How to Row
This page will eventually have videos to accompany each stage. But for the time being – here is it in text form:
The power in the rowing stroke comes mostly from the legs. Then the back, and finally the arms. Think of rowing as a pushing action – push the machine away with your feet, rather than pulling on the handle.
The positions you get into through each phase of the stroke will help lock this in.
Shins vertical, arms straight, forward tilt
With relaxed arms and shoulders, extend your arms straight out in front of you. Hook your fingers over the handle, thumbs underneath and hold the handle at a neutral height in front, not lifted high, not dropped down.
Tilt your back over your hips into a 1 o’clock lean towards the front of the machine. Shoulders should be past your hips – with those hips tilted forwards, not rolled back. Your core should be braced, and your back should be in a powerful posture – not slumped or rounded, but also not rigid and tense. Look straight ahead – not up, not down.
For the seat, slide far enough forwards that your shins are pointing vertically. Knees should be in line with your armpits. You don’t want them splayed outwards, but also not tightly locked together.
The sequence for the drive is LEGS / BACK / ARMs.
At the start of the drive, maintain the forward tilt over the hips and keep your arms straight. Then get those feet down. Push with whole foot, as though driving your feet into a squat or deadlift. As the power goes into the machine, feel your arms, core and back brace against the power. Don’t pull the arms or swing the back yet!
When you are past half way through the leg drive – that’s when the legs start to fade and this is when you top up the power by swinging over your hips into an 11 o’clock lean.
*** It’s VERY important to keep that forward shift and braced core as you push. This is how power from legs gets into machine without you fighting it with arms and back. ***
Braced core, good posture, handle at sternum height, wrists flat, legs down – don’t lock the knees, look straight ahead.
Timing is important. As you start the backswing, you’ll then start the arm pull. What should happen is that your legs finish, your back finishes and then your arms finish. But all in quick succession – not a jerky 123.
Pull the handle to sternum height. Keep your wrists flat, and get your elbows through your sides. It may help to have a slight outward flare of the elbows as you pull the handle into a finish in order to keep your wrists flat. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, as though crushing a can between them.
***The handle pull is your last chance to get power into the machine. It’s the stage with the least power – but you don’t want to waste it either.***
The recovery sequence is the reverse of the drive. Arms / Back / Legs.
It’s important to get into the right positions here, as the recovery is where you set up for the next stroke – but it’s also important that you let your body recover – so try to relax as you come forwards.
Spring your arms away to lead into the forward tilt
Start the recovery by releasing the handle. When you pull the handle into your chest at the end of the drive, don’t pause. Let the handle go away from your chest again at the same pace your pulled it in at. You’re using the natural spring of your tendons and rib cage to help you with this release of the handle. Get your arms out straight again, but keep them relaxed, especially through the shoulders.
As the handle moves forwards, keeping a good posture, the momentum should flow into your back, causing you to start tilting over your hips again into the forward lean. Shoulders should pass over your hips. Don’t bend your knees yet!
Bend your knees, stay loose
As you get your arms straight and your body tilted into the 1 o’clock lean again, the forwards momentum will continue as your body weight shifts. Then as your hands pass over your knees, all you need to do is bend them, and you will slide towards the front of the machine, in the correct posture, forward tilt, straight arms, ready for the next stroke.
Remember, only slide forwards until your shins are vertical.
THE FULL SEQUENCE
Legs / Body / Arms / Arms / Body / Legs
It’s a very simple process. The key is getting flow through each stage. At no point do you pause or hold a position when rowing normally. There are drills which you can use to pause at certain points of the stroke and then analyse your body position, called Pick Drills. But once you’ve got past that analysis stage, move away from pausing.
Rowing should be a flowing motion, like Tai-chi. Each stage feeds the next stage. The drive feeds into the recovery and the recovery feeds into the drive. Let your body flow by remaining controlled and relaxed on the recovery and braced and powerful on the drive. A bit Ying/Yang to be honest!
COMMON TECHNIQUE MISTAKES
Not leaning forwards at the start of the stroke
Pulling from the front (often an issue with Drag Factor)
Swinging the back too early (often an issue with Drag Factor)
Slumped posture at the front
Sliding too far forwards (or not too far enough)
Heels WAY too far off the footplate
Not getting power in from your feet
Not connecting hands to feet – the butt Scoot
Not getting the full length of your legs into the machine
Choking the handle with too tight a grip / thumbs on top
Flexing wrists up or down at the finish
Elbows out too wide, or too tight (Controversial!)
Finishing too low or too high with the handle
Slumping posture at the finish
Leaning too far back at the finish of the stroke (Controversial!)
Holding the handle and pausing before the recovery
Not tilting over your hips before sliding forwards
Using the foot-straps to pull yourself forwards
Bending the knees before the handle passes over them
Scraping the handle down your legs
Being too tense with the arms and core on the recovery
Shoulders up in your ears at any stage of the stroke!
Jerking through any stage of the stroke
Sitting too far back on the seat (also, it being the wrong way round!)
Looking up or down instead of straight ahead