The rowing machine isn’t as popular as it’s cousins in the gym; the treadmill or the elliptical. It can, however, provide a deep and fulfilling exercise routine. You’ll be able to burn fat away while building up muscle strength. It’s also low impact and doesn’t put body weight on your extremities if you’re in recovery.
Used properly, the rowing machine can build muscle on the legs, the glutes, the arms, the chest, and the core. Used improperly, and it can bring muscle pain and back strain, but that can easily be avoided.
Let’s learn how to use this machine so you don’t end up causing pain and damage to your body.
Learning the Numbers
Most modern rowing machines are infinitely customizable and have a range of settings that can be overwhelming if you’re new to this machine. The basics are: strokes (measured per minute), calories burned, kilometers travelled, or a split of those measurements.
You can learn to track those measurements to help you plan your improvements. Those numbers can also be used to help set workouts where you have to row a certain distance or maintain a certain stroke rate for a length of time.
Getting Set Up
Because you’re going to be moving around on the machine, it’s best to wear close-fitting clothing so nothing gets caught or trapped in the mechanism. When you sit on the seat, strap in your feet so that they are securely fastened and you can pull on them without risking losing your grip on the pedals.
Pull your knees in and fully extend your arms to grasp the handle of the machine. Your back should be flat throughout this range of motion, and your core should be completely engaged as well. At the moment, you’re sitting in the position that rowers call the Catch. It’s that moment on the boat when the paddle ‘catches’ in the water and your body is poised to pull.
In rowing, there are 4 positions to help you think about each section of your motion. There’s the Catch, the Drive, the Finish, and the Recovery. You already know the Catch.
The Drive is when your body explosively pushes back against the pedals and your arms pull the bar into your chest as you drive backwards and sit up. Keeping a straight back throughout the motion and your body comes upright, your arms start the pulling motion.
Now, you’re in the position known as the Finish. You should have an engaged core, a straight back and be in an upright position with your legs locked. You finish the pulling motion, ending with the handle right up against your lower chest. Try not to flare to your elbows out but keep them reined in close to your body.
Lastly, move into the Recovery position. First your arms straighten back into the first position, you hinge forward at the hips and your body leans forward, back straight as always. Your legs pull into your chest as you come forward to a full and tight crunch at the front.
If you can think about keeping the order correct, you’re already ahead of 95% of everybody out there. Most people draw their arms in too soon, or they don’t keep their back straight and core engaged. This can lead to excessive strain and back problems if continued.
Even if your first rowing movements are slowed and methodical, this order will help keep you safe and your workout will pack a more powerful punch for you.