Ropes and Rowers


by Amanda Fitzpatrick, ACSM-CPT, ACE-GFI

Being able to maintain proper form on a rower can make or break your workout. Here’s an explanation of proper rowing form broken down step by step.

A rowing stroke has 4 parts and together, these movements create a continuous, smooth rowing stroke:

  1. Catch
  2. Drive
  3. Finish
  4. Recovery.

Beginning with the catch, the starting position, keep your arms straight, upper body reaching forward, shins vertical. Next comes the drive. The drive is considered the work portion of the stroke. Start by pressing with your legs, lean back with a neutral spine and finish with the arm pull, pulling the handles into your navel with your shoulders relaxed and your wrists straight. This ending position is known as the finish. Your legs are straight, upper body hinged back slightly and core engaged. For the recovery, you’re going to reverse the drive by beginning to extend your arms until they are straight, lean forward towards the flywheel and once your hands have passed your knees, allow your knees to bend and return to the catch position. Now you’re ready to repeat these movements in a continuous loop adding more power to your drive as you get more comfortable with the movement pattern. Just repeat in your head: legs, back, arms, arms, back, legs and you’ve got your stroke!

As for the ropes portion of this workout, make sure that the ropes have some slack and that you maintain a ½ squat, keeping your core engaged, back stable and weight in your hips and heels. You solely want to be using your arms to move the ropes and not your upper body.

Begin with a 5 minute warm up on the rower. Set the flywheel at a tension of about 3-5. This will give you a more realistic feeling of rowing in water and secure your feet in the the stirrups with the straps pulled tight across the middle of your feet.

Alternate between 45 seconds of rope work and 500 meters of rowing.

  1. Double Downs
  2. 500 Meter Row
  3. Alternating Ropes
  4. 500 Meter Row
  5. Ribbons (short and quick, alternating)
  6. 500 Meter Row
  7. Outward Circles (make alternating circles outward)
  8. 500 Meter Row
  9. Crossovers (Pulling the ropes apart then cross them over, repeat alternating which hand is on top)
  10. 500 Meter Row

Take a ~5 minute break and REPEAT.   

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