How to Get the Most Out of a Rowing Machine

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Steeeeeroke, steeeeeeroke.

Rowing a canoe is a wonderful physical activity. It’s engaging, it’s competitive, and it’s social! Unfortunately, A: not everyone owns a canoe, B: not everyone lives near a river, and C: close-proximity social activities are a no-no right now. It is in this situation that it’s wonderful to own a rowing machine. It’s a great way to get a full-body workout from the comfort of home. Some rowing machines even have video games built in! But as with real rowing (and most exercises, really), proper form is extremely important.


Rule number one: proper posture. When engaging your arms on the rower, your first instinct may be to hunch your back so you can stretch your arms out, but this is an instinct best ignored. Bad rowing posture can put unnecessary strain on your back and make it more difficult for you to breathe properly. Keep your back straight and taut and push your shoulders down to keep the pressure off your neck.

Rule number two: scooping. There’s a particular timing you need to get down while rowing. You want to try to keep the bending of your knees timed with your return rows. If you bend your knees on the return before your arms have completely extended, you’ll be forced to do an odd scooping motion to avoid hitting your legs. This is bad for your limbs, plus once you start doing this motion, it can be hard to stop.

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Rule number three: proper grip. A row bar is not a pull-up bar. You don’t need to hold it like you’re hanging on for dear life. All a tense grip will do is hurt your hands and drain your stamina faster. Keep a firm, yet relaxed grip on the outsides of the bar, and row with your upper back to keep the pressure off your hands.

Remember these rules, and you’ll be a champion rower in no time. At least, in your own home. Not sure how well rowing machine skills translate to actual rowing, to be honest.