Here’s How To Actually Use That Rowing Machine

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
The buzz around indoor rowing is still going strong. There are entire boutique studios dedicated to the workout. CrossFit boxes and Orangetheory Fitness incorporate the machine, and even big gyms feature classes (such as Equinox’s Shockwave) that use the total-body exercise.
But, as with every other workout, form is priority number one. While it can be easy to get swept up in rowing (Faster! Faster!) it’s important to think about the foundation of the movement first. Then, you can add in speed. Beth Lewis, lead instructor at NYC’s CityRow, shares the right way to row, below.
1. Start in the “catch” position, with your knees bent and your arms reaching forward, holding the handles.
2. Push through your legs, then begin to hinge your torso back slightly.
3. Once your torso is leaning back at about a 45-degree angle and your legs are almost fully extended, pull the bar to the top of your upper abs, keeping your elbows lifted. This position is known as the “glide” or "drive" and it should be held for a quick second before continuing.
4. For the “return” phase, release your arms by straightening them; then, your torso follows. Finally, your knees bend and take you back to the “catch” position. This entire process should be smooth, continuous movement.
“It is very important to keep a strong and firm core throughout the entire stroke,” Lewis explains. “This helps reduce the risk of lower-back pain or injury.”
Repeating a mantra in your head can help you follow the cueing of the movement sequence: legs, arms; arms, legs. If you can't make it to a rowing-specific class, most gyms also have the equipment on the cardio floor — no more waiting for a free treadmill.

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