Updated Aug. 18, 2020
The rowing machine is finally getting its due. Hallelujah! Where once it was the Rodney Dangerfield of the fitness world, sitting sad and lonely in a corner of the gym, the machine that on-water rowers have used for decades has become the IT home and gym fitness machine.
Today, with the arrival of indoor rowing in studios, gyms, CrossFit boxes and homes around the world, people are starting to pay a whole lot more attention to this wonder of a total-body fitness machine.
That growth is a great thing, but it also means that there’s a lot of bad rowing technique out there.
At UCanRow2 we’re on a mission to stop bad rowing, in part by helping to demistify it.
Yes, you can absolutely become a complete rowing nerd and analyze every little bit of your stroke. Rowers and coaches alike at facilities like the Craftsbury Outdoor Center love to do that. Indeed, it’s a great part of the sport: the relentless pursuit of the perfect stroke.
how to simplify the rowing stroke
Too often, people make indoor rowing sound much harder than it has to be, both in terms of the effort required to get good results and the technique needed to get there. Sure, there are plenty of finer points to rowing technique that can make it challenging. Golf is the same way. But both are fun, even if you don’t have everything mastered.
Yes, you can use the erg as your personal torture device (ask anyone who’s ever rowed 2000 meters for time) but the rowing machine is good for so much more than that.
Whether you want to row hard or just take it easy, the rowing machine is there for you. It will meet you where you are, and then take you as far as you want to go.
Your 6-word rowing technique mantra: Legs-Body-Arms, Arms-Body-Legs
The basic rowing motion is pretty simple, especially when you learn it from someone who’s been trained to teach it to you.
Our Certified Indoor Rowing Instructors preach a mantra of “legs, body, arms – arms, body, legs” as a quick way to remember the flow of the rowing stroke and which body parts move when.
More specifically, from the catch you drive back with the legs, then begin to swing your back towards the rear of the machine, until your torso is roughly at an 11:00 position on a clock. Then and only then (once you feel resistance on the chain) do you start to pull back with the arms.
On the recovery, you first release your arms out, then swing forward to 1:00 with your back, and begin to move your legs, only after the handle is past your knees. We call that “boxing out,” or creating a frame for your knees to pop up into.
the relentless pursuit of perfect rowing technique
You may be concerned that your rowing technique isn’t “perfect.” Congratulations, you’re a rower! The pursuit of the perfect rowing stroke is as elusive and constant as that of the perfect golf swing.
Remember how we said that you will hear rowers all the way from novices up to Olympians discussing the stroke’s finer points and what they’re working on?
That’s your cue to stop worrying about having perfect technique. Work on one technique element at a time and have oodles and oodles of patience.
TRAINER TIP – INSTRUCTORS: The same applies to your indoor rowing students. Give them just one technique thing to work on at a time. Otherwise you risk overwhelming them, and then they won’t come back. First and foremost, rowing class has to be FUN.
Most of us grew up walking, running and biking but NOT rowing. So it makes all the sense in the world that getting the technique down would take practice. No worries! We’re working on ours right along with you.
For a visual breakdown of the stroke and the technique mantra, watch UCanRow2 Master Instructor Cassie Niemann, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel:
Legs, body, arms — arms, body, legs. Stick with that and you will be well on your way to erging like the pros — and having the physique to prove it.
NEED A rowing workout Plan?
It’s one thing to sit down on the machine and start pulling on the handle. It’s another to have a plan that’s been put together by the experts.
The Meter Monster and Flywheel Frenzy workout programs are designed to help you stay consistent with your workouts and give you a plan to follow, whether you row solo at home or the gym, or you teach rowing class.
Got questions about your rowing technique? We have a bunch of training tips you can check out, or post your question below and we’ll get a master instructor to answer it.
further reading AND VIEWING on rowing technique: