How NOT to use a rowing machine!

Bad rowing I was in the gym the other day, minding my own business and a woman was being coached by a personal trainer. He took her to the rowing machine as part of her workout and OMG I was horrified at how bad the technique was and how he was not correcting her.

I do see this a lot, but today I was particularly horrified because she was being supervised by a ‘sporting professional’.

So I decided to explain how a rowing machine should in fact be used.

The muscles that we engage when rowing include the quads, hams, glutes, lats, biceps and muscles in the shoulder. They are engaged in that order, and if you look at the list, it also goes from large to small muscle groups.

If you look at the picture above, what this woman is doing wrong is she has bent her arms before her legs are fully straight. For maximum power, from the start of a stroke, rowing should be

  • Arms straight,shoulder height, push with the quads, hams, glutes till the legs are straight. This is the most powerful part of the stroke.
  • A quick pull bringing the arms and handles close to your torso, don’t dip them, pull straight back so that your thumbs come to rest just below the breast – if you’re a woman, just below your bra strap. This is the weakest part of the stroke, so make it nice and quick.

So in effect the order of engagement should be legs – arms – arms – legs.

Have a look the next time you go to the gym. I bet the people using the rowing machine engage quads and biceps all at once like this lady, rather than in the above order. It is very different to what you might expect, and what’re probably used to, but trust me, it works the best!

I found it really hard to change my bad technique at first, but it’s won me several medals in my first year of rowing so I must be doing something right!

Here’s a little video of me analysing my own technique, just after I joined the rowing club and was shown how to row correctly.

Done correctly, it’s a great exercise for quads, hams, glutes and lats. It complements swimming nicely, and helps build quad and glute strength.

5 Comments on “How NOT to use a rowing machine!

  1. That’s super helpful! To be honest I’m yet to find a helpful and knowledgeable PT in Invercargill! I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere!

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