The Ultimate Guide to Using a Rowing Machine

The Ultimate Guide to Using a Rowing Machine

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Posture, preventing injuries, and overall health all depend on having a strong and healthy back. The triceps dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids are among the rowing machine is back muscles excellent for training. 

This article provides a highlighting point that will help you master the rowing technique and maximise your workouts on the rowing machine.

In the early days, rowing machines were neglected; however, they are now very well-known, and entire home-based workouts and workplaces are dedicated to their incredible total-body benefits.

At first, the machine can appear frightening, and there can be multiple questions like, Do you lead with your legs or arms? Should your shoulders be painful? Why do your feet keep sliding out of the bands?

What is a Rowing Machine?

A rowing machine enables one to simulate rowing at home. It has a seat and foot bar with straps on one end and a handle linked to a handwheel on the other. It’s lighter than a treadmill or elliptical, so it’s easier to move it around inside the home.

According to the health instructors at the gym, it’s all about power and not speed. While working out, if you can quit a rowing class with a painful back, it’s the wrong practice.

Emphasis on using lower-body muscles—buttocks, hamstrings, and quads—to push out and then slide back lightly. Before getting into more technique, here are two terms to guide your workout:

Conditions of Rowing 

Stroke Rate

This shows how frequently you row (stroke) in one minute. You are advised to keep this number to 30 or less. Bear in mind that it’s about power, not just moving the body back and forth quickly.

Split time

This is about how much time it takes to row 500 meters (nearly a third of a mile). The target is to finish in 2 minutes or less. To row more rapidly, concentrate on pushing out with more strength instead of just moving the arms faster.

Tips For Mastering Rowing Form

Leg Isolations

Begin by holding the oar with the arms expanded, the legs bent, and the weight on the balls of the feet. This position is named “the catch.”

Always keep your back straight and your core involved. When it is extended, push through until the feet roll through without letting the arms bend, no matter what.

Arm Isolations

Once you are confident in paddling through the feet, use your hands for the paddling. With extended straight legs, draw the oar towards the chest at a point just underneath your chest, holding your elbows outwards. Just pinch it slightly at about breastbone height and use your upper back muscles (not the shoulders or biceps) to pull it back towards you in much the same way as you would execute a bent-over row.

Putting It All Together

With a straight back, an engaged core, and feet firmly in the straps, push back with the legs. Then, exercise with your upper back to pull the oar towards the chest. Just relax your arms and bend your knees to glide back to the starting position. Repeat in the manner of legs, arms, arms, and legs.

It is advised to take sufficient time when pushing out and coming back. The return should take twice the time it took to push.

How to Fix Common Rowing Mistakes

Mistake No. 1: Hunch your back

This method commonly shows that your shoulders do all the work 

The fix: Start with proper body posture. While catching, push your shoulders back to open your chest and down to alleviate pressure around your neck. Maintain your back straight by engaging the core and breathing deeply. It’s tricky to breathe deeply when the body’s posture is not proper.

Mistake No. 2: You scoop as you row.

If your knees bend when your arms extend completely, you’ll need to scoop to avoid hitting your legs with the oar. As rowing is a chain reaction, just one error can have an adverse impact.

Mistake No. 3: Raise your arms too high

Avoid hitting yourself with the oar! Dragging it up to your chin is terrible form and wastes energy.

The fix: Bring the oar to rest right under the chest. Pull the oar near the chest with your upper back muscles. Your arms should be level with your chest, and your elbows should be bent at least 90 degrees at the end of each row.

Mistake No. 4: Drop Your Knees to the Side

Everyone wants to enjoy their workout session; however, letting the knees flop wide is excessive. It indicates that you’re not activating your hip flexors or inner thigh muscles.

The fix: Complete the movement with your knees at the same level as your hips. Grip your knees together with your inner thighs, or pretend to zip your legs up as you extend forward and coast.

Another fix: Another way to stop your knees from buckling is to tighten the strap around the joint of the large toe, ensuring your feet are in the correct position. Place the adjustable strap over the joint at the base of your big toe. Your toes should be able to bend comfortably to push off from the balls of your feet.

Mistake No. 5: Gripping the Oar Too Tight

While working out, relax a bit. Although we can appreciate the excitement, it’s not necessary to hold the oar like a pull-up bar or wrap your thumbs around it. This type of grip can establish unwanted tension in the forearms.

The fix: Use the three fingers to hold the oar. Rather than putting your hands in the middle, put them on the outside of the oar. Set your thumbs on top without wrapping them, and let your little fingers hang off the bottom. Grip the bar using the first, middle, and ring fingers of each hand.

While pulling back, emphasise using your upper back, not just your shoulders and biceps. This will help alleviate pressure on your hands.


Now that you understand the fundamentals of rowing and have established your form go one step further with a rowing workout. There are activities on and off the rowing machine to maintain the intensity and dynamism. Aim for a full-body workout with planks, lunges, squats, and other exercises. This workout program effectively strengthens every muscle required for intense rowing sessions.