Overlooked, underappreciated, and once relegated to the backyard, the rowing machine is fast becoming a sought after a cardiovascular workout. There are many boutique studios and gyms now open in the UK that are specially dedicated to only rowing sessions. The exercise has been identified as a complete bodybuilder and calorie booster providing relief and power to every group of muscles in the body.
Unfortunately, most people find the machine intimidating at first, and as a result, end up using it the wrong way, or at worse, completely ignore it for the treadmill or some other cardio trainer. The problem often lies in whether to lead with the arms or legs, or how to sit properly or balance the feet on the footrest without slipping out when in motion, or the inability to last up to 10 minutes without hurting the arms or back.
All these issues and more, usually make most people consider rowing as a strenuous activity and this often stops them from completely benefiting from it. If this is your case, then you are not alone. We have prepared a guide on how to use the rowing machine the right way so that you can maximize your results. However, before we get started, let’s consider the essentials.
See Max Secunda show how rowing helps your legs and do his simple rowing workout in our YouTube video:
It will help to point out a few things you need to take into consideration when using the rowing machine.
- First, make sure your formfitting clothes are on. Avoid loose clothing or heavy garments that can easily get caught in the machine while you are working out. If you are a lady, make sure your hair is covered or well packed in position.
- Secondly, make sure the resistance of the machine is set at a moderate level. For newbies, a level of 3 is great. However, if you are already a seasoned rower, then you can set the machine at a resistance of 5, and no more.
- Thirdly, maintain a health stroke. Most people, especially beginners, often believe that they will “burn” faster at a greater speed. Quite contrary. Rowing is about power, not just flinging your body back and forth. So try and maintain a healthy stroke, usually between 20-30 in one minute.
- Finally, to get the most from your effort, you have to use the best rowing machine available because not every “jack” out there is good enough. It will help to check out the best rowing machine reviews before putting out your money to purchase a new machine.
Now that we are done with the essentials, we can now move on to the actual guide.
Three Steps to the Perfect Row
This step will help you master how to properly balance your leg in the footrest. Start by sitting comfortably and upright with your feet strapped tight and well secured on the pads. Now stretch out your arms and lean forward (but not too forward) and then grab the bar using an overhand grip (but don’t hold too tightly) and then pull the chain horizontally. While doing so, ensure your back is flat, not slumped, with your core fully engaged. Then slide your body forward by bending your legs.
After you get comfortable pushing with your legs, now is the time to isolate your arms. With your legs stretched forward, gently pull the bar towards your core, just under your chest until your knees are only slightly bent. Flatten your wrists and then finally engage the upper back to pull the bar towards you. Avoid leaning back too far repeatedly as it may strain your abs.
Before you start moving forward again, let your hands, still holding the bar at chest level, move forward first. Only when they are over the knees should you start to move forward.
Now relax your hold on the bar and begin to move your hand forward again gradually getting back up the slide into the catch position. Concentrate on keeping your back straight. Your knees should bend once the bar passes over them.
Learn from our Expert Rower Rachael Taylor on How to Use a Rowing Machine Properly:
To make the most of your power when rowing, there is a need to use the proper form as described above. Most people, especially beginners, are fond of moving only their sits, with their legs forward. As long as the seat is moving, they are OK! While it is possible to achieve some level of success, you can never truly reach your highest potential by rowing this way. Instead of extending only your legs to move your sit, engage the rowing handle as well. Your feet must be well-positioned in the footrests, while your handle should be able to travel at the same rate as your seat. If not, you will not be able to optimize your power.
Do not be in a hurry to use your arms or legs. Strive to make progress gradually. Usually, your legs are supposed to do the greater work, while your arms and upper body are expected to do the lesser part.
Written by Petra Amara – RowingCrazy.com
CEO & Founder of RowingCrazy, National Rower, Coxswain Womens Eight Team, Rowing Coach & Writer
Petra is a Mother of two and owner of Rowingcrazy.com. Petra lives and breathes rowing, she also has a passion for writing which lead her to start RowingCrazy.com to share her rowing experience and expertise with others.