The rower is one of my favorite machines and honestly one of the only machines that I actually like in a standard gym. It’s a fantastic way to tax your cardiovascular system AND get a great muscle pump as well. But while it is a great machine, there are far too many ways to ROW INCORRECTLY and place undue stresses on your body. I’ll try to highlight two of the biggest mistakes here.
First is the rowing movement itself. Ideally, about 60% of the row should come from your lower extremity (mainly quadriceps), 20% from your core and back extensors, and the last 20% from your upper extremity (rhomboids, traps, post delt, lats). Far too often, I see people neglecting the biggest power generators our body has to offer—the lower extremities—relying instead on the back and arms to generate the majority of the power in the row. At this rate, you won’t be able to row for longer than 5 minutes before you tax out your upper extremity! You’ve got nice legs, so use them!
Second is protecting your low back. You want to keep a BRACED CORE throughout the entire motion. After the finish step and during the recovery step, do not lose your abdominal bracing and excessively flex forward/bend at the spine. There is no need to bring the handlebar all the way back to the machine. Similarly, there is no need to pull the handlebars all the way back during the drive or finish and excessively hyper-extend at the lower back. Try and keep a braced and strong spine throughout!
If you haven’t tried out the rower yet, get on one now! You can either row for an extended time for more of a cardiovascular workout, or go for an all-out 1 minute row at the end of a circuit as I like to do!