master Instructor (and Olympian) Heather Alschuler!



Try these warmups and let us know in the comments which one was your favorite!


Want to add on a full-on workout after the warmup?

These should do the trick:


UCanRow2 Basic Workouts

Meter Monster & Flywheel Frenzy training programs

Monster Meter endurance rowing workouts





Play This Game for Better Rowing Technique

An image of the dart game on the Concept2 monitor


Rowing used to be a well-kept secret. Those of us who knew that the rowing machine is the perfect solution for total-body, non-impact fitness for people of all ages, sizes and fitness levels were few and far between.


Not any more!


Rowing has been called the new spinning, and you now see rowing gyms popping up all over, home machines are backordered and there are tons of options for doing workouts online.


Our free RowStrong group on Facebook has also grown by leaps and bounds!


For a long time, new rowers often do great just getting on the machine and starting to row.


Eventually though, the question inevitably comes:


AM I doing this right?


It’s actually a great question to ask, because nailing your technique out of the gate will go a long way towards making rowing easier, more fun and more effective all at the same time.


There are tons of drills and mantras that you can use yourself, or with your students or clients,  that will help them dial in their rowing.


But sometimes it’s fun to make a game out of it, amiright?




Most people start out with rowing the same way: They get on the machine and off they go. That alone is often enough to sustain them for a while.


Eventually, though, if they row on a Concept2 rowing machine, they discover the games on the monitor (Ahem. You did know there are games on there, right?).


The one everyone gets stuck on is the fish game.


Super fun, you get to swim through the ocean, going faster and slower to swim up and down and catch all the yummy small fry, while trying to avoid becoming the big fishes’ dinner yourself.


The game is intended to teach rowers to control their intensity.


Problem is, in our experience, most rowers aren’t skilled enough at making those quick adjustments so they end up reinforcing bad technique habits instead.


If you watch people play the game, you’ll often see them making some pretty erratic moves to stay alive. The exact opposite of the consistent, fluid strokes we want to see on the machine.


Don’t get me wrong, I love a good game of fish occasionally, and it can be a great motivator to help you get on the machine.
But we like it better as a reward after a workout.


What to do then?


There actually IS a game – also super fun – that will help you practice your technique.




This one is all about tempo and consistency. You get five strokes to start and set your pace, then 300 to try to hold what you were doing.
The closer you are to the target stroke rate and split you set on the warmup, the more points you’ll get.


Go faster than your pace strokes and you’ll have a flat line above the target. Go slower and your line will run underneath. No points. 🙁


As long as you put a little bit of oomph into it, the game makes for a great workout warmup, or it would also be a fun cooldown.


Side note for fitness professionals and studio owners: This is a fun group warmup too!




Here’s how to set it up on either a Concept2 PM4 or PM5 monitor:

PM5: From the Main Menu select More Options > Games > Darts

PM4: From the Main Menu, select Games > Darts


The total possible score is 15,000 points. We’ve seen it done!!


Give it a go and report back in the comments!



Go Deeper!


5-Step Process to Manage Overwhelm


“Overwhelm kills more dreams than fear or doubt ever will.”

Jasmine Star


Tell me if this sounds familiar:


You’re going along just fine, maybe sleeping, maybe it’s 4 am. All of a sudden the stress and anxiety fog rolls in and it’s like you’ve suddenly lost all clarity. Everything you have to do feels like it has the same weight, and it’s crushing you.


You have zero sense of direction, no idea where to turn next, and out of the blue, you wake up crawling through quicksand with the weight of the world cinched down on your back. Even the simple act of breathing feels hard.


Welcome back, overwhelm (that is if it ever left).


We joke about it a lot, but actually overwhelm can have serious consequences for your health. The stress and anxiety it produces can take a true toll on your body: Elevated heart attack risk, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, just to name a few.


Even without those, it just sucks. And it’s exhausting.


Here’s the thing: If you’re feeling overwhelmed it means you’ve taken your focus off the present moment. You’re either looking ahead or behind – or comparing your journey to someone else’s. None of that will move the meter for your life and business. Stop doing that, friend!



managing overwhelm is a whole lot Easier said than done though, amiright?


I don’t have any foolproof advice to offer you about how to avoid ever falling into overwhelm, stress and anxiety. Sometimes it’s a daily occurrence if I’m honest.


What I have developed over the years, though, is a pretty good process to help me calm overwhelm.


Take a look:


5-Step Process to Manage Overwhelm


1. Make a “Dump List” – Often getting everything out of your head will help lift that feeling of random pieces of paper flying around in your mind. I keep a pad by my desk at all times. That’s where I park the to-dos that pop into my head. When overwhelm strikes, just write it down however it comes out. You’ll organize it later.


