Finish, please!

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Today’s post comes courtesy of Certified Rowing Instructor Leeny Hoffman.  For more technique tips be sure to follow the UCanRow2 video channel and our Trainer Tips page. 



I was checking out different Crossfit blogs the other day and came across this picture of a rower (not from our gym) getting after it.  I have no doubt that this chick was giving it her all and I’m sure she was killing this row.  But her finish was killing me so I thought I would address it here.  One of my goals as a rowing instructor is to teach proper technique so people are safe and efficient on the erg.  Unfortunately, no one told this gal that she didn’t need to pull the covers up so high.  Her excessive layback at the finish did not increase her stroke power and only added extra, unnecessary movement.  And we all know that rowing is tiring enough without adding more work that doesn’t pay off in meters.

At the finish of the stroke, position your back angle at about 20 degrees, or in the 11:00 position on a clock.  Handle comes to your sternum in a straight line from where it came out of the flywheel.  For you ladies, that is about the bottom of your sports bra.  Guys, we’re talking just at or below your pecs.  Arms are comfortably down at your sides and slightly out, but not chicken winged.  Toes should be pressed firmly into the footplate at the finish, not straining against the footstraps.

To fix excessive layback at the finish, practice rowing unstrapped.  Check out this article from

Below are some proper finish positions from people in the CrossFit St. Louis rowing class.



"rowing technique"

Jim finishes strong


"good rowing technique" "good rowing finish" "Leeny Hoffman"

Leeny Hoffman showing how it’s done










What’s your biggest technique pet peeve?  Post it to the comments!
Updated Dec. 30, 2022


  1. Mary Claire Walker on February 26, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Biggest technique pet peeve is when people row with incorrect sequencing. There legs coming up before their arms go forward. There are a few ergs in the gym at my college, separate from the ones we use at practice and I always have to retrain myself from going over to whoever is on the erg and fixing their technique when I am working out and I see them, rowing so incorrectly. Nice blog by the way.

    • UCanRow2 on February 26, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks for the comment! We call that shopping cart rowing – probably the biggest fault we see out there, and one that people often seem to have a hard time fixing. We have people do the pause drill to work on getting that connection better. In case it helps, we have a video on our Vimeo channel that you could point people to – just in case they ask. 🙂

  2. Alida on February 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    From a fellow Certified Rowing Instructor that is coaching in a CrossFit gym – thank you! Obviously none of my people do this, but I always have to wonder who started this whenever I see it at CrossFit competitions. My other GIANT pet peeve (usually displayed by the male CFers) is the “giant pull, stop and breathe at the finish, let the flywheel die down, and then make their way back to the catch for the next big pull” technique. I just have to laugh.

    • UCanRow2 on February 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      LOL!! Thanks Alida, we need all the help we can get to stamp out bad rowing, there’s certainly a lot of it out there!

  3. Pete on February 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    I have been rowing in gyms and competing in indoor rowing competitions for 12 years now, and in that time have seen some of the most bizarre erg techniques. I’m a certified C2 instructor and crew class instructor, and do erg coach professionally (not my main profession), so will correct people on occasion.
    What is the technique issue that annoys me most when training in gyms? To be honest it is actually people will poor pace control. Those people who go off at an unsustainable pace, get gradually slower and slower, and eventually give up after about 2 or 3 minutes. Well, those and the people who put almost no power into the handle at all, the erg equivalent of walking on a treadmill. 3min+ splits should never be seen by an able bodied adult.

    • UCanRow2 on February 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Pete. We’re honored to get a visit from The Pete Plan! And glad to hear that you’re putting your certification to use and correcting people where it makes sense. Row on!!

    • Prescott Huidekoper on March 7, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Pete what you describe is indeed all too common among less experienced rowers, who do not properly pace themselves… it is called “FLY & DIE”!

      As a college coach we do a tremendous amount of long, steady state pieces at a low rate of 18-20 SPM…….2 x 30 minutes with 8 minutes of rest between pieces. We record every ERG workout to document progress and hi-light your PB – Personal Best. We don’t do that many 2k pieces….when we do we usually do 2 of them with 30 minutes of rest between … as we are likely to race twice on the water in a given day…..qualifier and final.

