Using A Rowing Machine For Fitness

Rowing machines can play a vital part in complementing any fitness program and should by no means only be used by rowers or those looking to build arm strength.

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The use of this machine has many fitness benefits, including:  

  • Uses upper leg muscles
  • Uses shoulders
  • Tones majority of muscle groups and helps improve power
  • Burns fat and therefore keeps weight down
  • Increases lung capacity
  • Impact free, so less chance of injuries
  • Allows you to monitor your fitness levels, by comparative times
  • Panders to your competitive nature
  • Enables you to do speed work
  • Rowing machines are tough, so you feel mentally as well as physically that you’ve had a good workout.

Without a doubt, rowing technique is the most important factor when using the rowing machine. Outlined below is everything you need to know about optimizing your rowing technique, for maximum performance and injury prevention.

It doesn’t matter how good you look, how much effort you’re putting into it, how fast you think you’re going or how high you have the resistance lever - in the end, all that matters is having a the right rowing technique. If you get that right then you’ll be efficient, achieve better performance and avoid potential injuries.

Rowing machine technique

Many people using the ‘rower’ think it’s all about pulling the bar as hard as you can, having the resistance bar as high as possible and the more noise and sweat you make the better. Needless to say, it isn’t!

Correct technique is about a smooth motion and driving, rather than pulling. Although this seems contrary to popular belief, it is the only way to get the most from your time on the machine.

Let’s look at what makes up the stroke. There are three components; the finish, the slide and the drive, and all of them must be carried out perfectly to get the stroke absolutely right.

The rowing machine finish

Lean back slightly, legs flat, handle drawn to the body. Forearms horizontal. Arms extend, body rocks forward. The arms are relaxed and extend fully. The body rocks forward from the hips.

The rowing machine slide

After the arms have fully extended and the body has rocked forward, slide forward maintaining arm and body position.

The rowing machine drive

Shins vertical with body pressed up to the legs. The arms are straight and relaxed. The position should feel comfortable.

  • The start of the drive — the legs push down and the body begins to lever back.
  • The drive continued — the legs continue to push as the body levers back. The arms remain straight.
  • The body stops levering back. The arms draw the handle past the knees and then strongly to the body, returning to the finish position; legs flat and forearms horizontal.

This will all seem obvious once you get it right, but to start with it will seem unnatural. Most people are taught incorrectly and it's always harder to correct poor rowing technique than it is to get it right from the outset. Persevere though, as it will most definitely be worth it! Ask your instructor or trainer to give you guidance on rowing technique so you get the most out of your rowing sessions.