How to Use a Rowing Machine

A step by step guide to proper form when using a rowing machine

Flickr/KJ Vogelius

Rowing is a very effective, low-impact exercise that provides both cardiovascular and muscle-building benefits.

Aside from increasing your aerobic endurance and building muscle, incorporating rowing workouts into your regular exercise routine will help to improve your posture by strengthening your core muscles.

See: 4 Reasons You Need to Add Rowing to Your Workout Routine

The only disadvantage the exercise has is that it could lead to injury if performed improperly. When rowing for the first time (especially without a trainer or instructor to guide you) follow these steps to make sure you maintain proper form.

-How To Use a Rowing Machine: Your Step By Step Guide-

1. Strap your feet in tightly. Adjust the pads so that when you place your feet inside, the top line of your shoelaces line up with the strap. Tighten the straps and double check to make sure they're secure.


2. Depending on what type of rower you’re using you may need to adjust the resistance. If you are on a water rower (like the one pictured above), you won’t have to worry about adjusting the resistance. But if you are on a rower like a Concept II that has a flywheel, make sure to adjust the lever on the side so that the resistance is placed on a setting that matches your fitness level.

3. Sit up straight. Engage your core by drawing your belly button towards your spine. Draw your shoulder blades back and down and keep your neck tall so that your gaze falls straight ahead. Maintain a straight spine the entire time and be sure to never hunch your shoulders or curve your back.

4. When you're ready, reach forward by bending your knees slightly and hinging at your hips. Grab the handle bar and hold it out in front of you keeping your arms straight. This position is called the catch.


5. The first part of the rowing motion comes from your legs. Slowly push through your feet and begin to extend them until you can't go any further. Continue holding the handle bar out in front of you with your arms straight.

6. The second part of the motion comes from your core. Once you've fully extended your legs, lean back by hinging at your hips so that your torso is at a 45-degree angle. Be sure to keep paying attention to your posture here. Maintain a straight spine with your shoulders back and down and your core fully engaged.


7. The final part of the motion comes from your arms. Squeeze your shoulder blades and bend your elbows as you draw the handle bar all the way to your chest just below the bra line.

8. To return to the start, reverse the entire sequence. First release your arms so that you're holding them straight out in front of you, then hinge forward at the hips to bring your torso back to a completely upright position, and finally, bend your knees and slide forward, returning to the catch position.

9. Practice the sequence slowly for a few minutes before increasing speed and intensity.

Shaun Jenkins, CityRow instructor demonstrates proper form:

One last pointer: Think of the entire sequence like this: Legs, core, then arms. Then, arms, core, then legs. The order in which you activate each part of your body while moving backwards and forward is very important.


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