Common Rowing Mistakes

Whether it's your first time on the rowing machine, or you rowed crew on the water, it never hurts to watch reminders on more efficient rowing.

When you're rowing efficiently, your joints will be in better shape, and you'll perform better in your interval workouts because you're targeting the right muscles.

Here are the seven most common mistakes we see with newcomers, and how to correct them.


MISTAKE #1: UNDERSTANding parts of the stroke

The rowing stroke has four parts: The Catch, the Drive, the Finish, and the Recovery.

60% of your power on the erg comes from your legs, and only 20% comes from both your back and your arms. Focus on driving through your legs (as though you were kicking the erg away from you each time.)


mistake #2: fumbling to get off the erg

You finished 500 meters - great! Now you need to quickly transition and do some burpees.

Wait - oh no - I'M TRAPPED.

Here's a quick video on how to very quickly transition off the erg. Kick those straps up!


Mistake #3: "Breaking at the arms"

The moment you lose leg drive, it's game over.

To prevent this, keep your arms mostly relaxed until your legs are nearly straight. (It might help to imagine that your arms are like spaghetti for the first part of the drive - they're just holding on to your handle while your legs do all the work.)

Sometimes we hear that people's hands hurt or even chafe from the handle - if this is happening, you're gripping the handles too hard. Remember: 60% legs.


Mistake #4: Opening the back early

In an effort to get the handles to our chest as quick as we can, we engage both our back and our arms too early.

The order of muscle engagement in the drive is legs, back, arms. In this mistake, the rower is engaging their back and arms first and their legs later.

When you correct this mistake, you'll likely see your split time drop a LOT. Yay!


mistake #5: pulling into the neck

Sometimes we see rowers pull the handle back as far as possible (and lean back a lot), with the logic that a longer pull gets more power.

You're actually losing power here and adding unnecessary length.

If anything, pull to your chest and increase the number of strokes you make per minute to get more speed and power.


mistake #6:"rolling over a barrel"

You're EXCITED. That's great!

Now keep your chain completely even. Adding a lot of upward or downward movement slows you down and could even tweak something.

In class, how we sometimes cue this correction is to hold our hand directly under your chain - this helps our clients see and feel for a steady chain, and therefore an easy stroke.


mistake #7: Lunging forward in the catch

When doing the catch, it's easy to want to lean forward with your handles to get maximum "wind-up".

A good reference is that, at your furthest point forward, your knees should never go past your ankles. If they do, you'll actually lose power.

Again, if you want more intensity, increase your strokes per minute. Rowing works 83% of your muscle mass, more than any other cardio machine, so trust us - you'll feel it. :)