How To Use A Rowing Machine

The rowing machine is a trendy fitness gear nowadays among fitness lovers. But does everybody know how to use it properly? People get confused while using it at first. They become puzzled about whether they should lead with the arms or legs, should their shoulders feel sore, or why their feet always slip out of the straps. Well, these struggles are real for many!

According to Melody Davi, instructor operations manager at SLT, the most vital thing to keep in mind is, “It’s about power, not speed.”. He added that if someone feels a sore back after rowing, he cannot do it correctly. You have to focus on using lower-body powerhouse muscles i.e., glutes, quads, hamstrings, to push and then slide back gently.

Before we move further towards more techniques, present here two terms to help you more.

Rowing Terms

1. Strokes per minute: You have to row or stoke 30 times or less than that in 1 minute, suggested by Davi. It is more about power than just tossing back and forth.

2. Split time: You have to row 500 meters or one-third of a mile in 2 minutes or less than that. To raise the pace, push with more power. Do not pump the arms faster.

Mastering The Proper Form Of Rowing Machine

1. Try leg isolations

Hold the oar, keep the arms extended, bend the knees, and put weight on the feet balls. This position is known as ‘the catch.’

Keep the back straight and engage the core. You have to push yourself back with the help of legs only. Rolling through the feet so that they remain flat while extending legs. Keep the arms stretched throughout the time.

2. Add arm isolations

When you are master at pushing with the lower body, then practice the arm isolations. Pull the oar inward, keeping the legs straight. You have to bend the elbows so that you can pull the oar till under your chest.

Tightly hold the oar and use the upper back, not with biceps or shoulders, to pull the oar inward. Engage these same muscles to the bent-over row.

3. Bring it all together.

Keep the back straight, engaged the core, and firmly place the balls of feet in the straps. Then first push back with lower body and then upper back to pull the hands inward. Now you can release arms towards the base by bending the knees to slide back to the start point. Remember the order: legs, arms, arms, legs.

Another important tip from Davi is you should take a single beat to push out and two seconds to go back. That means you have to glide back twice as faster as you return to the starting position.

Common Mistakes Of Rowing and Ways To Fix Them

1. Mistake: Hunching your back

If you are the first time on rowing machine then this the common mistakes you do that. This action generally means that you are putting all the workload on your shoulders.

Solution: Perfect your posture and then start.

In catch, you need to push shoulders back to open the chest and then down so that your neck can be tension free. Keeping your back straight, engage the core, and breathe deeply. While you are in a bad posture, it is harder to take deep breaths.

2. Mistake: Making scooping motion while rowing

If you tend to bend the knees before arms are fully extended while returning, you are making a scooping motion. You have to stop it for avoiding injury.

3. Mistake: Raising the arms too high

Davi said that if you tend to pull the oar too high, up to your chin, it is a bad posture and means that you are using more of your energy than necessary.

Solution: Pull the oar up to below the chest.

Use your muscles of upper-back to pull the oar inward. After ending each row, you need to get your elbows bent for more than 90 degrees, and your forearms are even with the rib cage.

4. Mistake: Letting the knees flop wide

We love to relax, but it is just too much relaxation for an exercise to let your knees drop to the side. It means that your inner thigh muscles are not getting engaged.

Solution: Finish with being in the line of the hips and knees.

For keeping the knees closer, you have to use the inner thighs.

Another Solution: Place the strap over the big toe joint.

Another way of holding the knees from dropping aside is strapping them correctly. Place the adjustable strap over the joint of your big toes. And toes should be able to bend so that you can push the balls of the feet.

5. Mistake: Gripping the oar too tightly

If you grip the oar like a pull-up bar, then chances are there that this grip will give needless stress to your forearms.

Solution: Hold the oar lightly with just three fingers.

It would help if you placed the hands at the outer side, not at the center. Just let the pinky fingers flow and the thumbs to on the top. Do not wrap these two fingers around the oar and hold with only three of the middle fingers.

While pulling back, you have to use the upper back, not the biceps and shoulders. It will lessen the pressure from your hands.


So as now you know the correct form and all the necessary terminologies of rowing, then do not wait any longer! Start your workout right now.

You can do exercises both with and without a rowing machine so that the whole session can be more exciting and less monotonous. The variety of workouts will let you be an enthusiast for so long. Do planks, squats, or lunges for variation in the total-body activity. Full-body exercise will effectively focus on the areas that need to be work on and increase strength in all the muscles.

Before starting any fitness session, whether it is rowing or any other workouts, it is better to consult with your physician at first.

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Last Updated on January 1, 2023