Pulling the handle under the chin, over the head, etc. is an inefficient use of your arms and requires you to lean back farther than necessary
My rowing co-coach looked at me and shook her head. As we stood listening to the movement standards being explained before a recent local competition, one well-meaning event organizer on the mic said, “The first part is a row. Everyone knows how to row
— just sit down and start pulling.” I must confess: this assumption that everyone
knows how to row — properly at least — stings every time I hear it. Not surprisingly, we went on to witness some fairly horrific rowing technique over the next couple of hours.
So, yes, this subject requires a series. And I’m kicking it off with one of the worst and most common offenses: incorrect handle positioning during the finish. I’m certain you’ve seen it too. Maybe you’ve turned a blind eye. Or maybe you’ve been guilty of it yourself.
I call this one Manual Strangulation.
You may think you’re squeezing out some extra meters or calories when you pull the handle back farther and higher than you should, but the energy cost is greater than any gain of a longer stroke. Pulling the handle under the chin, over the head, etc. is an inefficient use of your arms and requires you to lean back farther than necessary. This excessive layback causes you to waste precious time and energy swinging your body back into the correct upright position again, not to mention the strain it puts on your back.
My ace rowing partner suspects this guy’s sketchy technique may have cost him his hair.
“Rowing isn’t just one damn stroke after another — it’s the same damn stroke over and over again.” — Anonymous
In the finish portion of the row stroke, the handle is simply pulled into the abdomen around the lower ribs/sternum area making contact gently and briefly. One of my favorite tips on handle position comes from CrossFit Rowing Instructor, Leeny Hoffmann
out of CrossFit St. Louis
: “For the ladies, use the bottom of your sports bra as a guide; for the men, right below the pecs.” Concept2
Master instructor Terry Smythe
reminds us of another popular cue great for visual learners: “Think of it as pulling the handle across a table to the sternum, tap and slide handle back across the table.” Simple and efficient. Don’t overthink it.
Brittany finishing with conviction. (Photo: Jade Hewitt)
Find more great rowing tips at UCanRow2.com and Concept2.com. Till next time….Go Hard or ROW Home!
Meredith Timberlake is a Level 1 CrossFit Coach at CrossFit Mandeville. A Concept2 and CrossFit Rowing Instructor, she teaches rowing clinics in south Louisiana and beyond alongside co-coach Lisa Grab.
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