Best Rowing Machine Techniques for Productive and Safe Workouts

For the best exercise results, it’s important to know the proper rowing machine techniques. Some people invest in a rowing machine and immediately jump on it and begin to row, only to suffer from lower back pain, sprains or strains after just a few sessions.

In most cases, this is because they aren’t using the good posture and they don’t know how to use an indoor rower properly.

There are four steps or “phases” to each stroke you take on a rowing machine: catch, drive, finish and recovery. You begin each stroke with the catch, while the drive is when the power is generated. The finish, obviously, is the end of a stroke, with recovery actually being the precursor to starting the next stroke.

Understanding how to perform each phase is crucial to maximizing the benefits of your workout without sustaining any injuries. Following these established rowing machine techniques will also make your indoor rowing sessions more enjoyable.

The Catch – Starting Each Stroke

The Drive – Pushing Through

Extend your legs fully, pushing against the foot stretcher or foot pads. Keep your body upright and continue through the extension. This technique will engage the core of your body, beginning the motion backward.

As you move backward, the force needed by the legs will increase. Once your legs are as flat as they can go, you will begin pulling the handlebar toward your body, no higher than chest level.

The Finish – Completing the Stroke

Your legs should still be extended and flat during the finish. Your shoulders should be slightly behind your hips and your elbows should be bent with your hands against your chest, but below the center of the breasts. You’re still sitting upright.

The Recovery – The Final Phase

During recovery, you’ll slide slowly back to the original position of the stroke. This will give you time to recover from the drive and finish. During this phase, your body goes through the motions of the drive, but in reverse order.

Your arms will be fully extended and straight and your torso should move back over your pelvis. With your hands over your knees, your legs will once again bend toward the stretcher or foot pads. As your thighs become parallel to your back, you’ll once again enter the catch phase.

Tips for Improving Your Rowing Machine Techniques

When considering how to use an indoor rower, a few helpful tips can keep your body in proper form and ensure that your workout is productive and safe:

  • Keep your wrists straight; do not bend them or turn them inward or outward.
  • Don’t stick the elbows out like wings; even when your arms are contracted, they should be tucked close to the body.
  • Don’t pull your body toward the machine or the handlebar during the finish. Be sure you are pulling the handlebar toward you.
  • Remember to keep your hands low; they should never be higher than mid chest. Some people pull back too high and too far.
  • Consider wearing rowing gloves whenever you train...they will protect your hands, prevent blisters and keep you rowing longer. Similarly, rowing shoes can help with foot positioning and comfort.

Most importantly, focus on what you’re doing and be aware of your body and its limitations while using appropriate rowing machine techniques in order to get the best workout possible.

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