People have a love or hate relationship with the rowing machine. While I’m more on the love side, there are some that I know that really do hate the rowing machine. I think it has a lot to do with people not really knowing how to utilize the rowing machine to its full potential. Let’s talk rowing machine form and how to learn to love the rowing machine.
First, the rowing machine is amazing because it is so versatile. Often I will put it in my client’s programs both for warm up and as part of their regular workout.
It’s great for runners because it will work the entire body while putting those lungs under distress and building that lung capacity.
Now, I’ll be honest, sometimes in the gym I see some folks on the rowing machine and I cringe a little bit because they’re working entirely too hard. However, when they’re not my clients, I’m not sure about going up and saying anything to them because I obviously don’t want to embarrass them, nor do I want them to think I’m being rude.
So let’s chat a bit about form, and then at the end, you’ll have the option to download a week of free workouts that incorporate the rower into them.
Rowing Machine Form Do – Have a Seat
Alrighty, first, let’s make sure that we’re on the same page. A rowing machine is one that simulates a person rowing a boat. (See below Amazon ad)
They used to be rare in gyms, but gyms are really picking up on the fact that they are not only great workouts, but people love them as well.
Alright, so spot your rower in the gym and march yourself right up to it and sit down on the seat. Be aware that the little seat moves and it moves fast so be sure that you don’t miss the seat and make sure you sit square on the seat.
You’ll see what I’m talking about when you sit down. That seat is crazy fast and slick! But don’t stress, you got this. Have a sit then put your feet in the foot straps.
At the top of the foot holds, you will holes with numbers beside them. The ball of your foot should be right across the padded area on the foot hold. You can adjust the numbers so that your foot is in the proper place. This leads me to my next point.
Rowing Machine Form Do – Strap Yourself In
Take hold of the straps as shown in the pics below – don’t judge my nails, I needed to go get them done when I took these pics. Kay? Kay.
Back to the point at hand. Take hold of the strap on the outside of your foot and pull it tight.
The strap should fit nicely around the widest part of your foot while your heel is snug in the heel cups at the bottom of the foot strap. This allows your foot to have the best mobility during the rowing motion.
Feet nice and snuggly in their foot straps? Nice. Let’s move forward.
Rowing Machine Form Do – Use Those Legs
Keeping your core nice and tight, reach forward to grab ahold of the handles and wrap your thumbs around the bar as shown. This gives you better grip and you won’t have to hold on as tight which causes stress to the forearms.
Let’s first practice with just your legs, so you can feel the motion. So just hold onto the handle bar for now.
While holding onto the bar, push down through your legs until your legs are straight. Then release and go back to a bent knee position. Do that several times until you get the feel of what your legs should be doing.
Your legs are where all of your power will come from on the rower and this is super important to remember so that you don’t put a crazy amount of strain on your back. Ready to ads in your arms?
I’m sure you are because right now, your arms are just hanging out there holding onto the bar.
Rowing Machine Form Don’t – Leave Out Your Arms
Here’s our first don’t. Don’t leave out your arms! Your arms are super important and even though 90% of your power comes from your legs on a row, your arms need that other 10% to make sure that we’re working out the full body.
So, as you are pushing through your legs, pull with your arms at the same time to your chest. Relax your shoulders and don’t let them creep up around your ears.
Your hands should come to about nipple level then as you come back forward, reach your arms forward just like you would if you were actually rowing a boat.
Rinse and repeat! Do this for several minutes to really get the feel of the row.
Rowing Machine Form Don’t– 3 Things to Avoid
Don’t #2 – Don’t over extend your back
When you’re in the throws of a good rowing workout, it’s super easy to lean way too far back at the back end of the pull. This will put unnecessary strain on your back and you will eventually start to ache in your lower back.
At the back end of the row, stop around 60 degrees. (Watch video example below to see what I mean.
Don’t #3 – Don’t Pull to Your Face
I see this often, where people will pull all the way up to their face while they’re rowing.
Just don’t do it. It’s super uncomfortable for one, for two, that’s not a row, and second, what happens if your hand slips off of the handle bar? That’s right, you smack yourself in the face and nobody wants to walk out of the gym with a bloody lip or black eye.
Keep it simple, sister. Pull to your chest
Don’t #4 – Don’t Over Arch Your Back
When you’re reaching forward at the end of the row, it’ll be super easy for your back to go into what I call a “cat back”. This is where your back gets super round.
Make sure that as you’re reaching forward, you’re reaching with your arms and your back stays flat and your belly stays nice and tight and buttoned up.
I promise it will be much more comfortable this way, anyway!
To combat the cat back, make sure that you’re hinging at the hips and you’re truly at the bent knee part of the row so that your back will stay flat.
Two More Things to Keep in Mind
- A row is measured in meters and it will pop up on the screen right in front of you. If you don’t see a space on the screen with a capitol M, hit “units” on the pad until you see a space pop up with a capitol M and you’ll be all set.
- Adjust the level on the side as necessary (see below pic). 10 is the hardest and one is the easiest. My suggestion if you’re a beginner rower is to start at 5, then work your way up.
Take a look at the below video from my YouTube Channel. I’m building it out, so right now it’s quite empty, but I will be posting more and more of these.
You’ll see in this video that I am flowing very steadily through a row and that the motion is very fluid.
If you’re in a hurry, a row can be a workout all on its own, or you can incorporate it into circuits and take those circuits to the next level.
Rowing is an amazing way to make sure that you get your full body incorporated into the workout and really get those lungs built up. Like I said before, I use it in cross training workouts for my runners because it really helps to build up that endurance lung capacity.
Below, you will see that when you subscribe to my newsletter (free), I will send you a free week of workouts that have rowing incorporated into them. They’re high calorie burning workouts that can be done in about 20 minutes.
Now, I know that a lot of times whenever I see somebody asking for my e-mail, I’m always skeptical that they are going to spam me. The answer is NO. I will never spam you. I send you a few e-mails when you first subscribe that have gifts, yes gifts, they are totally free, then I send a motivational newsletter once a week on Monday mornings!
One last piece of advice in regards to the rower, relax. Really let your body take over and flow. When you’re trying too hard, your body tends to have “choppy” motions. Relax and let your body flow with the motion. Because once your body realizes what you’re doing, it will naturally flow with a proper row motion.
Enjoy! *Be Sure to Pin for Later!