Ask the Coach: How to Un-Suck Your Row

Monday, 7/11
July 10, 2016
Tuesday, 7/12
July 11, 2016

By Coach Tess

Hey Coach! Is there ANYTHING I can do to make rowing less awful? Anything! Anything at all?


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If you moan and groan — or sob and sob — or conveniently “can’t make it to class” — whenever rowing comes up in a workout… you’re in luck! As some of you may know, before she started CrossFit, before she helped CFDC launch our Boot Camp program, our very own Coach Tess was a topranked rower in her hometown of Philadelphia. Who better to ask for tips on rowing for CrossFit? Take it away, Tess! 


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When I watch CrossFitters row, I see some of the same mistakes over and over:

1. Not using enough leg drive.

  • Your legs are the major power source to get the rowing machine going. USE THEM!
  • Fix: Focus on pressing your heels into the foot stretchers and squeezing the quads before engaging the back and arms.
Athletes complete the 2016 Crossfit Open workout 16.4 at CrossfitDC's 14th St. location in Washington, D.C. on March 20. (Photo by Amanda Hils)

(Photo: Amanda H.)


2. Breaking at the arms before engaging the legs

  • The problem? This shortens your stroke, meaning you’re working a lot harder (and sitting on the rower far longer!) than you need to be.
  • Fix: Practice letting the hands come away from the body and folding the body forward before letting the knees pop up. This adds inches to your stroke. What does that mean? You can cover more distance in one stroke, increasing your efficiency!

3. Pulling the handlebar up to the neck or down to the waist. 

  • Creating this much movement along the chain just slows you down!
  • Fix: Pull the handle into the ribs. As soon as the handlebar taps your body, press the hands out and fold the body forward BEFORE bending the knees.



4. Pausing at any point throughout the stroke.

  • You don’t stop running after a few steps into a run, do you?
  • Fix: When the upper body and lower body finish away from the monitor, send the hands away. As you draw your seat towards the monitor, keep the chain moving in, until you press your feet into the foot stretchers moving into the next stroke.



Now, let’s put all of that into action!


In this video, my feet are on top of the straps on the foot stretchers — rowers will often drill this way in order to work on the connection between the upper body and lower body. Notice as my shins are vertical at the start position, hands stay level, the chain is moving the entire stroke (at no point do I stop!), and my back rotates towards the monitor before my knees pop up.

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Looking for some additional resources?  Check out Concept2‘s library of videos and articles; keep an eye out for rowing to pop up as a focus movement at one of our Saturday Base Camp classes; and don’t hesitate to “catch” Coach Tess or one of our other coaches in the gym for some additional tips and tricks.

Ready… stroke!

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