Workout articles, healthy lifestyle tips, and fitness advice.

Practice Proper Rowing Machine Form for a More Effective Workout

Man training on a rowing machine
Do you have questions about proper rowing machine form? Look no further!

by Catherine Santino

​This just in: You don't have to have been your college's crew star in order to use your gym's rowing machine! In fact, gym-goers of all fitness levels can get a great workout from this piece of equipment. The key is proper rowing machine form; once you understand how to safely use the machine, you'll be well on your way to adding it to your gym routine.

It's possible that you may have previously avoided the rowing machine because you were concerned about hurting your back, but it's important to remember that the majority of rowing machine-related injuries are a result of misuse or improper form. By getting to know the machine a little better and learning the proper techniques, you can reap all the benefits it offers and protect your back at the same time! Here is your go-to guide to proper rowing machine form.

First, Get Familiar

Let's start with the fundamentals. Correct rowing machine form consists of three main elements: the catch, the drive, and the finish.

The catch is the first position, in which your knees are bent and you are sitting toward the front of the machine with your arms extended (as you hold onto the handles). The drive is the next step, and involves pushing back with your legs. It's important to remember to use your legs first and then incorporate the rest of your body, including your arms. The finish is the final position, where your legs fully extend and you use your arms and shoulders to pull the handles back until your arms are at your sides.

After you've completed a rep, you'll want to return to the starting position. Begin by extending your arms in front of you. Once your hands have moved past your knees, bend your knees and move yourself back toward the front of the machine.

Pay Attention to Form (and Fatigue)

In order to maintain the correct rowing machine form and complete the exercise safely, it's important you don't overexert yourself. Here are a few things to keep in mind when refining your stroke:

  • Your arms should remain horizontal the entire time, rather than moving up and down.
  • Try to keep your upper and lower back aligned and your core engaged. Slouching or curving your back could result in injury.
  • If you start to feel fatigued, take a break!

Focus on the Workout

The rower can help build up your aerobic endurance and muscular strength simultaneously. It's also a great way to switch up your exercise routine if you're feelingunmotivated or uninspired. There are tons of ways to get a varied full-body workout from the rowing machine.

If you consider yourself a beginner, it might be beneficial to start with intervals. Try rowing for 30 seconds with as much power as possible, then row for 30 seconds using very light, slow strokes. This minute counts as one round. Aiming to complete three to five rounds is a good goal.

You can also set your rowing workout according to time or distance. For example, you can aim to complete 10 minutes on the machine or reach 750 meters of distance.

Once you master correct rowing machine form, you'll be set up for an amazing, effective, full-body workout. As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here. Happy rowing!

How to use a rowing machine