The Rowing 411

Are you ready to conquer the Erg (a.k.a “The Rower”)? 

Well read up, these little tips and tricks will help you perfect your stroke and get you done quicker!  

The Stroke

There are FOUR main movements to the rowing stroke. All four movements should be executed in a smooth, continuous, and fluid manner: Catch, Drive, Finish, and Recovery.

The Catch:

Begins by holding the handles of the erg evenly with both hands, with the seat all the way forward so the knees are into the chest, basically a compressed position. The arms are stretched out in front and the body, make sure your arms are not stiff, and your body angle is slightly forward from the hips.

The Drive:

Use the power of your legs, body swing, and arms pulling through to complete the drive. To begin the drive, press firmly against the foot holders until your legs are almost fully extended. The torso should then swing back to a 90-degree angle with the seat. Let the arms follow their natural line of movement as you slowly pull them toward the base of the sternum.

*I notice a ton of CrossFitters finishing with their arms in the most awkward positions! So make sure to finish with the handles hitting the lower part of your sternum.*

Also, because you know how to squat and you know how powerful your legs are, USE THEM! The drive should be 90% legs, 5% body swing (Abs), and 5% arms! 

The Finish:

In the finish, the arms are pulled all the way into the base of the sternum with the legs fully extended and your torso leaning back slightly beyond 90 degrees.

The Recovery:

For the recovery, extend the arms, lean forward from the hips, and bend your legs. As you do this, slide forward to start the next catch.

*The recovery period is the best part this is where you can loosen up before you start your next drive. Make sure to be loose and go slow to maintain an even spm (stroke per minute).*

Five Common Mistakes

Excessive forward lean/reach:

The seat nearly hits the heels, the shins are past the vertical, the body leans too far forward, and the head and shoulders drop toward the toes. This puts the body in a weak position for the start of the next stroke. To correct this keep the seat 7-10 inches from the heels, the shins nearly vertical, the body leaning comfortably forward, and the head and shoulders up and relaxed.

Rocking On (Opening Back Too Early):

The athlete pulls the handle by leaning back rather than by pressing the legs. This wastes the power of the legs and may strain the back. To correct this remember that the legs should start the drive with the body still leaning forward then the hips gradually open.

Shooting the Tail (Opening the Back Too Late):

The athlete starts the drive by extending the legs without moving the handle. The power of the legs is wasted. To correct this the body needs to come along with the legs, thereby transferring the power from the legs to the handle and then the hips gradually opens. Hips and handle move together.

Early knee bend on the recovery:

On the recovery, the athlete lets the knees come up before the arms fully extend. As a result, either the knees and handle collide or the hands are forced to travel upward in an arc to avoid the knees. To correct this extend the arms completely and lean the upper body forward from the hips before bending the knees to slide forward. This places the hands ahead of the knees.

Excessive layback and pulling up the chin:

The athlete leans back too far at the finish and/or pulls the handle all the way up to the chin. This is inefficient use of the arms and exposes the back to potential injury. To correct this make sure you pull the handle to the base of the sternum and only layback approximately 5-10 degrees (again, 1 o’clock position).

Next time we’re going to discuss specific rowing techniques to get you to quit all your bad habits. In the meantime enjoy and oldie, but a goodie, rowing technique video that shows how to adjust the catch, drive, finish, and recovery! 

Mackenzie Rowing Instruction on Water