Rowing Basics

If you CrossFit, doesn’t it feel like you row allll the time? Rowing is like running. Almost anyone can do it, but do you do it well? Here are some of the basics to look at to see if there’s a flaw in your technique.

Step 1: The CATCH.

The catch is like your set-up or starting position of a lift. Having a good catch is important for getting a good push and pull in the DRIVE (see step 2). In the catch position:

  • Hold the handle with both hands
  • Lean forward from the hips (about at 1 o’clock) but maintain a tight back and core.
  • Heels may be slightly lifted from the pads but not egregiously.
  • The seat should not be near your heels! If it is, slide your butt and seat towards the back slightly.

Step 2: The DRIVE.

The drive has three parts: LEGS, then TORSO, then ARMS… in that order.

Keeping your lats engaged and your core tight, drive your heels into the pads. This is where you are going to get the most power for your row.

Just as the legs are about to lock out, swing your torso back going from about 1:00 to about 11:00.

Just as the torso is about to finish swinging back, pull the handle towards your chest, just below the nipple line, elbows to your sides. There’s no need to hit your chest, just get close.

Step 3: The RECOVERY.

The recovery has three parts in the exact reverse of the drive: ARMS, then TORSO, then LEGS… in that order.

  • From that finishing position of your drive, extend your arms forward so they are straight.
  • Just as they are about to finish straightening, swing your torso forward, keeping your core tight.
  • Just as your torso is about to come to 1:00, bend the knees and slide forward until you come back to your CATCH position (see step 1).

Some other tips:

  • The drive should be powerful and aggressive, the recovery should not be! Think of your recovery being at least twice as long as the drive so that you can have maximal power output each time you drive. On the recovery, breathe, slow down, reset. Extra credit fact: The time it takes you to recover will also change your strokes per minute (spm or s/m). Slow down your recovery and you will slow down your strokes per minute.
  • DAMPER is a matter of preference. Because the fan is spinning faster at a lower damper (e.g. 1) you have to have a fast turnaround from catch to drive to “catch it” at the right point. You may get fewer meters or calories per pull, but it will feel like less effort. If the damper is high (e.g. 10), you will feel like it is difficult to get the fan to spin, but if you are exerting more effort, you may get more calories or meters. But can you sustain it? I suggest trying it out. Go for :30 – :60 at a damper of 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 with significant rest in between (or maybe even on different days when you’re fully recovered), and record the number of meters you got. The one that you did the best at is the damper that is best for you. You might want to change the damper based off of a long workout or short workout, so you have to ask yourself, “for how long can I sustain that level of effort?”

  • Warm-up how you will work-out. So often an athlete will say to me, “Oh, but I’m just warming up.” Really? Because in this case, how you do the small things is how you do the big things. What’s the purpose of practicing inefficient movement patterns in a warm-up? Train yourself to move well 100% of the time, whether it’s a warm-up or a 5K row for time and you’ll have a lot less to think about when it matters.