How to Use a Rowing Machine Correctly

When it comes to figuring out how to use any exercise machine, the process can be rather intimidating when faced with a multitude of parts and levies. If you are new to the rowing machine world, you may be wondering how exactly to use a rowing machine correctly? 

To use a rowing machine correctly, start with your knees bent and your weight placed lightly on the balls of your feet with a light grip on the ore. As you pull the ore, push your body backward using your legs until they are completely extended with your feet flat and arms extended as well.

Rowing machines are an incredible adaptation which inmates the intense movements that rowers on the water implement. Through the creation of this machine, users are able to get an almost identical workout compared to those on lakes, rivers, or within other bodies of water. However, when it comes to the most effective workout, users must properly use a rowing machine to reap maximum benefits. Therefore, how do you use a rowing machine correctly?

How to Use a Rowing Machine Correctly

With any workout machine, proper use is imperative to getting results. If you were to get onto a machine that was intended to target your abdominal area, but use it in a way that only pushes your leg muscles, the point of the machine would be completely lost. Therefore, when it comes to using a rowing machine, the correct use is essential in being able to not only burn calories, but build muscles and cardio strength in a way that you are able to notice improvement.  

© YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City

Isolate Your Leg Muscles 

Before getting into the total form in which you should always assume when using a rowing machine, you must first see how each muscle group should perform separately before combining the movements together. With this in mind, you begin first by isolating your leg muscles. You may be thinking “I thought rowing had everything to do with the upper body and nothing to do with lower body conditioning,” but you would be mistaken. 

Legs play an incredibly important part in the proper implementation of the rowing movement, as they are essentially the kick start the movement of your entire body. To isolate this part of your body, start by holding the oar or handlebars with your arms extended, knees bent, and the majority of your weight placed on the balls of your feet. Keeping your back straight and your core tight, you will then push back with only the strength of your legs. 

After this motion, you should end in a position where your legs are extended and your feet are flat. Continue this movement until you are able to perfect it without using any pull from your arms while also keeping your posture straight and engaged. Once you have this down you can move on to the isolation of your arms. 

Isolate Your Arm Muscles 

After you have perfected the isolation of your leg muscles, you can move on to the more difficult task of isolating your arm muscles. The arms are an essential component when it comes to the movement of rowing as a whole, but if they are the only body part working to get the machine gliding back and forth, you will not reap the benefits that rowing machines are capable of giving users. 

To isolate your arm muscles when using a rowing machine start in the position in which you ended with the isolation of your legs: your legs should be completely outstretched and your feet should be flat against the footrest. Grab the ore or handlebar and draw it in closely to your body as you bend your arms at the elbow. The oar should be brought to a position that is just under your chest. 

Once you have this position down, you can then begin working to perfect the actual movement at a more rapid pace. Start with your arms outstretched and bring the oar into your chest using your upper back as the most prominent energy source. Avoid using your biceps or shoulders, as these will not give you the fluid motion that is needed for a correct rowing posture. When you have this perfected, you can then move forward with full-body engagement. 

Full-Body Engagement 

One of the greatest benefits of machine rowing is that it uses multiple muscle groups to complete a very low-impact motion. Although rowing is low-impact, it is certainly not an exercise that goes easy on calories burned or hearts strengthened. This is all due to the fact that rowing requires users to use their entire bodies to perfect one movement which dictates what kind of benefits they are able to pull from this workout. 

Once you have mastered both the isolation of your legs and the isolation of your arms, you will need to combine the two motions to complete a motion that brings the two together. With your back straight, core tightened, and the balls of your feet pressed upon the food rest, you will then push back with your lower body as you use your upper back to pull your hands towards your chest in one swift motion. 

Once you have hit the back of the rowing machine and your legs are extended with your feet flat you will then need to return to your starting position. Quickly after you have reached the end of the first extension, you will then release your arms and allow them to relax as you also bring your legs up and allow your knees to bend. While doing this, you should easily glide back to your starting position with your legs bent and resting on the balls of your feet. 

What to Avoid When Using a Rowing Machine

Rowing is a great way to not only work out your arms, back, pecs, and legs, but is an incredibly useful tool to also strengthen your heart and lungs. However, the benefits of using a rowing machine can only be seen through the implementation of proper use. Now that you know exactly how to use a rowing machine, it is important to also know the things that you should avoid when starting your journey with this item. 

Never Hunch Your Back 

© Greatist

It was previously discussed that when isolating both your legs and arms, as well as implementing the full rowing motion, your back should always stay straight. When using a rowing machine, if you hunch your back as you pull backward, wrong muscles are engaged and the muscles that you should be using are disengaged. Not only does this tamper with your technique, but it also can cause you discomfort once the workout is completed. 

Don’t Allow Your Knees to Wander 

© Greatist

By wander, we mean don’t allow your knees to assume a position that is anything other than upright. When some users get into an intense rowing session, they find that they pay less attention to the position of their knees and they end up dropping to the side of their bodies. This can cause your back and arms to work harder than necessary, which in turn can lead to a poor workout session as well as pain in your lower back and shoulders. 

Don’t Bring Raise Your Arms Too High 

After reading how to use a rowing machine, you should have noted that when pulling back on the ore, your arms should come to about chest level. Individuals who raise their arms too high often do this when their resistance level is too low, which causes their arms to go well above their chest. If you notice that you are pulling the ore above your chest too easily, increase your resistance level to create a bit more difficulty which could help you manage your arm position.

Don’t Hold the Ore Too Tight 

It is very easy to place your hands on the ore in a way that you would any other free weight, and although gripping the ore is essential to being able to correctly use a rowing machine, there is a bit of an art to that grip. You want your grip to be light and to do this, it is advised to place three fingers on the ore with your pinky just off of the grip. This will force you to maintain a lighter grip and will keep your forearms from working too hard during the workout.

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