How to Fix Your Rowing Technique
by Erik Castiglione
Do you hate rowing? Does it seem to take you forever to get through the rowing portion of your WOD? If so, it could be that your technique is off. The Concept 2 Rowing Ergometer is a machine that favors efficiency of movement. (That and taller, heavier athletes. If that’s not you, blame your parents.) This article is about how to use the rower to self-diagnose your form, and how to fix your rowing technique.
For starters, let’s talk about your stroke. You start and end in a position called the “Catch.” Pulling on the handle is called the “Drive”, which ends in the “Finish.” You then go through the “Recovery” and end up back in the Catch.
In the Catch, you should have straight arms, a neutral head, shoulders level (not hunched) and in front of your hips, and your shins as vertical as possible. If you have good enough ankle flexibility, keep your heels flat. If not, heels can come off the foot pad as long as you achieve vertical shins. Ideally, your back should be flat, but like the heels, this depends on your own proportions and levers. I have a long torso and thus a slight round to my back in the Catch.
In the Finish, you should be leaning back slightly with your legs fully extended. The handle should be below your chest but above your lap. A good indicator for the ideal position is that your wrists will be flat.
Where most people mess up their stroke is in the dynamic portions; the Drive and the Recovery. The Recovery is simplest to fix, so we’ll go over that first. The first part of the recovery is the hand throw. Your arms should straighten before anything else happens. Then, and only then, should your hips close (lean forward) and your knees bend. This will allow you to return to a good Catch position. Most people who mess up the recovery do so by bending their knees BEFORE extending their arms. By throwing your hands out as soon as you reach the Finish, you can fix this. See the first video below.
If you have a proper Catch, Finish, and Recovery, then your error lies in the Drive. There are a couple ways this can go wrong. When you pull, you want a nice smooth stroke by pushing with your legs, opening your hips for a good power transfer, and then pulling with the arms. There is a setting on the monitors that allow you to see just how smooth your strokes are. Here are a few examples:
If you look at the above example, the stroke is smooth. This results in a nice, arcing curve. The area under the curve is the power you generate, so you want as big and even a curve as possible.
In the second example above, you’ll notice that the peak of the curve is delayed. There’s a slow ramp up leading to the peak. This occurs when you have little leg drive and rely heavily on the arm pull, as you can see in the video.
In the last example, the curve ends prematurely. This is what happens when you have a big leg drive but no follow through. This is also evident in the accompanying video.
If you fix your Catch, Finish, and Recovery, you can self-diagnose the problems with your Drive. This will help you develop the most efficient stroke possible.