Top rowing mistakes and how to fix them

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Rowing is great cardio

rowingIf you haven’t tried rowing yet, you should. It’s a great form of cardio that hits all the major muscle groups, including your legs, back, and abs. But if not done properly, you can easily injure yourself. Ain’t nobody got time for injuries! These are the top rowing mistakes I see on a daily basis and simple ways to fix them.

Avoid these rowing mistakes

  1. Not checking the damper setting. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t even know what I’m talking about when I mention the damper setting. Many new rowers just start rowing without checking the lever on the side of the air-resistant flywheel. Also, some people will set this too high. It’s ideal to set it between three and five since this is most similar to being on water.
  2.  Rowing with only your arms. Rowers have amazing built upper bodies, so you’re ready to pull the handle with all your might, right? Wrong! Putting too much pressure on your arms, shoulders and back can cause serious injury. About 60 percent of your power should come from pushing with your legs, 20 percent from engaging your core, and 20 percent from pulling with your arms. 
  3. Mixing up the order. Firing the arms and legs at the same time may feel right, but this will put unnecessary strain on your upper body. There’s a three-step process to the rowing stroke. Focus on pushing with the legs first, next pivoting backward at the hips so your shoulders pass your pelvis (you should be in a slight lay back) and then pulling the arms into your chest. A good target for your hands is the place on your chest where you would bench press below your ribs. Once your hands are pulled into your chest, reverse the order to go back to starting position, and repeat.
  4. Hunchback. If you normally round your back when sitting at your desk at work, you’ll likely do the same thing when you sit down at a rower. Focus on turning on your abdominal muscles and relaxing your shoulders so they are pulled down and back. Keep your spine aligned.
  5. Rushing. You’re in the zone, taking strokes as fast as possible towards that imaginary finish line. Problem is, your seat keeps slamming into the front of the rower and your body is jerking forward uncontrollably. To regain control, pay attention to the timing of your strokes. The stroke’s ratio should be a 1:2 count, meaning that the body should expend lots of energy quickly at the drive, while the second half of the stroke should be more relaxed and controlled. Having a calm and collected recovery will prevent your seat from smashing frantically into the front of the rower.

Do you row?

ROW, or Recovery on Water, is a Chicago-based rowing team that gives survivors of breast cancer a unique opportunity to interact, become active in their recovery, and gain support from fellow survivors. Check out these local ROW classes in Bridgeport to up your row game. John A. teaches these classes; who’s a training client and a workout friend of mine.



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