The rowing machine is an effective and popular cardiovascular exercise that uses the entire body in synergy. You need to use the proper rowing technique if you want to get the most from your workouts and avoid injury. Your lower back is particularly at risk if you fail to use good technique. Rowing is more technically demanding than using an exercise bike or jogging on a treadmill so it’s worth spending some time becoming a proficient rower so you can enjoy this piece of training equipment as much as possible. The rowing stroke is broken into numerous phases.
The Start/Finish Position
Making sure your feet are securely fixed in the foot rests, extend your knees until they are straight. Sit up as tall as you can and pull the oar handle into your midsection. Keep your wrists straight, your forearms horizontal and your arms tucked close into your sides while looking straight forward. This is your start and finish position for every stroke.
Arm Extension and Hip Bend
From the start position; smoothly extend your arms so they are fully straight. Lean forwards slightly at the hips whilst keeping your spine neutral. You should still be sitting tall so make sure you don’t round your lower back. Your arms should be relaxed; your wrists straight and you should be looking forwards.
Immediately after the arm extension and hip bend, begin to bend your legs and slide your body forwards. Your arms should remain extended. Slide forwards until your knees are bent and your shins are vertical. Your hands should be slightly in front of your legs. You should still be trying to sit as tall as possible-avoid rounding your back too much. This is the point in the stroke where you will transition from moving forwards to moving backwards. This is called the catch in water rowing as it is the point your oar blades catches water.
The Drive Part One
Reverse your direction by pushing off with your legs. Focus on pushing through your heels and not your toes. Your upper body should begin to lean back from the hips as you initiate the drive but you should not begin pulling with your arms just yet! Keep your torso rigid during the drive so that none of the power generated by your legs is lost.
The Drive Part Two
Once your knees are almost straight, you should begin pulling with your arms. Your stronger leg muscles initiate the drive and your weaker arm muscles finish the stroke off by pulling the oar handle into your midsection. Keep your wrists straight, your forearms horizontal and your elbows tucked in close to your body. Pull the bar all the way back into your midsection. You should now be back in the start/finish position.
Learning the correct rowing technique may take time but the benefits you will experience as a result will make your efforts worthwhile. There is a lot to remember when rowing but, like any skill, with practice and repetition it will become unconscious and automatic. From the start position remember: Arms-Legs-Legs-Arms. This sequence is a large part of your rowing. Try reciting it to yourself as you row, which will help you perfect your rowing technique.
For more on rowing technique check out http://www.concept2.com/us/training/technique.asp
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