by Leeny Hoffmann

You get to the gym and you look upon the whiteboard to see that rowing is in the wod.  You do a fist pump and say, “I got this”.  Unfortunately, you don’t.  As hard as many CrossFitters try to row, many of them just haven’t been coached properly on good technique.  It’s not that they are not trying.  To the contrary, they are trying really hard.  With less effort and more technique, they could be turning in some great times on the rower.  I’ve had to avert my eyes a few times and ask myself, “Are they rowing hard, or hardly rowing?”

Here is how we DON’T want to row!

Of course, I’ve never seen anyone with technique this bad!  I’m hoping this was some kind of joke.  But there have been times that I have witnessed athletes rushing back to the catch like the flywheel is on fire without ever changing the position of the back.  Or the dreaded “over the knee” handle that accommodates the bent knees as one glides into the catch with open hips.  Please, for the love of peaches, I beg of you not to bend those knees until the handle crosses.  And while I’m at it, keep those hands in motion…handle to the sternum at the finish, and then gracefully heading back toward the catch.  Don’t death grip the handle at the finish and keep it there for a long pause like it’s your long lost teddy bear.  Why waste all that flywheel energy?  Hands are in constant motion.

The basics are simple but require discipline and practice.  All of you should go to the Concept 2 website here to the technique page and have a look at a few of the videos.  They provide a wealth of knowledge and it’s only a few clicks away.
Also, you can go to UCanRow2 to find great blog entries and technique videos by Terry Smythe, who is a Concept2 Master instructor.  Below is one of her technique videos.  (This is who I got my rowing certification from!)


During rowing class, we practice a few key points during our technique warmup on the row machine.


Start at the catch with shins vertical and torso, leaning in.  Think of the 1:00 position on a clock, (never mind that I’m facing the wrong way on the rower)!


Begin to drive with the legs, pushing in hard with the feet and pulling on the handle to make a good connection and almost getting the feeling of weightlessness on your seat.  Don’t open up your back too early in the drive or you will lose precious power from your hips.  Posture is also important.  Keep that back strong, like in a deadlift.  Don’t round it out like a turtle!


Finish strong with toes pointed toward the flywheel and handle at about your sternum.  Back angle should be at 1:00 on a clock, just past perpendicular.

Now we recover and we take our time back into the catch.  Begin by pushing the handle away and following with the back.  Hips close, and once the handle crosses the knees, you have permission to bend them and roll into the catch.  Your back angle should be back into the 1:00, forward-leaning position and you maintain that angle until shins are vertical at the catch.  Boom.  You’ve just done a complete stroke.

When you get to the gym to warm up before the WOD, here are some great things to think about on a quick 4-minute row.


Minute 1:  Concentrate on back posture from 11:00-1:00.  Open and close those hips.
Minute 2:  Point toes toward flywheel at the finish.  Don’t worry if your heels lift up a bit.
Minute 3:  On the recovery, don’t bend knees until handle crosses them.
Minute 4:  Concentrate on a hard drive, and a relaxed recovery with a count of 1:2, drive to recovery.
Dial in your technique and improve your experience on the rower.  Yeah, it will still be hard. Rowing is hard,  but it’s better than hardly rowing.
Rowers at CFStL work hard on their technique every class and it shows!