Legs, hips, arms. Arms, hips, legs. This back-and-forth rhythm defines proper rowing technique, but isn’t there more you can do to travel more efficiently from Point A at the bottom of the row (the catch) to Point B at the top?
The short answer: yes.
The long answer:
1. Relax Your Elbows
Too often, whether at the box or globo gym, we see people rowing with their elbows up by their armpits. Not only is this not a good position for your shoulders (usually, high elbows mean your shoulders are hunched), but it also means you’re expending unnecessary energy.
Instead of bending your arms into awkward chicken wings, relax your shoulders and let your elbows run naturally beside your torso, like they would at the bottom of a bench press.
A helpful cue: the rower handle should come to the bottom of your sternum, not all the way up to your collarbone.
2. Push Your Feet Into the Pads
Your legs drive most of the rowing motion. Sure, your torso and arms pull, but they work from the momentum coming from your legs. To make sure you’re driving from your whole legs, not just your quads, start your row by pushing your feet into the pads.
Remember to keep the proper order and rhythm to your row — your seat and the rower handle should move at the same pace while your legs are working, and that initial push shouldn’t find your upper body in a more prone position than when you started.
3. Stop Scooping
You want the handle to move from Point A to Point B on the most direct path — so pull straight back on the handle. Remember, you’re not actually rowing a boat, and (if we’re all on the same page) you’re not training to be able to row a boat. You’re here for the fitness benefits. So don’t scoop the handle down and up. Just pull straight back. (BTW, if the handle sometimes gives you a tender grip, you might consider taping up first.)
If on the way back down, you find yourself maneuvering the handle up and over your legs, ask someone to check your rhythm. Most likely, you’re bending your knees too early — a common rowing mistake that leads to wasted energy.
There’s always more that can be fine-tuned on the row, but these tips should set you on course to a more efficient row that has you pounding out those meters in better time and with better aerobic benefits. Anchors away!