Benefits of Rowing

The advantages of indoor rowing are indisputable. No other gym device can compare to the rowing machine when it comes to delivering a calorie-burning, low-impact, full body exercise. Executed properly, the rowing motion uses almost all major muscle groups in the body (about 85% of all muscle mass) for the development of lean muscle and stimulating the metabolism from the beginning. Read our understanding which muscles are used within in each rowing phase to help you more.

Beginners Guide to Indoor Rowing

 Once rowing technique is learned (see below for tips,) the rowing machine is suitable for users of any age and fitness level. Indoor rowing is a non-impact activity, allowing you to decide the intensity of your own workout. Whether you prefer intense Crossfit Cardio workouts or taking thirty minutes for moderate cardio, indoor rowing is a great choice.

 How to Row

Before embarking on a workout with the rower it is important to learn basic rowing form.  Improper technique can negate many of indoor rowing’s physiological benefits, and on the rare occasion leads to injury.  Fortunately, under the right instruction the basics of indoor rowing can be mastered in less than 10 minutes. 

Although rowing should be a continuous motion, for ease of instruction the stroke can be broken down into distinct segments we have put this information together using our key rowing partner WaterRower and some of there excellent material.

Rowing the Right Way

The temptation when you first get on a rowing machine is to take as many strokes as possible, as quickly as possible.  The number of strokes taken each minute is known as SPM (strokes per minute) or Rate and is displayed on the performance monitor of all good rowing machines. 

Rowing machines measure intensity in a number of different units including watts, calories, and average 500m time.  An effective stroke is long and powerful, not short and quick.  

A useful guide, for longer "endurance "workouts (20+ minutes), sit at a lower rate, between 20 – 26 spm. For shorter more intense workouts take the rate higher, but ensure you maintain technique, keeping the strokes long and powerful. 



Position 1

The Release Position

The Release position is at the end of the Drive phase. The Release is where active propulsion of the boat ceases and the oar is removed from the water. This is not the end of the stroke but simply the change in direction of the handle.

Phase 1

The Rock Over Phase

The Rock Over phase begins at The Release position and ends at The Rock Over position. The arms extend and the torso rocks over from the pelvis (not the lower back)



Position 2

The Rocked Over Position

The Rocked Over position occurs at the end of the Rock Over phase. The arms are extended and the torso is rocked over adopting the upper body positioning of the catch.


Phase 2

The Recovery Phase

The Recovery phase begins at The Rocked Over position and ends at The Catch position. No active propulsion takes place at this point. There is no movement of the upper body and torso during The Recovery phase, just the legs. All torso and upper body positions have been set at The Rocked Over position.From the rock over, whilst maintaining body position, release the knees and allow the seat to roll forward.

Position 3

The Catch Position

The Catch position is the position of the body at the end of The Recovery phase and the beginning of The Drive phase. The body is coiled like a spring, ready to release.

Phase 3

The Drive Phase

The Drive phase is the work phase of the rowing action beginning at The Catch position and ending at The Release position.The drive is where pressure is applied and dictates how fast you are going.  In essence this is all the previous steps in reverse. The legs work first, followed by the trunk, and then finally the arms draw the handle back to the finish position.





 Understanding & Correcting Some of the Common Faults


Short Stroke

Fault: This fault is when the users rows with not reaching or compressing to their full potential. Stroke length will vary amongst users, length is the reach and compression a user can obtain when rowing comfortably. Many users shorten their stroke when they start to get tired.

Tell tale signs include:

High stroke rates at an easy intensity, anything above 26spm for steady state rowing is usually rowing with short strokes.

Tips for correction:

Use the Ratio and Rhythm feature on the monitor – hold a 1:2 ratio
Practice the Slow Slide Drill


    Poor Ratio & Rhythm

    Fault: Poor ratio and rhythm occurs when you are eager to get to the next stroke and not taking the time to complete the Drive, or reach the Release position and forget to take a longer time sliding forwards up the slide on the Recovery. 

    Tips for correction:

    • Use the Ratio and Rhythm feature on the monitor – hold a 1:2 ratio
    • Practice the Slow Slide Drill
    • Ratio and rhythm are important for sustaining a smooth powerful stroke during an aerobic workout.
    • The rowing stroke is not rushed, the recovery time allows the boat to run therefore achieving maximum distance each stroke.

    Toes Lifting

    Fault: Toes lift up off the footboard on the Release, leads to loosening foot straps.

    Tips for correction:

    • Keep the balls of the feet in contact with the footboard at all times.
    • At the Release position focus on pointing your toes into the footboard.
    • At the end of the Drive phase and in the Release position engage your core and hold your legs straight for a fraction of time, then rock over by pivoting at the hips and transfer your body weight forwards