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How To Properly Use a Rowing Machine

Rowing is an efficient form of exercise because it engages your core, legs, arms, shoulders and back. If you’re seeking a comprehensive workout that won’t injure your knees, then the erg, or rowing machine, is a great place to start.

Here, we’ll discuss the best ways to use a rowing machine and the proper body positions. But, before we begin, don’t forget your favorite pair of workout shoes!

Using the rowing machine incorrectly can lead to lower back injuries, so proper form is paramount to an efficient workout. If your back starts to hurt at any time, stop and have someone watch your form before continuing. The main idea of the rowing machine is to use your core and your legs first, then you pull with the arms. For more details, check out our list below.


How To Use a Rowing Machine


1. The Catch

  • Arms are straight, the head is neutral, and your shoulders should be relaxed.
  • Your upper should be leaning forward slightly over your hips.
  • Keep your shins vertical and only lift your heels if needed.

2. The Drive

  • Start the drive with your legs, not your arms. This is the most important piece of information because this is where bad habits in form begin. The Drive begins with the power from your legs and core.
  • Start the pull with your arms after your knees have come up. This allows your core to properly engage and you don’t waste energy pulling too hard with your arms before it’s necessary.
  • Keep your shoulders low and relaxed, if you find them tensing or hunching up, take note and begin the stroke again to avoid hurting your muscles.

3. The Finish

  • Your upper body should be leaning back and using good support from your core muscles.
  • The legs are extended and the rower is held below your ribs, not up near your chin.
  • Make sure you have a relaxed grip on the rower with your wrists flat, not turned to the side.

4. The Recovery

  • Extend your arms until they straighten before leaning with your hips toward the flywheel.
  • Once your hands have cleared your knees, allow your knees to bend and gradually allow the seat to slide forward.
  • For your next stroke, return to The Catch position with your shoulders relaxed.

Now that you have a few tips on proper form, check out this video below to watch a pro perform on the rowing machine:

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The Best Rowing Machine Workouts

Try these sequences to get adjusted to the rowing machine and test your intensity and cadence. You can always adjust the intensity depending on what type of work you want to get done that day.

Workout 1: Short exercise

  • 3 x 5 minutes / 3 minutes easy
  • Row three 5 minute hard pieces. Row 3 minutes easy in between each piece.

Workout 2: Medium exercise

  • 4 x 5 minutes / 3 minutes easy
  • Row four 5 minute pieces. Row 3 minutes at an easy pace in between each set.

Workout 3: Long exercise

  • 4 x 10 minutes / 2 minutes easy
  • Row four 10 minute pieces. Row 2 minutes easy in between.

Another tip is to wear a heart rate monitor when you begin a new type of exercise so you can target how hard you’re working to how hard you want to be working on any given day.

Cadence is how fast you pull the rower and move your legs. A faster cadence generally means a higher heart rate and a more intense workout. A slower cadence means a lower heart rate and a moderate workout. Knowing your cadence numbers will help you target your heart rate for your best workout.


The Best Rowing Machine To Buy Right Now

We already have a great list of the best rowing machines, but just to give you some good starting options, here are two of our favorites. You’ll notice the first is amazing, but certainly on the pricier side. So if you don’t want to commit to an expensive rowing machine just yet, give our second option a try!


1. NordicTrack RW900 Rowing Machine

It’s hard not to gush about NordicTrack’s rowing machine. It truly is the Peloton of the rowing world. It comes with a 22″ rotating smart HD touchscreen for your viewing pleasure and boasts 26 resistance levels and manual air resistance as well. Plus, as far as rowing machines go, it’s not too hard on the eyes. And considering this will live in your home or apartment, we think that’s worth mentioning.

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Courtesy of NordicTrack


2. Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine

This budget-friendly rowing machine from Sunny Health & Fitness is a basic option if there ever was one. But if you’re just looking for a great workout, and can do without all the extra features of the NordicTrack, this is the rowing machine for you. It’s quiet thanks to its magnetic tension system and boasts eight levels of adjustable tension.

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Image courtesy of Amazon