Trainer’s corner: Do you even row, bro?

By Scott Strasser

Sick of sweating it out on the treadmill with a horde of other runners?

Despite its relative lack of popularity, the rowing machine — or ergometer as it’s known in the rowing world — is a great option for those looking for a rewarding cardiovascular workout. Erging provides a comprehensive full-body workout. When done correctly, it targets the quadriceps, back muscles and biceps, as well as the shoulder muscles and abdominals. By incorporating so many different muscle groups, the amount of calories burned while erging is considerably higher than the amount of calories burned during more popular forms of cardio, such as running, cycling or going on the elliptical. Erging also has the benefit of having less stress on the joints than running.

Done incorrectly however, erging has the potential to seriously injure an athlete. This guide outlines the four steps that make up a proper rowing stroke, and highlight a few important points to consider the next time you decide to jump on the rowing machine.

The catch: This is the starting position of a stroke. Once you are sitting comfortably on the ergometer with the foot straps properly adjusted, grasp the handles with an overhand grip. Slide the seat forward until your shins are as close as possible to being perpendicular to the floor. Your heels should come up off the footplate, and your arms should extend out so that you are almost touching the front of the machine. Remember to keep your back straight and avoid hunching the shoulders.

The drive: The drive is the section of a stroke that generates power. Begin the drive by pushing your heels down onto the footplate, and then use your leg muscles to push the seat towards the back of the ergometer. Once your legs are straight, begin to swing your torso towards a position just past perpendicular with the floor. While keeping your back straight, pull the handles in towards your body, squeezing with your back muscles. Tension should be put on the middle of your back as opposed to your upper back and shoulder area.

The finish: At this point of the stroke, your legs should be straight and your feet should be firmly planted on the foot plates. Your arms should be bent with the handle touching your ribs, and your torso should be leaning back slightly.

The recovery: The recovery is essentially the only rest you get while erging. Once you are at the finish, push the handle out and re-swing your torso towards the front of the rowing machine. Once the handle is above your shins and your shoulders are in front of your hips, re-bend your knees and allow the seat to slide forward so you can start the process all over again.