  4. Scott on February 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    “Toes should be pressed firmly into the footplate at the finish, not straining against the footstraps”

    Ummmm…oops, I think? When I’m pulling back, I guess the top of my foot is pulling against the straps. I don’t know how to stop this. I mean, I’m going backward, I don’t know how else to keep my feet planted. Am I pushing too hard with my legs? I’m all confused now.

    • UCanRow2 on February 26, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      Hey Scott! That’s called hooking your toes, and the fix for it is to practice rowing with your feet out of the straps. Here’s a video that will walk you through it: Try that and see if it helps!

  5. Art on February 27, 2013 at 11:49 am

    The mistake I have to correct the most is opening the back before pressing the legs. I see this most often to compensate for weak core muscles. HS Wrestlers and Football players as a group tend to do this, to compensate for relatively weaker legs.

    • Prescott Huidekoper on March 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      ART……RIGHT ON!

      In Rowing, we do NOT want to be a Retail Store at Christmas…”EARLY OPENING”!

      • Leeny Hoffmann on April 6, 2013 at 1:15 am

        hahahahah…”early opening”…retail store at Christmas. That’s a good one!!!!

  6. Prescott Huidekoper on March 7, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Excessive layback on the Erg is an issue that is quite common, if you were to do this on the water you would be laughed out of the boat as you would seriously hinder hull speed……. I suggest even less layback at the finish of 10% beyond perpindicular…halfway between 11 and High Noon on the Clock Face. The suggestion of “Feet Out” (with no straps) is a cure for this, if they continue with excessive layback and handle to forehead, they will end up on the floor…. quite a sight!

    The major cause of Back Issues in Rowing are poor technique and/or weak Core Strength. Even experienced High School and College Rowers “Lift” or shift the power in their legs when the Erg and Boat are the heaviest at the Catch, by moving their shoulders in-line with or behind their hips too soon. This shifts the strong power in your legs from your hips to your lower back. Some athletes do this out of necessity as their core is not strong enough. The 10% rule applies at this end of the stroke cycle as well. You should keep your shoulders in front of your hips 10% until your legs are almost flat. Stay committed to your “Basement” as long as you reasonably can, then “Follow Through” to the finish…. with 10 % layback, smooth draw and hands away… to repeat cycle.

    Row On!

    • UCanRow2 on March 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks Coach! We have people row feet out quite a bit, it cures a multitude of technique sins!

  7. Prescott Huidekoper on March 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Leeny Hoffman in above picture shows excellent technique….Legs Flat…Comfortable Straight Back (high in the saddle)….Shoulders relaxed and 10% degrees behind Hips…..Elbows behind body frame with Forearms level…..Flat wrists with comfortable grip……Hands high above belly button and below chest, extended to end of the handle…
    with an energizing smile on her face!

    • UCanRow2 on March 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      Leeny is a rock star, and she had a great teacher, a Concept2 master instructor! 😉

      • Prescott Huidekoper on March 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm

        Sarah…as The Guru of Who Do….keep it going!

  8. P on May 16, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Going back to my days as a college oarsman, we pulled right to or just *** BENEATH our bellybuttons.** VERY low.

    & at the recovery, tons of people bend their knees too early, thus “jumping” the bar over bent not properly straight knees.

    Can we talk ? Too many people are simply too obese to do this properly.

    • UCanRow2 on May 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      “Too many people are simply too obese to do this properly.” Row correctly do you mean? Yes, there definitely are people like that, as well as those who are too pregnant or too muscle-bound in the legs to get full extension at the catch or full retraction at the finish. With some adjustments, however, the machine can be made to work for all of those populations. In fact, we have a product in the field for beta testing now. Stay tuned, we hope to have more news on that soon.

  9. The Blue Hag on October 2, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    “What’s your biggest technique pet peeve? Post it to the comments!”

    When someone sits on the row and instead of pulling the bar and chain straight back, they have it going in circles and all the over the place, some even to much to the point where the chain hits the side of the guide, damaging it. And then they row as fast as they can for a minute and jump up like they just did a great row.

    I mean, if you are going to do something, why not take the time to do it properly?

    • UCanRow2 on October 2, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      We feel your pain! If it’s any consolation, we’re getting more and more people in our trainings who are looking for help with their technique. Let’s hope it’s a trend! The basic elements of the rowing stroke aren’t all that hard, but like anything else you do need somebody who knows what they’re doing to show you how.

      Row on!

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