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Rowing 101
Posted on July 14th, 2019

Rowing 101.

At Thrive, we utilize the Concept2 rowing machine because it provides a great total body cardiovascular workout with very little wear and tear on your joints. With good rowing technique, you can burn a ton of calories each workout and lose those stubborn inches around your waistline. 

There is one downside to rowing though; it is a little tricky to teach good rowing technique!  Unlike the treadmill where you simply turn it on and keep up with the belt, with the rowing machine, YOU provide the speed and the stroke cadence. The harder you push, the more resistance you will feel. 

Each time you get on the rower (for at least the first couple of months), you should start out for a few minutes of practicing proper stoke sequence without pushing real hard. Eventually it gets somewhat automatic, but you don’t want to develop bad habits. Be patient! 

Great rowing technique makes your workouts more efficient, (burn more calories each minute) more effective (better cardio fitness, better core strength, more power) and safer. (less lower back aches/pains)

Here are a few key teaching points:

Foot straps -- you want to align the strap with the ball of your foot, or the top lace in your shoe.

Sit tall w/lats engaged -- As you start your rowing session, remind yourself to sit tall with your butt (tail) sitting behind your torso. No slouching! It is also key to engage your lats (back muscles) by pulling shoulder blades down and together. 
On each rowing stroke, your legs will drive the seat backwards but your core/lats must be engaged to bring the chain/handle back at the same speed.  Good posture will limit the chance of wearing out your lower back!

Stroke Components -- Drive and Recovery.  The DRIVE is what provides the pace or speed of the “boat/machine”  The faster and harder you complete the drive, the “faster” the boat will go. You push (legs) and pull (upper) the handle away from the console during the drive.
The RECOVERY is the relaxed slide back to the front where you started the drive. There should be no rushing the recovery unless you are in an all-out sprint. Typically, the recovery takes twice as long as the drive.

Stroke sequence:   The key is to emphasize the power in your legs.  Your legs should provide about 70% of the drive power, and should be engaged first in each stroke.  Your core/torso will go from 11:00 at the start, to 1pm at the end of each drive. 

Drive:  Legs push first, then Core swing, then arms pull 
Recovery:  Arms release first, then Core swing, then Legs/bend knees

Handle grip:  Most recommend a loose/overhand grip and keeping the shoulders/elbows down and relaxed.  There is no need to pull UP on the handle, it should hit you in the stomach area. In general, you don’t want to waste any energy with your rowing stroke, so keeping your body as relaxed as possible will help.

Cadence (strokes per minute):  Sliding back and forth fast on the rowing machine is not ideal. Remember, what makes the workout tougher/more efficient is the force or speed of your DRIVE, NOT the RECOVERY. Take your time on the recovery portion of the stroke to breathe, save energy, and get ready for the next DRIVE.  For most people - unless they are in a hard sprint - the cadence should be between 22 and 28 strokes per minute. 

If at anytime you feel a need for a rowing technique refresh, please talk to us.  There are also a ton of great information videos online at Youtube. I especially like the “Training Tall” page on Youtube, as it has a lot of great content.


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