Rowing Technique: Perfecting the Stroke

Updated June 21, 2019


 

What rowing technique question do we get most often?  Right up there towards the top at least, it’s gotta be: “Can you just show me what a good rowing stroke looks like?”

 

 You asked for it, we’re happy to provide.  Regardless of your effort level, your stroke should always look smooth.  Legs first, then body, then arms on the drive; Arms, body, legs on the recovery.  That’s your rowing mantra, stroke after stroke after stroke.

 

Watch UCanRow2 founder Terry Smythe, one of the best in the business, as she rows below.  She was a veteran of the US national rowing team and spent 30+ years teaching indoor rowing so she knew her stuff.  Spend 30 seconds watching the rowers at your local gym and you’re likely to see anything BUT this.  Just because people are doing it doesn’t make it right!

 

via GIPHY

 

keys to perfecting your rowing technique

 

Some things to notice in Terry’s rowing stroke: Get the perfect, powerful rowing stroke with these handy tips #rowing #rowingtechnique #indoorrowing #crossfit

  • The torso swings from an 11-o’clock angle at the finish to 1 o’clock at the catch – no more, no less
  • Knees stay down on the recovery until the handle has passed them
  • The hands never stop moving, BUT (see below)
  • There is a slight pause of her torso at the finish while her hands start moving away from her body, back towards the flywheel
  • The handle moves pretty much straight back and forth, in just a slight ellipsis (think of your fingertips running across the top of the table on the drive, and your knuckles scraping the bottom of the table on the recovery)
  • The shins come to vertical at the catch – no more, no less
  • There is a 1 X 2 ratio between the drive and recovery (Say “Woof!” on the drive, “Meow!” on the recovery)
  • Toes maintain contact with the foot stretcher throughout the stroke
  • The damper is set at 3 (Not 10!)

 

HOW TO get better at indoor rowing

 

If your rowing technique doesn’t look like this don’t worry!  Rowing is a lot like golf, the relentless pursuit of the perfect stroke.  Everybody’s always working to improve some element of it or another.  And we do mean EVERYBODY.  It’s just part of the deal.  

 

Walk into the dining hall at Craftsbury Sculling Center (our favorite place to learn sculling).  You’ll hear everyone from newbie rowers on up to Olympic medalists chatting about the finer points of their strokes and how they’d like to improve them (“I’m not getting my hands away fast enough,” “I’m not pivoting enough at the hips.”)

 

So, if you’re stroke’s not where you want it, you’re in good company.  Start where you are, and keep working at it.  Get some help from a certified rowing instructor if you have one in your area.  If not, contact us, we can help you over email or Skype.

 

Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your stroke to Terry’s or anybody else’s.  We don’t start off knowing how to row, nor do we usually learn how to row at a young age the way we learn to ride a bike.  Good rowing technique comes in time though, and the results are well worth the effort!

 

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Got a question about this?  Or just want to rant about the crazy technique you’re seeing at the gym (Handle pulled up over the head anybody?)?  We hear ya!  Rant away below in the comments.

Finish, please!

Today’s post comes courtesy of Certified Rowing Instructor Leeny Hoffman.  You can find her at CrossFit St. Louis, teaching rowing class M, W, F at 8:30 a.m., and blogging regularly about nutrition and rowing on the CrossFit St. Louis blog.  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
ergrowing.com:   http://www.ergrowing.com/strapless-erging-will-fix-excessive-layback/.

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!