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THE ULTIMATE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO ROWING

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THE RIGHT WAY TO ROW

To get the most out of a rowing session, it’s essential to get your form right from the start. Think about breaking your movements down into four simple steps:

Catch (Left): In the first part of the stroke, keep your arms straight, holding the bar with your upper body leaning forward from the hips and your shins vertical.
Drive (Left Center): Push through your legs until they are fully extended, keeping your torso upright. Your arms should be pulled into your body, with the handle just below your bra line.

Finish (Right Center): Now bring your torso back and finish pulling the bar toward your body. Think legs, body, arms, in that order. Pause slightly at the end.

Recovery (Right): This is the opposite of the drive and finish. Extend your arms, then lean forward from the hips and use your legs to slide forward to do the catch. Think arms, body, legs, in that order.

DID YOU KNOW?

84 is the percentage of total body mass used in a rowing workout (targeting your upper back, arms, core, hips, and legs).

535 is the amount of calories burned per hour of rowing at a moderate pace (based on a 135 pound female).

1981 is the year that Dick and Pete Dreissigacker, founders of Concept 2, invented the indoor rower. They found that by nailing a bicycle to the floor and pulling on the free end of the chain, they could simulate the motion of rowing with water resistance.

6:25 minutes is the fastest time got a 2,000 meter row by a female (set in heavyweight division by Olena Buryak of Ukraine in 2015).

THE LINGO

  • ERG: Short for ergometer, it’s a nickname for the rowing machine.
  • STROKE RATE: Number of strokes per minute.
  • RATIO: The relationship between drive time and recovery time (Ideally, you want a short and powerful drive with a very controlled recovery).
  • CATCH: Start of a stroke (In a boat, it’s when you drop your oar into the water).
  • FINISH: End of a stroke (when you take your oar out of the water).
  • RECOVERY: The part of the stroke during which you move from the finish to the catch.
  • DAMPER: Resistance setting on an erg. It can be set anywhere between 1 and 10.

30 MINUTE ROWING ROUTINE

Created by Anne Mulgrew, Program Director at City Row in New York, this workout tests power, speed, endurance, and strength follow the tips below to blast calories fast.

WARMUP (500 METERS) 

  • Pace: 24–26 (50–60% max)
  • Time: About 2 minutes.
  • Concentrate on driving power through legs and getting comfortable with full stroke.

ISOLATIONS 

  • Time: About 3 minutes.
  • Alternate between 5 reps of just pushing with legs and 5 full strokes. After fifth full stroke, hold finish (legs long, torso declined to 45 degrees) and just pull bar to chest 5 times.
  • Repeat 5 times.

DYNAMIC WARMUP (OFF ROWER)

  • Time: About 3-5 minutes.
  • Shoulder-tap pushups: Walk out to plank, shoulder tap (right and left), do one pushup, walk back to toes with straight legs. (5x)
  • Hip openers: Get in plank, step right foot wide of right hand, and reach right arm up for a twist; return to plank; repeat left side. (3x)

INTERVAL 1 

  • Pace: 26 (50–60% max)
  • Time: 2 minute burst.
  • Take note of meters rowed in this interval. Recovery (off rower): 10 shoulder-tap pushups; rest 30 sec.

INTERVAL 2 

  • Pace: 26 (70–80% max)
  • Time: 2 minute burst.
  • Aim for better than last interval with same stroke rate, pushing more through legs. Recovery: 10 shoulder-tap pushups; rest 30 sec.

INTERVAL 3 

  • Pace: 22 (90–100% max)
  • Time: 2 minute burst.
  • Drop stroke rate and push to max capacity, aiming to row same distance as previous push. Recovery: Rest 2 min. (Option: Repeat hip openers).

INTERVAL 4 

  • Pace: 28
  • Time: 30 seconds.
  • Row to max capacity, noting distance. Rest 30 sec. (3–5x)

COOLDOWN 

  • Time: 2-3 minutes.
  • Row 500 meters at recovery pace, 30–40% capacity, then stretch off the rower.

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