Indoor Rowing Technique

The rowing machine is one of the few pieces of training apparatus found in a gym that requires a moderate degree of technical competence to both maximise the benefit of training and ensure that you do not injure yourself.

There can be a wide variety of differing techniques. Although not all of these can result in injury, the rowing machine is a training apparatus and you need to maintain a degree of competence in order to minimise any risk.

Good technique produces maximum speed for minimum effort!

The model of British Rowing Technique has been developed by the GB High Performance Coaches on the Technical Panel of British Rowing.

You can look through the sequence of photos of Fran Houghton and accompanying explanation to help you perfect your indoor rowing technique.

Drive Phase

Recovery Phase

The rowing stroke is defined by a long drive phase and a relaxed and controlled recovery.

Drive Phase
The Drive 1The drive phase is initiated with a push from the legs.
Drive 2As the legs reach half their extension, the hip angle begins to open.
The Drive 3Once the legs are fully extended and the back is vertical the arms begin to draw the handle to the body.
The Drive 4The handle finishes about half way up the body. The elbows follow the line of the handle and the wrists stay in line with the forearm.
Drive Phase
The Drive 1
The drive phase is initiated with a push from the legs.
Drive 2
As the legs reach half their extension, the hip angle begins to open.
The Drive 3
Once the legs are fully extended and the back is vertical the arms begin to draw the handle to the body.
The Drive 4
The handle finishes about half way up the body. The elbows follow the line of the handle and the wrists stay in line with the forearm.

The recovery phase is as important as the drive. If this element is co-ordinated correctly it makes the drive phase instinctive. It is therefore this element that many rowers concentrate on during practice. The recovery is very similar to the drive phase but in reverse.

Recovery Phase
The Drive 4The finish position with the legs and back straight.
The Recovery 1The recovery is initiated with the arms straightening.
The Recovery 6The body pivots from the hips, before the legs bend.
The Recovery 3The legs flex until the shins are vertical.
Recovery Phase
The Drive 4
The finish position with the legs and back straight.
The Recovery 1
The recovery is initiated with the arms straightening.
The Recovery 6
The body pivots from the hips, before the legs bend.
The Recovery 3
The legs flex until the shins are vertical.

Throughout the co-ordination of the drive and recovery phases, the back should remain in a ‘neutral position’ (flat back, pivoting from the hips). This will help transmit the power generated from the legs to the handle and allow the force to be evenly spread throughout the spine, minimising the potential for any harm.

Check out our technique video with double Olympic champion Alex Gregory...

Want to learn more?

The most effective way to learn any skill is with a qualified coach. Rowing clubs may offer an opportunity to come and try a session. This is a chance for you to get some feedback from a coach as well as seeing if you like the sport. If you decide that you want to return to the gym then at least you go back with more than you initially knew. Some gyms have qualified instructors but check their credentials and gauge the instruction they give you on the basis of their level of competence.

You will not always have a coach or instructor available so one of the best ways to develop your technique is to watch what you are doing. Most gyms have a mirror where you can observe your technique while you are training. The key is to have a mental image of what you are trying to achieve and then attempt to copy it.

More in this section

Glossary

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Water Rowing Technique

Good technique is only good if it moves the boat effectively.

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What to Wear

You don’t need a lot of expensive sports kit when you’re getting started.

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