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Need Some Help on That Silly Rower?

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How to Improve Your Rowing by Perfecting Technique

-Maddie Prangley


Of the cardio equipment, the erg is a lot of people’s first choice, it can be a fast, whole body method to gaining distance and calories during a WOD but it is also the most technically difficult to master.  As with any movement, technique can fall apart when we are tired but this means nothing when technique is poor to begin with!  There are several issues that arise with poor form on the erg, not the least of which is that it can place a great deal of pressure on your back.  One of the most common problems is a collapsing of the back and shoulders at the catch of the stroke.  The second biggest problem athletes have is inefficient rowing; if you move certain joints at the wrong time, the power you just used in that muscle was wasted, meaning that it wasn’t expelled in a way that moved the handles productively.

First, it is important to understand the segments of the rowing stroke: you start with the catch, proceed to the drive, into the finish, and then the recovery.  During the drive, you can break the stroke down even further.  Coming out of the catch, while maintain a rigid and flat back, the first thing to extend is the legs, followed by the back, and then finally retracting the arms.  When trying to move all three of these points at once, progress and power can be lost between them.  By isolating each movement, you are sure that each portion goes directly towards meters or calories.

The next most important aspect of your technique is the finish.  With poor rowing technique, the finish is skipped over with the thought that getting to the next stroke will make you faster, which is false.  The finish, which is where we see a rower at full leg and back extension with arms pulled fully to the chest, along with the milliseconds before that full extension are where the most power comes from.  When skipped over in favor of getting to the next stroke, the retraction of the legs negates all of the potential power of the arms and the back.  The most seasoned rowers will use the finish as a physical recovery during a long row (not a sprint) in order to exaggerate the full extent of a stroke and get the most power out of each pull.  As you move into the recovery, you should be moving in the opposite pattern as the drive, releasing your arms, then angling the back forward (maintaining good posture!), and finally releasing the legs to end at the catch again.

Proper rowing technique can be very difficult to master but is absolutely worth the time and effort.  The power and speed that you gain by rowing properly will improve your time as well as potentially save your back!  If you would like to learn more about proper technique ask a coach or watch some videos online about it, it’s a very common problem and there are many people that would like to help!


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