2. Move – Can’t even figure out what all you have to do? Take a walk, do a workout, pace the room. Movement almost always brings clarity, and a higher-intensity workout can be like releasing the steam from a pressure cooker. (Could be switched with 1 if needed)


3. Chunk It Up – When I worked in public relations, I would organize my tasks according to which client needed what, and within that by priority. That way I could make sure that everyone got attention every week. It works like a charm for other applications, too!


4. Then Break It Down – Divide the tasks into small enough bites that they feel easy. It doesn’t matter how small, the point is to get them to feel easy. It could literally be, “fold 5 shirts,” or “row for 5 minutes.” Success breeds success. Once you’ve taken one step, you’re almost guaranteed to do more.

Anne Lamott’s book Bird By Bird is my bible here. It’s one of my very favorite books on writing, but also a great primer for life. Also, she’s hilarious and a great writer herself. You can’t miss this one.


5. Take Messy Action – The secret sauce here is to start. Somewhere, it doesn’t matter where. Just take forward action and don’t let perfectionism get in the way. There is no “perfect” place to start. So just GO.


In writing, Anne Lamott calls this the sh$tty first draft. Like writing a draft that you know out of the gate won’t be the final version.


Forget about getting it “just right,” that’s probably what’s holding you up. Just do something. You can always go back and re-write, re-film, rework. Didn’t like the workout you gave your class today? Change it for next time! Bad angle on the workout video? Replace it with a better version.



One other thing you MUST do to manage overwhelm:


We’ll call this a Bonus Step in the process:




For all that is good and holy, please put your phone down the minute you notice yourself doing that.


Trolling social media “looking for inspiration,” can quickly become a search for proof that you’re worse than everyone else and have nothing new to share. Put your phone on airplane mode, then shove it in a drawer. Give yourself time to share your goodness with the world.


Keepin’ it real, I don’t always succeed at doing this. But when I do, it works like a charm. Give it a try the next time you’re struggling, and let me know how it goes in the comments!




Your 2K Rowing Strategy

A rowing machine monitor set for a 2000 meter race


Somewhere along the way in pretty much every rower’s career, the time comes to take on that most iconic of racing distances, the 2000-meter row.


In fact, competitive on-water rowers often live or die by their ability to cover that distance as quickly as possible on the rowing machine.  And for high-school rowers, a good 2K erg time can mean the difference between a free ride to college and going it alone.


If you’ve ever done one, you know that the 2K has the potential to be way more punishing than its short distance would suggest. Those 7, 8, or 10+ minutes can feel more like three or four times that.


That’s especially true if you go out too hard in the beginning and have to try to make it across the finish line on fumes.  That’s known as flying and dying, and it’s as miserable as it sounds.


We’re here to help you keep that from happening!


Find your PERFECT 2K Rowing Strategy


The nice thing about a 2K race is it’s short (even though it may not feel like it at the time). It won’t take you 3-4 hours to complete like a marathon would and you don’t have to spend months training for it, unless you want to.


If you’re fortunate enough to have some time to work up to doing the piece though, it’s super helpful to get a sense beforehand of what a good target time might be for you. And what mental and physical tricks you’ll want to keep you going.


The Concept2 pace calculator is a great starting point. Enter your 500m time and it will do the math to tell you how fast you could do 2000 meters at that same pace. If you want to know what’s possible in your age group check Concept2’s list of world and American records.


Even more fun and useful, though, is to do some practice rows in advance and see what YOU can do.



Find Your 2K Race Goal


Master Instructor Heather Alschuler uses these workouts to predict a possible 2K time:


8 rounds of 500m with equal rest


4 rounds of 1000m with equal rest


This means that on the first workout you would row 8, 500-meter pieces and then row easy for another 500 meters. On the second workout, you would do the same, but with 4 rounds of 1000 meters hard and easy.


Of course, if you’re just getting started with rowing you can and should reduce the number of rounds if this feels like too much.


But if your goal is to row 2000 meters hard, you’ll want to work up to being able to do either of the workouts as written, AT WHATEVER PACING WORKS FOR YOU.


Either way. the idea here is to get faster as you go, and it shouldn’t feel easy to do so.


Part of getting good at rowing a 2K is getting good at being uncomfortable. That gets easier with time and practice, but it never gets straight-up easy, so don’t make that your goal.



Your 2K Race Plan

Now. About your race-day plan:


The best race plans are SIMPLE.


As Phil Marshall, senior women’s rowing coach for Rowing Canada says, “A complicated plan will bring a complicated result.”


When you’re depriving yourself of oxygen, he notes, you have to keep things simple.


Here’s one plan that Master Instructor Cassi Niemann likes, including a 10- 12-minute warmup that should be enough to get you ready to go hard out of the gate, without wasting too much energy.


Pre-2K Warmup

4 minutes 22-24 strokes per minute


3 minutes at 24-26


2 minutes at 26-28


1 minute at 28-30


Then do a few racing starts to get that dialed in, but also practice settling down into your regular racing pace quickly. That’s one of the keys to preventing the fly and die.


