How to use a rowing machine

Fitness Equipment

Rowing is one of the original sports in modern day Olympics. The founder of the games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was a rower himself.

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Why use a rowing machine?

Rowing machines are becoming more popular as people discover the many health benefits rowing offers. The exercise is low impact and the machines are easy to use. 

Rowing works several muscle groups of the upper and lower body. Just spending a few minutes on the machine can lead to a total body workout. Proper use of the rowing machine can make for a safer and more enjoyable workout to help achieve a more active lifestyle. 

What is a rowing machine?

Rowing machines mimic the movement of rowing a boat outdoors on the water. Though the scenery might be different, the workout is the same. 

Parts of a rowing machine

While there are several manufacturers of rowing machines, the basic premise of the machine is universal. All rowing machines include the flywheel, the damper, the footstraps, the chain or strap, the handlebar, the seat and the display. Hydraulic rowers, however, do not include a flywheel or chain.

The flywheel creates the resistance using either air, water or magnets. The damper is similar to the gears on a bike. It can be adjusted to change how easy or difficult the strokes feel. The numbers range from one to ten. The lower the number, the easier, or lighter, the stroke will feel when rowing. The higher the number, the heavier it feels. Most Olympians train with the damper between three and five. This is also where beginners should start.

Proper form

In order to achieve the most beneficial workout and reduce the risk of injury, it’s essential to use the rowing machine properly. This starts with the proper form. 

There are four motions used when rowing: the catch, the drive, the finish and the recovery.

The first thing you should do before starting your workout is properly adjust the footstraps. The straps should securely rest over the balls of your feet.

The catch 

Sit upright on the seat with your arms outstretched, holding onto the handlebar. Your knees should be bent and your ankles flexed. They both should be as vertical as possible. Your weight needs to be on the balls of your feet. This will be your starting position.

The drive 

Use your legs to push back while engaging your core. Don’t slouch, hunch or lean back. Keep your back and your arms straight. When your legs are fully extended, lean back at about a 45 degree angle. Next, pull the handlebar towards you, just below your chest and above your ribs. Keep your shoulders relaxed.  

The finish 

This is the brief resting period when your legs are fully extended, your body is leaned back slightly and the handlebar is pulled in at your chest. Keep the core engaged, shoulders relaxed and the wrists flat. Don’t flare out your elbows, but keep them tucked in.

The recovery

This is the opposite of the drive. Extend your arms, lean forward, bend your knees and slide the seat forward to where you began in the catch position.

Your push back should be twice as fast as the glide back to the starting position. In other words, take one count to push back and two counts to glide back in.

Just remember: legs, core, arms, and then, arms, core, legs.

Display definitions

The display can be intimidating to decipher, but it’s much easier than you think. 

Strokes per minute

Also known as the rate value, this is how much you row in one minute.

Split time

This is how long it will take you to row 500 meters at your current pace. It is often the largest number on the screen.

What you need to buy for a rowing machine

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor

From a trusted brand in rowing equipment, this rowing machine is ideal for your home gym. It’s quiet and only weighs 57 pounds for easy transport and setup. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

2k Fit Rowing Machine Seat Cushion

2k Fit Rowing Machine Seat Cushion

This seat is made with custom memory foam and is machine washable. The seat won’t slip as it comes with two straps, a buckle and is made from high-friction, rubberized material.  

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

SuperMats Row Mat

SuperMats Row Mat

A mat will protect your floor and prevent you from sliding around during intense workouts. These mats are extra long, heavy duty, odor-free and made from thick PVC material.

Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch

Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch

The Fitbit is a great way to monitor your heart rate while staying connected to the world during your workout. The large display will make it easier to see the numbers on the screen when you’re on the move. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Treadlife Fitness Rowing Machine Chain Oil

Treadlife Fitness Rowing Machine Chain Oil 

Regular maintenance of your rowing machine is essential to both its safety and the longevity. Though any lubricating oil can be used on the chain, this one’s small bottle is convenient. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Polar Insulated Water Bottle

Polar Insulated Water Bottle

This BPA-free water bottle will keep your beverage cold for twice as long than older models. It can be squeezed during your workout for quick hydration.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Jaybird Vista 2 True Wireless Sport Headphones

Jaybird Vista 2 True Wireless Sport Headphones

These headphones are known for their secure fit which will be imperative in a sport like rowing. They offer noise canceling features and Surroundsense. The latter keeps listeners connected to their surroundings. 

Where to buy: Amazon

Men’s Dry Fit Moisture Wicking T-shirt

Men’s Dry Fit Moisture Wicking T-shirt

This breathable and lightweight wicking t-shirt is perfect for indoor rowing sessions. The material is perfect for keeping you dry, cool and comfortable when workouts get sweaty. 

Where to buy: Amazon 

Under Armour Women’s Tech Print Long Sleeve Shirt

Under Armour Women’s Tech Print Long Sleeve Shirt

This soft and sweat wicking shirt can be worn inside or outside of the gym. It offers anti-odor technology and its loose fit allows for freedom of movement.

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

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Ashley Willis writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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