How to Improve Your Rowing Technique

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By KRISTY PARRISH

Have you ever watched somebody row well and felt frustrated that the meters — or the calories — seemed to fly by for them and not for you? Do you cringe when the workout of the day involves rowing? If you are nodding yes to either of these questions, keep reading. Understanding the rower, combined with better technique, can help you start turning your weakness into a strength – today.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat…

Regardless of damper setting, you have to apply greater force if you want your “boat” to go faster or accumulate more calories.
Obviously, jumping onto a Concept2 Rower is not the same as rowing a boat on the water. However, if you approach the rower as if it is a boat, you may be better able to change your technique accordingly. Do you see Olympic rowers jerking the oars unevenly, shorting their hips on the pull, or taking quick, furious strokes? The total opposite, actually, regardless of the type of boat or the number of people rowing. Concept2 Rowing explains:

Think of the Indoor Rower as your boat. If you row at low intensity you can row for a long time. To make the boat go faster you pull harder; and if you try to make the boat go very fast you will be exhausted in a short time. Air resistance on the flywheel fan works just like the water resistance on a boat.

Now that you are thinking in terms of a boat on the water, let’s examine the effect of the damper settings 1-10. In the lower numbers 1-4 the feel of the Indoor Rower is like a sleek racing shell. In the higher numbers 6-10 the feel is like a big, slow rowing boat. Either boat can be rowed hard; and as you try to make either boat go fast, you will need to apply more force. Making the sleek boat go fast requires you to apply your force more quickly; and when trying to make the big boat go fast you will feel a high force but at a slower speed of application.

No doubt this is apparent if you have ever played with the damper setting on a machine. What, then, determines how much work you are doing (in meters, calories, or watts)?

As you are moving forward for your next stroke the monitor measures how much your flywheel is slowing down. It can determine precisely how sleek or slow your “boat” is by how much it slows down between strokes. It then uses this information to determine from the speed of the flywheel how much work you are doing. In this way your true effort is calculated regardless of damper setting.

Did you know? The ideal stroke rate is 22-26 strokes per minute (s/m).
If the flywheel hums along steadily due to your consistently smooth, strong pulls, you will produce more work. The ideal damper setting for every individual is different, but it should be where you achieve the highest output levels.

Breaking Down the Rowing Stroke

There are two components of the rowing stroke: the drive and the recovery.

The Recovery (Phase 1)
  • Extend your arms until they straighten.
  • Lean your upper body forward to the one o’clock position.
  • Once your hands and the oar handle have cleared your knees, allow your knees to bend and gradually slide the seat forward on the monorail.
The Catch (Position 1)
  • Arms are straight; head is neutral; shoulders are level and not hunched.
  • Upper body is at the one o’clock position—shoulders in front of hips.
  • Shins are vertical and not compressed beyond the perpendicular.
  • Balls of the feet are in full contact with the footplate.
The Drive (Phase 2)
  • With straight arms and while maintaining the position of the upper body at one o’clock, exert pressure on the foot plate and begin pushing with your legs.
  • As your legs approach straight, lean the upper body back to the eleven o’clock position and draw the hands back to the lower ribs in a straight line.
The Finish (Position 2)
  • Legs are extended and handle is held lightly at your lower ribs.
  • Upper body is at the eleven o’clock position—slightly reclined with good support from your core muscles.
  • Head is in a neutral position.
  • Neck and shoulders are relaxed, and arms are drawn past the body with flat wrists.

The drive is the work portion of the stroke; the recovery is the rest portion that prepares you for the next drive. The body movements of the recovery are essentially the reverse of the drive. Blend these movements into a smooth continuum to create the rowing stroke.

A good rowing cadence, or tempo, is 22-26 strokes per minute (abbreviated s/m on the monitor).

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