Row, row, row your erg: Rowing Tips from a Crappy Rower

Let’s talk about some gym equipment today: THE ERG! Otherwise known as the “rowing machine,” the erg is a fun and exciting total body workout. As rowing season starts to come to a close (outdoor rowing in DC is April through end of October) the rowing machine will replace rowing an actual boat before I know it. So I decided to start a regular series on rowing machine tips that I’ve learned over the last year.

First things first: Let’s Talk Stroke.

My current rowing coach is a fiend for mechanics and has in the past yelled at a rower with bad form “you’re violating my eyes!”

You can find a lot of videos of people on the erg on youtube. (Video below) Apparently, Crossfitters have a lot of trouble with proper rowing form. PicMonkey CollagePicMonkey Collage

Basically, the sequence of your stroke should go like this from the finish position: arms away, body over, slide forward, legs down, body back, arms in, repeat. I like to actually chant this in my head as I row, “arms away, body over, slide, drive.” (Though I usually add “catch” before drive because I row into the water… My bad!)

A good way to practice your rowing form is to do what rowers call pick drills.” Start out by just doing arms away. Let your arms go out then bring them back to your body. Typically, my handle hits just below my bra band so aim for just below your chest. Arms away is the part of the stroke you get through quickly, think of it as a waltz like rhythm if that helps, with arms away being quick while body over and slide are relatively slower.

Then add in your back. From the finish position, your legs are down, your tilted back gently at the hips with your back straight, and your hands are pulled into your body. Arms away, you tilt forward at the hips. Don’t arch your back, keep it nice and straight. Imagine someone is sitting in front of you and you want to look over their head.

Then add the legs. You can do the slide in quarter increments, sliding forward 4 times (quarter slide, half slide, 3/4 slide, full slide). It’ll depend somewhat on your flexibility how far forward you come and how much you bend at the hip, but your legs should be a 90 degree angle at full slide. Once you’ve done arms away and body over, that’s it. Nothing above the waist should be moving on the erg. You’ve set your position and you’re just coming up to the catch (if you were in a boat, when you reach the end of your slide this is when your oar drops into the water before you drive backward, you “catch” the water, if you will).

You can reverse the drill and start with legs only, then add back and arms or isolate just your back.

As you transition to continuous rowing, add in pauses at arms away, then at body over, and at each quarter of the slide and check in with your form. Is your back straight? Are you supporting yourself with your core? Are your arms straight until you’ve leaned back? You’ll feel the pauses, trust me. And remember, better to have a lower stroke rate and great form than a high stroke rate and violate the eyes of my rowing coach.

If you have questions or suggestions let me know!


10 thoughts on “Row, row, row your erg: Rowing Tips from a Crappy Rower

  1. Pingback: Rowing for Runners | Pink Elephant on Parade

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