Improve Your Rowing Stroke
FitMe Wellness’ resident rowing expert, Personal Trainer Tosha Pastorek, has some thoughts regarding the most common mistakes she sees people make while using the rowing machine.
Before we get into the mistakes, let’s cover the basics of the rowing stroke. The stroke consists of the catch, drive, finish, and recovery. Rowing machine manufacturer Concept II breaks down the anatomy of the stroke in these terms:
- Arms are straight; head is neutral; shoulders are level and not hunched.
- Upper body is leaning forward from the hips with the shoulders in front of the hips.
- Shins are vertical, or as close to vertical as is comfortable for you. Shins should not move beyond perpendicular.
- Heels may lift as needed.
Common mistake: Tosha often sees members place their feet too far up in the foot straps. When you tie in, the footboard should be across the forefront of the foot near the toes.
- Start the drive by pressing with your legs, and then swing the back through the vertical position before finally adding the arm pull.
- Hands move in a straight line to and from the flywheel.
- Shoulders remain low and relaxed.
Common mistake: Rounding the back, losing shoulder positioning, and reaching too far forward. Tosha also sees many gym rowers who fall into irregular breathing patterns. She suggests focusing on exhaling on the drive back and inhaling as you come forward.
- Upper body is leaning back slightly, using good support from the core muscles.
- Legs are extended and the handle is held lightly below your ribs.
- Shoulders should be low with wrists and grip relaxed. Wrists should be flat.
Common mistake: Sometimes, rowers lift the handle to chin-level. Tosha also sees members raise their elbows high and to the outside. Instead, the handle should be between the sternum and belly button as you finish the stroke.
- Extend your arms until they straighten before leaning from the hips towards the flywheel.
- Once your hands have cleared your knees, allow your knees to bend and gradually slide the seat forward on the monorail.
- For your next stroke, return to the catch position with shoulders relaxed and shins vertical.
Common mistake: “The knees most commonly break too early,” Tosha notes. “Knees should not bend on the recovery until the handles have cleared the knees.”