Getting the most from the rowing erg

The rowing ergometer is a great piece of equipment to improve your strength and fitness. There are a few pieces of cardio equipment that  offer  as good a whole body workout as rowing.

If you want to get the most out of the rower without picking up niggling unnecessary injuries  we go through our top technique tips here.


Posture and indoor rowing

row row row your boat

Quite simply try and keep your chest up when you row and move from your hips rather than your low back. Inevitably you will flex your spine during the row especially when you get tired. The simple cue of keeping your chest up will offset this issue.

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Rowing technique : The drive phase on the indoor rowing erg

Legs first

Your legs are responsible for 60% of the power in a rowing stroke.

Think of rowing as a pushing movement rather than a pulling movement, you are actually driving the ergometer away from you with your legs first.

Check out this “reverse pick drill” to help you understand how to drive the erg

Then Back and hips  

There is lumbar movement involved in the rowing technique . Once you have extended the legs fully think about swinging back  from the hips to keep the momentum going.

Its not a large movement  and if you think about a clock face its like going back from 12 o’clock to 11 o’clock.

Check out this next “pick drill” to learn this part of the drive phase

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Arms last

Last the arms pull the handle home to the bottom of your rib cage. It should just brush this area not slam into it hard.

Think about tucking the elbows underneath the arm pits by using the big Latisimus muscles.

This a great warm up that focuses on the technical aspects of rowing , brought to you by Shane farmer of Dark Horse rowing.

Rowing technique : recovery phase on the indoor rowing erg

This should be exactly as its described , where you recover. It is the exact reverse movement pattern of what you have done. If you are clever you can let the machine do the work for you and “pull” you back in.

The sequence should be arms first , then back then legs. Try and let your seat slide underneath you so your shins are almost vertical at the end.

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Stroke rate and the rowing erg

This is a bit like cadence and running , we want to be as efficient as possible so we can get the most out of the machine.

The hardest thing to do is be patient and learn to row at a low stroke rate first then increase our drive with the legs to increase the speed without increasing that rate ! e.g row at 18 strokes / minute at 2.30min/500m for 60 -90 secs then try 10 strokes at 18 strokes /minute at a speed of 2.15min/500m. You are going faster with out increasing your stroke rate.

Damper setting and rowing on the indoor rowing erg.

Damper setting is the adjustable tab on the side of a Concept2 Rowing Machine. It moves up and down between 1 and 10. When the tab is at 1, it limits the amount of air allowed into the fan blade; at a 10 it allows all the air into the fan blade. The higher the damper setting the harder it feels to get the rower moving.

Most individuals confuse harder with better results. In the case of rowing it is more finding an optimal setting that allows consistent technique and connection to the fly wheel. You want the erg to work for you not against you.

Ideally you want to set the damper at a level where you can get a smooth rhythmical drive, recover and catch technique going. This usually sits around the 4-5 mark for most individuals.

In summary

The rowing erg is a great way to improve your fitness and when done well can offer a real challenge. If you want more info check out Dark horse rowing channel for more insights , drills and great  work out videos.

Cheers Dave

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