How to use a Rowing Machine

If you enjoy a good all round body workout, you will love rowing. Using a rowing machine provides an easy and enjoyable cardiovascular and strength building exercise. The fairly simple low impact rowing motion works most of your body’s muscle groups and can challenge any fitness level. When the rowing motion is properly applied both arm and leg muscles are exercised in a balanced fashion. However, as with any exercise, improper technique can cause injury or discomfort and as such the right way is the best way. First off, be sure to warm up adequately. There are a variety of good stretching exercises that will ensure your body is prepared for the increased activity. Never go straight to the exercise.

Before we begin on how to make the best use of your rowing machine, it is important to ensure your machine is working properly and all instructions were followed when assembling. Though most machines are durable and can handle wear and tear poor assembly could get you hurt. The proper rowing technique has four phases; The Catch, The Drive, The Finish and The Recovery.

The Catch

rowing_1The Catch is your typical starting position when using a rowing machine. To begin you should take a seat, get our feet strapped in and grab the handles with an overhand grip. Then extend your arms towards the flywheel keeping your wrists flat (avoid injury). Slide on the seat till your shins are vertically positioned and lean slightly forward at the hips.

Beginning the Drive

rowing_2The Drive position is the first part of the rowing motion. Begin by extending your legs and pushing off (backwards) against the footpads. Maintain balance as you do this with arms straight and back firm as your transfer power to the handles. If you have trouble balancing as you push back it is likely the resistance is too high.

Midway Drive

rowing_3In the Finish position gradually bend your arms and lean back slightly. Pull the handle towards your abdomen and fully extend your legs while leaning back slightly at the hips.

The Recovery

rowing_4The Recovery is where you return to your original starting position. Extend your arms by straightening the elbows and gradually return the handle towards the flywheel. Lean forward and gradually bend your knees as you slide to the start position.

Common Mistakes when using the Rowing Machine

When using the rower, try to ensure each phase is completed as above. Mistakes in these phases can cause difficulty in completing the exercise or even excessive stress and injury. Mistakes include:
• Leaning too far backwards in the Finish position
• Leaning too far forward in the Catch position
• Jerking the handle backwards with the arms
• Starting the drive using the lower back instead of the legs

It is advisable when first learning how to use the rowing machine to exercise for no more than ten minutes. As you begin to find rhythm (faster and more natural motion) gradually increase the time. If exercising in a gym always begin with a trainer. If training at home, go through a video or article to ensure you get it right.

In addition to that always make sure you work out with formfitting clothing, otherwise you risk damaging your clothes. It is also good practice to begin with reasonable resistance. Experienced rowers may enjoy high resistance but as a beginner a lower resistance will ensure you need to get the motions correct before you can advance to higher levels. Some machines come with monitors for your stroke, beginners should try keep their strokes per minute in the 20’s range.

Once you have gained experience you may want to focus on distance and strokes per minute, not time. A good benchmark for 2000m is nine to ten minutes. Start the motion through your legs and only use arms when your knees are almost straight. Begin split activity within your workout. Such as observing how long it takes to complete the first 500m and try lowering this daily.