COMMON ROWING MISTAKES + TIPS TO GET STARTED
These insider tips will make sure your rower is set up correctly and your form is in good shape, plus provide drills to improve your performance.
Get Set Up Correctly
Seat and Sitting Position
- Make sure the seat is oriented with the notch facing the tail end of the rower. This notch allows freedom of movement for your tailbone. Sit toward the front of the seat.
- To lock in proper foot positioning, the strap should lie over the ball of each foot or at the top of your shoelaces.
- Push the center release button to adjust the footpads up or down.
Hand Placement & Grip
- Grasp the handle wide with your pinky fingers at the edge. Create a “C”-shaped hook with the fingers and cradle the handle in that hook.
- Hooking the handle with your fingers keeps the muscles in your upper body relaxed during the row. Over-gripping can lead to fatigue and cause you to hold too much tension in the neck and shoulders.
Common Mistakes in the Catch
- During the Catch, your heels may lift up, preventing your shins from becoming vertical.
- To correct this, pull your toes towards your shins, pulling your shins towards a vertical position and getting deeper in the catch.
- If your hips are positioned in front of your shoulders during the catch, your body will be leaning to 1 o’clock. This removes the Body Swing from your Drive phase, losing 30% of your power.
- Your shoulders should be in front of your hips, with your body leaning to 11 o’clock. Fold forward from the hips in order to help keep a long, neutral spine.
- Having your elbows bent or shoulder blades pulled back will shorten your stroke length and will cause you to lose energy during the Drive phase.
- Focus on keeping your arms long and your shoulder blades reaching forwards to get more length.
A Drill For the Catch: Catch Pause
- Practice pausing at the catch position for two seconds as if you are momentarily stuck. This will help reinforce your catch, and teach you how to “load the spring”.
Common Mistakes in the Drive + Release
- If the body swings too early, you will fail to capture the energy still being produced by your legs. This will cause you to rely heavily on your lower back muscles.
- To correct, finish extending the legs before initiating the body swing.
- If you draw your arms into your chest too early, you’ll fail to capture the energy that your legs and body are still trying to produce and fatigue your arms.
- To correct, finish driving with the legs and body before initiating the draw with your arms.
- If you are holding the handle to the chest for too long you will shorten your relaxation time which may cause you to rush the Recovery Phase.
- To correct, quickly reach the arms forward to allow your body to return to a relaxed state. Think of this as the follow-through of your Stroke.
A Drill for the Drive + Release: Catch and Release Pause
Drive out of the Catch position, quickly release the arms forward and then pause there for two full seconds before recovering back to the catch. This will allow you to focus on a strong Drive and a quick Release without having to worry about the Recovery Phase.
Common Mistakes in the Recovery
- If your knees bend too early, they will get in the way of the handle’s return path. This can cause you to lift the handle up and over your knees every stroke leading to extra fatigue.
- To avoid this, fold forwards from your hips so that your hands clear your knees first.
Timing the Recovery
- Rushing the recovery will create tension in your body, so it’s no longer relaxing. This is like burning the candle at both ends.
- Instead, make the recovery twice as long as your drive so you can be efficient with your relaxation time built into each stroke.
Additional Drills to Help Your Form
Feet Out Drill
This drill is great to do when you’re learning how to row because it gives you a lot of tactile feedback for a few common mistakes, helping you to slow down the recovery phase of your row and ensure you’re not leaning back too far during your stroke.
- Start with your feet sitting in the footpads with the straps off of your feet. Try rowing at a low SPM. This drill challenges you to work on your rowing technique while staying connected to the footplate without the assistance of the straps.
- This drill is self-correcting in that you will feel right away that the only way to stay grounded is to use good form. Focus on a smooth, connected drive and a quick release of the arms. Then, take your time coming forward on the recovery; this will make rushing the recovery impossible.
Reverse Pick Drill
The Reverse Pick Drill focuses on the sequence of movement and the connection between them so you can feel where your power is coming from. This should be a staple in your warm-up routine no matter what level you are at.
- First, start with your legs only for 10 strokes. Remember to maintain that forward lean to 11 o’clock and push through the footplate. This should produce 60% of the total power in your complete stroke.
- Next, add in the Body Swing for 10 strokes using your legs and then your body. Your body contributes 30% of the power in your complete stroke, so you should be up to about 90% of your total power now between both your Legs and Body.
- Finally, add in your Arms for 10 strokes using Legs, Body, and then Arms. This is the last 10% that brings you up to 100% power with your complete stroke.