How to Row like a Pro:

The rower is one of the best conditioning tools in our arsenal of equipment. Like any tool, the key to using it effectively is understanding how it works and applying the right technique. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your next rower workout:

Proper technique

The Catch: This is your starting position. With your arms straight, sit up tall with your chest up and shins vertical.

The Drive: Drive your heels into the foot plates to forcefully extend your legs while keeping the arms straight.

The Finish (a): Hinge back at the hips and lean back.

The Finish (b): Use your arms to pull the handle until it reaches below the ribs. Your shoulders should be low and your wrists flat.

The Recovery: Reverse the sequence above to return to the catch by first extending your arms, then leaning forward and allowing the knees to bend. The seat should slide forward along the monorail in one smooth motion.

Damper setting

A common myth is that a higher damper setting creates more resistance and will provide a better workout or a faster time. First, let’s understand what the damper actually does. The damper controls how much air enters the flywheel housing. A higher damper setting allows more air in, which slows down the flywheel faster during the recovery. The damper affects how rowing feels but does not directly impact workout intensity. The intensity on a rower is created mainly by how hard you pull during the drive phase.

The optimal damper setting for most people is between 3-5. In fact, Olympians rarely use a damper setting of 10 when rowing competitively!

Stroke rate

Power is generated by spinning the flywheel as fast as possible, not by how fast you travel back and forth along the rail. Therefore, our main goal is to use our legs, core, and arms to accelerate the flywheel as hard as possible. If we rush the recovery to the catch, we sacrifice power production when it really matters – during the drive. Relax during the recovery, pull hard during the drive! To focus on power production, aim for a drive to recovery ratio of 1:2. A good target for overall stroke rate is about 24-30 strokes per minute.

Written by Michael Ma