How To Use a Rowing Machine – Learn in 10 Simple Steps

Rowing machines are considered one of the most effective when it comes to cardiovascular exercise. Unlike treadmills, rowing machines use the muscles of the entire body, beginning with the muscles of the limbs and extending to the back  and the shoulders, thus providing a well rounded workout. The rowing machine benefits are  so great, however, this very comprehensiveness of the workout regime can become a source of injury or strain in different parts of the body if one does not know the right procedure for using a rowing machine. Hence, today we shall learn how to use a rowing machine in simple steps that can be carried out by anyone of almost any age. However, if you have specific medical issues or are finding problems with any of the steps, do not proceed. Instead, consult your doctor as to what modifications in the following steps are needed to ensure that nothing untoward occurs.

How To Use a Rowing Machine

  1. Sit down in the right position: This may seem pretty unnecessary advice, but it is the most vital, ensuring that your body is balanced during the workout. For this, place yourself in the centre of the seat, such your tail bone is centered on the seat, and the top of your hamstrings just about stick out of the seat. We know you won’t get an X-ray done to ensure this, but do ensure that the seating is correct and comfortable, before beginning.
  2. Secure your feet in the footrests: Different types of rowing machines have different types of footrests, but when learning how to use a rowing machine, you must figure out a position in which your feet are neither loose in the footrests, nor sticking out from the top or bottom. Some rowing machines provide pivoting footrests which allow the feet its natural movement, but even without this, the feet should not feel cramped during workout. For those taller than 6’2”, it is always advisable to try out the machine at the local store to see if they are compatible.
  3. Hold the handleHold the handle with both your hands, such that they are gripping the two edges of the handle. Your shoulders should be spread out and perpendicular to your arms. Do not make your hold too rigid, but make sure to hold it firmly.
  4. Pull the handle inwards: Draw the handle in till it is level with your diaphragm. This should bring your hands to the level of your shins. Make sure that both hands are equally positioned. If not you may develop a sprain in one shoulder. Keeping your back straight (but not rigid), pull your knees up, causing the seat to slide, till it is as close to your heels as possible.
  5. Stretch your legs fully: Without letting go of the hold on the handle or relaxing your back, stretch your feet till they are fully straight. Called the “drive”, this movement demands the maximum amount of strength.
  6. Complete the “drive”: Shift the position of your back by swinging your hips. This should lead to your back developing a slight backward lean, changing from the forward one which it had been in earlier. Make sure however that your back is more or less straight, since too much of a lean can cause unnecessary strains on your back muscles. Now quickly pull the handle up till it is back at your diaphragm (same handle position as step 2).
  7. Begin the “recovery”: Just as quickly as you pulled in, push out your arms to the fully stretched position while keeping your legs unmoved, beginning the part of the routine called the recovery. It is important that you do it with appropriate speed, as speed is an important aspect of learning how to use a rowing machine.
  8. Move handle forward and lower knees: Relax your hold on the handle slightly till it has moved forward by some extent. Now release your knees, such that the seat is pushed back again.
  9. Complete the “recovery” : Now pull the handle and move your legs till your knees are between your arms, and you’re bent forward again. Your hands should ideally be between your body and the handle.
  10. Repeat the steps 2-9: Repeat the steps from 2-9 again and again till you’re comfortable enough to do it without having to read this guide. Congrats, you’ve learnt how to use a rowing machine!

Video Demo

When carrying out this routine, always remember 

  • Do not row too fast at first. Your body needs time to adjust, and sudden acceleration can lead to cramps and pulls.
  • This is hard exercise, and therefore, some warm up is advisable. If you wish to avoid warm up, begin the workout very slowly.
  • Always ensure that different parts of the body are well-coordinated. Never try to change the position of arms, legs or hips if you remember mid routine that you’re doing it wrong. Instead, relax completely and begin again.

The above guide should give you a fair idea of how to use a rowing machine. As mentioned before, different rowing machines have their own specialties, but the above guide should go a long way in helping you start off with your rowing machine workout.