Your 2K Race Plan


If you’ve had the chance to practice you should have a good sense for what’s realistic. And you’ll probably also know what works for you and what doesn’t in terms of keeping the flywheel moving and your head in the game.


First 500: If you can get a good start, row a few power strokes and then settle into your first 500 you’re off on the right foot. Remember you don’t want this to be the fastest part of your race. It’s all about controlling your adrenaline and staying in the moment.


Second 500: Crank it up a bit more, try to shave a bit of time off your split, and maybe aim to do 10 hard strokes at 1000 meters to pick up the flywheel and shake things up.


Third 500: This is the hardest part of the race, you’ll want to have a good plan for getting through this section. It may be as simple as counting strokes (“10 strokes focusing on the legs,” “10 focusing on the swing,”), or you may want to test alternating different stroke rates every 30 seconds.

This might also be where it helps to remember why or who you’re doing this for. Do whatever it takes to get you through, just remember to keep it SIMPLE.


Fourth 500: You’re almost there!! Here it’s really all about gutting it out and running out the monitor. Hopefully you’ve saved enough to put the hammer down and empty the tank in the last 250 to 100 meters.

Resist the temptation to row short strokes in this section. You’ll get done faster if you save that for the very very end.


Most important, row your own race. Never mind what you’ve seen or heard elsewhere, this is about you and your monitor.


Music, yay or nay?

Whether to listen to music for your 2K is a very individual decision, as is what kind of music, of course. So is whether that music should have lyrics, which can sometimes be distracting.


If you ask us, good tunes are an essential part of any good 2K rowing strategy.  We wouldn’t be caught dead without them!


Here are some of our favorite high-energy instrumentals. Your perfect PR tune might be here!


One note: We HIGHLY recommend testing your playlist in advance, too. There’s nothing worse than a song you love rocking out to in your kitchen that ends up going right up your spine when you’re gasping for air on the erg.




When you’re done


Don’t forget the cooldown!! You’ll probably need a minute to recover/gasp for breath when you’re done, but then it’s important to take at least a few minutes to help your heart rate ease back to a range where you can talk normally.


Give yourself a HUGE pat on the back for a job well done, too!!


For further reading:


3 Tips for Better Rowing Technique


There’s nothing we love more than getting a juicy question in our social media DMs or blog comments. Like this one:


“I’ve been rowing for a while and I know I’ve developed some bad habits that I need to shake. Help!”


Does that one resonate with you?


If it does and you’re feeling a little “meh” about your rowing stroke, know that you’re in good company!


We all feel this way sometimes, or even a lot of the time.


Congratulations, you’re a rower!


Just like in golf, get a bunch of rowers around a table and, most likely even before the first pint of beer is empty, the conversation will make its way to technique.


From novice to Olympian, it’s “I’m not getting my hands away fast enough at the finish,” “I want to connect better at the catch,” etc. etc. [Actual statements heard from the mouths of super-seasoned veterans.]




That’s awesome, you may be saying, but what do I actually DO??


To answer the question of how to fix a broken rowing stroke we called in an expert: UCanRow2 / Concept2 Master Instructor Cassi Niemann, a 20-year rowing and coaching veteran, trainer of rowing instructors and creator of our RowReady course.


Whether it’s your stroke you’re working on or your students’, the right approach is to go back to the basics.


Read More

Rowing for Weight Loss

Updated Nov. 15, 2020


What’s your biggest goal related to rowing? If you’re like most people, you’d love to use the machine to drop some weight. “Rowing for weight loss” and similar terms are perennial favorite Google searches.


New year, new month or just new week, it’s the number one goal that people have when it comes to rowing and their health.


And with good reason!


The rowing machine is a GREAT tool for weight loss, one of the best around.


It’s low-impact and at the same time, it targets virtually every muscle on every stroke, allowing you to burn as much as 800 calories per hour or more.


Super efficient, super effective and safe, especially when you do it with a certified instructor.


Rowing has helped countless people in our UCanRow2 community lose weight and keep it off. Me included!


what’s the best way to lose weight on the rowing machine?


We often hear from people who have set BIG meter targets rowed in a short period of time as their strategy for losing weight.


That’s great if it works for you, but it may not be what works well over time, and there are definitely some important factors to consider in implementing such a strategy.


A decade ago, my approach to rowing and weight loss was to row as many meters as I could, as many days of the week as I could.


If I’m completely honest, hours and hours of straight cardio was probably never the right thing. It just worked in the beginning because I was moving consistently.


Here’s the deal: Particularly when you’re rowing for weight loss purposes, doing hours and hours of steady-state training can be counterproductive.


Whaaaat? You mean my 20k-a-day-every-day strategy isn’t a winner?


