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Indoor Rowing Technique Explained

The rowing machine is one of the few pieces of training apparatus found in a gym that requires a moderate degree of technical competence to both maximize the benefit of training and ensure that you do not injure yourself.

There can be a wide variety of differing techniques. Although not all of these can result in injury, the rowing machine is a training apparatus and you need to maintain a degree of competence in order to minimize any risk.

Good technique produces maximum speed for minimum effort!

The model of British Rowing Technique has been developed by the GB High Performance Coaches on the Technical Panel of British Rowing.

You can look through the sequence of photos of Fran Houghton and accompanying explanation to help you perfect your indoor rowing technique.

The rowing stroke is defined by a long drive phase and a relaxed and controlled recovery.

Drive Phase

The drive phase is initiated with a push from the legs. Shins are 90 degrees, arms are straight, back is flat (neutral) and at the 11 o'clock angle to ensure the glute muscles are engaged.

As the legs reach half their extension, the hip angle begins to open.

Once the legs are fully extended, the body hinges to a 1 o'clock position and the arms begin to draw the handle to the body.

The handle finishes about half way up the body (aim for between naval and lower rib cage). The elbows follow the line of the handle and the wrists stay in line with the forearm.

The recovery phase is as important as the drive. If this element is coordinated correctly it makes the drive phase instinctive. It is therefore this element that many rowers concentrate on during practice. The recovery is very similar to the drive phase but in reverse.

Recovery Phase

The finish position with the legs and back straight, torso at the 1 o'clock position.

The recovery is initiated with the arms straightening and moving away from the body..

The body pivots from the hips - to the 11 o'clock position with the back remaining straight and chin up. With hands having passed the knees, the legs bend.

The legs flex until the shins are vertical. The rower is now at the initial "catch" position ready to initiate the drive phase again.

Check out this technique video with double Olympic champion Alex Gregory... note the positioning of the foot straps and damper (resistance) setting. On the Concept 2 rower, you can access "drag factor" settings via the monitor. For men, the damper should be set at 120 drag factor, women, 110 drag factor. This will have the damper in between settings 4 and 5.

Want to learn more?

The most effective way to learn any skill is with a qualified coach. Tri-Cities Indoor Rowing Club, Port Moody has several classes per week where you can try an introduction to rowing class free of charge. This is a chance for you to get some feedback from a certified rowing coach as well as seeing if you like the discipline. For more information and to book a class see here

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