Updated: Aug 18
Whether you’re looking to push yourself in competition, get in shape, or just have fun trying something new – rowing is a great sport to get involved with. However, knowing where to start with any new challenge is difficult, in this post we look at the best ways to get started in rowing whatever your goal.
Step 1: Find a rowing machine: The first step to taking up rowing is to get on a rowing machine.
Dynamic rowing machines such as RP3s are best for this as they are a much better simulation of the water – enabling you to build a technique applicable to moving a boat from the outset. If you don’t want to commit to buying a new rowing machine, the best thing to do is get in touch with your local rowing club. Public gyms are also an option but it is likely that their rowing machines will be less well maintained than those of a rowing club.
Step 2: Build a mental image of what you want to achieve: Before you even take a stroke, think about how you want it to look and feel. The video below shows a good example:
Thinking about sequencing is a good place to start. Notice on the recovery, the first step is to move the arms away at the finish, then rock the body over and finally drawing the machine towards the seat with the legs.
The drive phase is the exact reverse of this but faster: at the catch the legs press the machine away while the arms are straight, the body then opens up from the hips and lastly, the rower draws to the finish with the arms.
Step 3: Give it a go! – Thinking about your technique – jump on the erg and give it a go. Remember to take it easy to start with - the mistake many people make when they are new to rowing is that they jump straight on a rowing machine and just pull as hard as they can. While this will certainly result in an excellent workout, its best to start off a little easier until you are confident with your technique, that way you avoid getting into bad habits and reduce the risk of injury.
It's much harder to get out of a bad habit than to learn rowing from scratch.
We recommend that you start off at 18-22 strokes per minute at the sort of pace you could sustain for an hour if you had to. You should achieve this rating by thinking about your drive to recovery ratio: press firmly on the drive and take more time on the recovery, thinking about your movements.
Step 4: Remember to stretch – Rowing is a sport that requires power, endurance, and mobility. When starting out it is really important to consider mobility as being flexible allows you to get into the right positions while you work on your technique.
As a starting point focus on hamstring and hip stretches, spending 5 minutes doing this before and after you go on the rowing machine.
Step 5: Practice, practice, practice – The more you work on your technique, the more it will start to become second nature. Your goal is to build muscle memory, although you should get a coach to have a look at your technique every so often to ensure you are not getting into bad habits.
Also, the more you practice, the more your fitness and strength will improve. Rowing is one of the best ways to get fit working 84% of muscles in your body and all major muscle groups.
After getting confident on the rowing machine there are many ways to take rowing further. You can compete indoors at events or virtually, or take your skills to the water and get involved with crew rowing at a rowing club.
Erg – ergometer/rowing machine
Catch – the start of the stroke
Finish – the end of the stroke
Drive – where you apply force, moving you from the catch to the finish
Recovery – your action of moving from the finish to the catch