Fitness Fundamental: How to Row Properly

How to Row

Alright folks! A few weeks ago we provided a beginner row workout to get you going on this great low-impact full-body activity. Today, I’m checking in to make sure you know how to row with the right form. Breaking down your movements will ensure better health, strengthening, and preparation for the advanced class!

The proper row consists of two parts:
the drive and the recovery. 

The drive is the backward work portion of the stroke, and the recovery is the forward rest movement that prepares you for the drive. To break it down even further and focus on proper technique, start at the end position, and move toward the explosive drive.

1. Finished Position: Your legs are extended and elbows are drawn past the body, with flat wrists as you grip the handle.

2. Arms Away: Immediately after finishing position, extend your arms while your legs are still fully extended, before pulling yourself to the catch position. This will re-engage your core.

3. The Catch: As your seat moves in, your shins should become vertical and your knees over your ankles.

4. The Drive: Begin pushing with your legs, then your body, and finish with your arms. Avoid letting your legs shoot back before the body does.

Remember: The burst is coming from your legs, followed by core and arms. Revert the order and repeat!

Motion: Legs > Core > Arms > Arms > Core > Legs

Watch a proper row:

Here are some common rowing form errors you want to watch out for:

  • Breaking Your Arms at the Catch – When you start the drive, your arms should remain straight until your legs are fully extended. This will help with a nice smooth stroke.
  • Chicken Wing Arms – This is when you stick your elbows out during the drive. Keep your elbows to your side instead, as you row back.
  • Excessive Lay-back – This happens when you lean back too much at the end of the drive. Your body should be only slightly leaning at the end of the drive.

After some good practice (refreshers a couple minutes before each workout is a good idea), your complete stroke should be smooth and fluent, and 24-26 strokes per minute is typical.

Enjoy the ride!

Sources: YouTube Concept 2 Australia: 1, 2

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Luke Andrus is a certified personal trainer, ACE health coach, writer, folk music drummer, husband, and a father. Most of his writing experience is in poetry and fictional short stories, and he also proposed to his wife with a self-published children's book. He is a Narnia nerd with a degree in History, a minor in English, and a semi-obsession with the French language. He believes that fitness is not just about vanity, but about lifestyle, integrity, and the ability to take control of your life.