Quite possibly not, especially over the long haul.



Here’s the problem with that kind of “chronic cardio”:


  • It doesn’t help build significant strength as much as resistance training does



  • Even though rowing is a great calorie burner, it’s still easy to eat back those calories – and more – if you’re not careful. Especially since rowing can make you really hungry. The laws of thermodynamics haven’t changed, friends. To lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit.



  • Rowing is a repetitive motion as well as being a great total-body non-impact activity. Too much of a good thing is still too much. I dealt with a lot of tennis elbow when I was rowing 2+ hours a day back when I initially lost my weight. All these years later, it still comes back on occasion when I go too hard.



  • Particularly as we age, too much exercise can be perceived by the body as a stressor. The body doesn’t distinguish between “good stress” and “bad stress.” If you’re menopausal or dealing with other issues where stress management is critical, you really want to pay attention to this.



So if your “Just Row” workout won’t get you there, what will?



  • SOME steady-state, moderate-intensity long rows yes, one or two workouts a week.


  • Higher-intensity workouts. The kind that get you really breathless and that you can’t do for very long. Think a few minutes of rowing hard followed either by an easy-rowing (paddle) break or getting off the machine and doing other exercises or stretches.


  • Lifting Heavy Things: Your bodyweight is a great place to start for this, but also adding additional weight with dumbbells, kettlebells, or machines if you have them. You don’t have to get fancy though. Soup cans or milk jugs filled with water or sand make good weights, too. 


  • A good amount of NEAT aka non-exercise activity thermogenesis. That’s just plain no-sweat movement to you and me. Walking, fidgeting, super easy peddling on a BikeErg or other stationary bicycle.


Even very light rowing might fall into this category as long as you’re not getting breathless. That 10k-steps-a-day goal you have? It fits here. So does stretching and restorative yoga.


The more the better on this one.


  • Don’t forget the rest! Resist the temptation to work out 7 days a week. Your body needs rest and recovery, too. That’s when your muscles rebuild from the strain you intentionally put them under during your workouts.

Keep this mantra in mind: “You progress in the rest.”



Plan on at least 1-2 days of rest per week and as many as 3 depending on how hard you’re going in your workouts.



How can you tell if you need more rest? If you’re feeling tired all the time, if your results in the gym go down rather than up, if your sleep quality declines, if your previously easy workouts consistently feel hard, if you’re super sore all the time. More info on overtraining here.


  • Get Your Zzzzs: You’ve heard a million times that sleep is essential for so many of our body’s functions and processes to work their best. It’s just as true for weight loss.


If you’re not getting adequate sleep losing weight will be SO much harder. So make bedtime and sleep hygiene a priority! Want more help with this? Check out this interview we did with a sleep expert.



Sample Rowing Workouts for Weight Loss



Ok! So what workouts can you do to get started down the road to a lighter you?


[As always, check with your doctor before beginning any rowing program and be sure that you are cleared to do this exercise.]


if you’re a beginner at rowing


If you’re brand new to rowing, start by rowing just for 3-5 minutes at a time. Then get up, stretch, grab a drink, see how you feel.


Work your way up to doing 3 rounds of 5-6 minutes, maybe trying a few harder strokes along the way.


Once that feels comfortable, and you can row for 20-30 minutes without stopping, you are ready to move on to more.


For that long workout we mentioned above, set a goal of getting to where you can row 30 minutes to an hour at a moderate pace. Pop in your headphones and your favorite tunes or a movie. Row steadily at a pace where you could talk but don’t want a long conversation.


If you’d like to break that workout up to keep it interesting, try working up to doing 3 rounds of 10 minutes of rowing with 5 to 10 minutes of easy rowing recovery time in between.


Mix up your workouts!


Variety is the spice of life and the antidote to boredom. Do, however, try to do the same type of workout on the same day each week.


Having a framework like that has been shown to support fitness.


Once you’re feeling more comfortable with your rowing and are ready to progress, mix in some interval training (the undefined rest feature on the Concept2 rowing machine makes this easy).


For starters try:


workout 1


1-3 rounds of 5-10 minutes of rowing at 22-24 strokes per minute

10 push-ups

10 high knees

10 sit-ups


WORkout 2

Terrific Tens (From our book 101 Best Rowing Workouts)


1-5 Rounds


Row 2 mins.
10 crunches
10 squats (with a TRX or other support if needed)
10 push-ups (off a wall or box if needed)


If you have weight equipment available try:


workout 3


1-3 Rounds


Row 1000 meters

10 dumbbell presses

10 bicep curls

10 dumbbell lateral raises

10 bodyweight or weighted squats


Want more help with this?


  • RowReady on Demand is our online course for beginners or anyone who wants a comprehensive, done-for-you way to master the rowing machine.



What questions do you have on this topic? Drop them in the comments, we’d love to help!