The rowing machine is a staple of every gym. Rowing is a full body exercise that develops aerobic power as well as strength endurance. It is impact-free, making it easier on your joints than other forms of cardio, like running. It also activates a large number of muscle groups including the quads, core, back, and arms.

Though rowing can be a great form of exercise, if done improperly, it can cause back problems. If we want to burn as many calories as possible while rowing, it’s important to be efficient with our movements and row with proper form.

We can break down the row into two main parts: the drive, and the recovery. The drive is when you are producing force (if you were actually rowing in a boat, this would be the bit where you are propelling yourself forward). The recovery is when you rest and set yourself up for your next drive.

Like this move? Try Viking Strength & Function. Start for free.

The Recovery

When explaining proper form, it is helpful to start with the recovery at the end of the drive.

When you finish your drive and start your recovery, you should have your legs extended, and the handle of the rower should be touching your chest while keeping a light grip.

Lean your body back slightly, creating a 135-degree angle at the hip joint.

Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed, head neutral, and elbows past the body. This is what is known as “the finish”.

From the finish, you want to extend your arms straight ahead of you while keeping the rest of your body still.

Once your arms are extended, you can begin to lean forward a bit. Once your body moves past 90-degrees, you can introduce the legs.

Bend your knees and begin to slide the seat forward until your shins are vertical.

From this position, which is called “the catch”, you will begin the drive portion of the row.

The Drive

To begin your drive, press with your strongest muscles: your legs.

Push your feet forward into the machine until they are fully extended.

Once your legs have done their job, it’s your back’s turn. Go from a slight lean forward to a slight lean back to keep the handle propelling backward.

Finally, finish the drive by pulling the handle to the top of your ribs with your arms. Simply reverse this order for your recovery, then get into your catch and do it all again.

Make sure to make these movements as seamless and smooth as possible.

Imagine moving through water, which should not be a very hard visual given the nature of the exercise.


The rowing machine can be used in a variety of ways. You can row for a few minutes before your workout to warm up the body before you lift heavy, or at the end of your workout to burn some extra calories.

You can play around with interval training on it, going for intense bouts before resting and starting your next interval.

The rowing machine offers a great alternative to other forms of cardio, which can have a higher impact on joints and ligaments.

So if you do want to include it as part of your regular training, make sure that you’re doing it correctly, and getting the most out of each stroke.

Related Posts