The Rowing Technique: How To Perform A Rowing Cycle

How To Perform A Rowing Cycle

It is a single movement but repeated over and over, better learn how to do it correctly.


Everyone goes for a run, but how many train at the rowing machine? Yet it is the ideal endurance exercise (minimum friction for many repetitions, i.e. low impact with high result), even if few take it seriously. If you want to become a complete athlete, rowing can improve your overall performance. Here’s why and how to perform a perfect stroke.

The benefits of rowing

Rowing is a phenomenal exercise because it involves all the muscles in the body. At the same time, when performed with the correct technique, it is a low impact and minimal friction workout that does not require too much effort to cause trauma to joints and muscles. Rowing sessions are great for improving overall endurance as they increase aerobic capacity and enhance anaerobic performance. Many overlook it because they think it’s boring, but that’s not necessarily true. Of course, you can limit yourself to rowing for as long as possible, or you can choose to do high-intensity intervals – for example, try doing 5 sets of 500 meters with 90 seconds of rest between each. You’ll see, it’s anything but a bore! Also, on a technical level rowing is not a complicated exercise, it is only effective when done correctly. The 4 phases of the rowing cycle

The movement at the base of rowing is the so-called rowing cycle and consists of two steps, the pass and the catch, and two positions, the attack and the finish. To perform a good rowing cycle, the athlete starts in the attack position, performs the pass until reaching the final and through the recovery phase returns to the attack.

The feet always remain in full contact with the pedal board, with the toe straps positioned at the base of the toes. The hands are relaxed on the handlebars and at a distance equal to that of the shoulders.


The starting position is the attack: the athlete is slightly bent forward, forming an angle of about 85 °, the arms are straight, the back is straight while the knees are bent.


During the pass phase, the athlete pushes on the pedal until the legs are straightened. Then, keeping your back straight and your abdomen contracted, lean back and pull your arms towards your chest.


In the final position the legs are straight, the chest and abdomen are slightly back, the elbows are bent and behind the back, finally the dumbbell is level with the sternum. The back is straight with the shoulder blades closed back.

During the recovery phase the athlete repeats exactly the same movement as in the pass but in reverse: the arms are stretched, the torso is slightly inclined forward and the legs bend until they return to the attack position.

It is not immediate, but with a little training the movement becomes much smoother. If you notice, all major joints are involved. In the pass phase, at the beginning you use those of the lower body: first loads on the hips, then on the knees and finally on the ankles. Then it’s your torso: you start with your shoulders, then pull your shoulder blades back, bend your elbows and finally use your wrists to close the movement by pulling the dumbbell.

Each rowing cycle works the entire body, including joints and muscles, but at a low impact. This makes it a great general conditioning exercise that has lower risk of injury, for example, than running.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them

To reach 3km with the rowing machine it takes about 500 rowing cycles, which means you have to repeat the same movement 500 times … Just imagine what damage you can cause to your body if you do it the wrong way. For this it is important to learn the right technique and perform the movement consciously from the beginning, before increasing the speed.

The most common mistake is already made in the attack position: many tend to arch their backs and lean forward, thus loading the spine. The best way to make sure that it is straight is to fix the chain: keeping your gaze at this height, the head takes an angle such as to impose a neutral position on the spine.

Remember that the entire foot, including the heels, should remain in full contact with the pedal board, even in the attack position. As you pass, consider that it is better to use the largest muscle group first: very often, on the contrary, you tend to immediately activate the torso and arms and straighten the legs only later. The best way to correct this is to train without toe straps, so you have to control the movement.

In the final, many lean back too much. The result is that more energy is unnecessarily wasted, with the additional risk of hurting the lower back. Try not to bend more than 100 degrees.

It is not uncommon to see athletes setting the damper lever to 10, which is the maximum resistance level of the fan, making every stroke very hard. But imposing more resistance doesn’t necessarily mean getting stronger or training more effectively. Keep in mind that when rowing you repeat the same movement over and over, so high resistance can easily cause technical execution errors. Such an overconfidence causes you to run out of energy faster with the risk of not reaching your goal and possibly getting off the rower with an injury. It is recommended to set the damper to 3-5, which is a resistance level similar to that of real water. Remember: rowing is a complete movement that involves the whole body, there is no need to overdo it.


An extra gear for your bodyweight training

In conclusion, rowing is a great cardio activity that can improve aerobic and anaerobic capacity. What’s so special about it? In practice, you will have less effort with Burpees and other Freeletics exercises such as Jumping Jacks or Split Lunges.

Each stroke involves a movement of the hips that improves strength and mobility, the result is that in the long run it becomes easier to do Squats, Standups and Hip Raises. Don’t forget that they are the main joints in your body, so healthy hips are essential for moving and training in total safety.

The movement you make in the pass phase, or when you shoot, is exactly the same as you do with the Incline Rows. In addition to strengthening the back, therefore, with rowing you perfect the technique of execution of this exercise because with each stroke of the row you train but with less resistance.

Using the rowing machine also requires a strong grip: there is nothing better than 100 strokes of rowing to train the hands and forearms. After a few regular rowing sessions, you will notice the difference by doing Pullups, Passive Hangs and Leg Raises.

And now put what you have learned into practice. Get on that rower and start rowing!


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