View Full Version : Please critique rowing form

Gabe Rinaldi
01-10-2007, 04:22 PM
For the heck of it I have decided to enter an indoor rowing competition in 1 month. I have one month to get ready for a 2k. This is a video of me doing 500 meters today. Time was 1:31.0 and I am 6'3 1/2" and 210 lbs. Please critique my form and offer any suggestions. Thanks in advance!


Anthony Myers
01-11-2007, 04:14 PM
how many rows/minute?
did you feel tired/breathing hard, or any muscle "pump"?

I don't have anything to contribute, but I want to learn how to do 500m in 1:31.0, and wondering if I have to treat it like a sprint, but I would still like to keep my rows down. (and not move the row machine like I did, when I didn't know what I was doing.)

Gabe Rinaldi
01-11-2007, 05:25 PM
My stride rate was about 32 spm. I was feeling very tired at the end (max effort for the day yesterday). I was breathing hard and my muscles were fatigued (not really pumped up though). I would like to get to the point where I can hold this pace for all 2k meters (won't happen anytime soon).

I would appreciate some technique pointers from the experienced rowers.

Lincoln Brigham
01-12-2007, 09:28 AM
Gabe, I'm not any more experienced in this than you. The only thing I noticed is that you dunk your hands as they pass the knees on the recovery. Watching the "Oarsome Foursome" on the vid that comes with the C2, they don't do that.

Nice row.

Gabe Rinaldi
01-13-2007, 09:52 AM
Lincoln, thanks for the comment. I picked up that technique from watching someone else row years ago (a kid we had training with us from the Cal rowing team). However, after watching me on video and hearing you say that (I've never seen the Oarsome Foursome vid) I think you're right in that I probably shouldn't do it. it seems like it lowers my shoulders and rounds my back a bit more and puts me in a less favorable position. I'll try not doing it. Thanks.

John Seaburg
01-16-2007, 05:52 PM

One of our trainers is a rowing instructor and I've picked up a few things from her. I even got out on the water once.

In addition to what Lincoln said, you probably want to slow down your return phase (stop rushing the "catch"). Someone your size should probably have his SPM in the low 20's on a 2K. Ideally, you would return the opposite way you pulled back (the "drive"). On the drive, it's legs first, then back, then arms. So on the return it's arms, back and then legs. Your legs shouldn't bend until the hands get about to your knee caps.

This technique comes in handy if you need more than one breath per stroke.

John Seaburg
01-16-2007, 06:11 PM
Here's a link to the technique I'm talking about. He might be a little too mechanical but you get the idea. It's w/f safe...

Of course, what really matters is finding what works for you. Some of our trainers and clients have placed very high in competitions and the Concept2 online rakings with less than perfect form.

Where do you have the damper set at? I've heard many top rowers have it between 3-5.

Good luck.

Gabe Rinaldi
01-16-2007, 10:55 PM
I had the damper set at 5 on this row.
This was a 500 not a 2k. I probably should have been going a little faster. My recovery phase is about the same as my drive phase isn't it? I understand legs first, then back, then arms on drive, then the reverse on the recovery...and I think I'm pretty much doing that. It should be fluid and efficient. I think the video of Andy's technique looks very weird.

Peter Borden
01-17-2007, 08:47 AM
OK, a couple things. For the most part you look pretty good.

1) Keep the handle level, in a straight line. If you notice, you let the handle drop once past your knees on the recovery.

2) You're rushing the recovery. Let your arms out, bend at the waist, bend your knees, in that order. Try only doing one segment of the recovery at a time.

3) You're pausing at full extension with the handle at your chest, albeit briefly. Don't pause.

And try setting the damper at 2-3 initially, for form in part

Gabe Rinaldi
01-17-2007, 10:21 AM
okay, goals for todays session:

row at damper setting 2, slow recovery, work technique, try to feel fluid

I'll warm up by practicing only one segment at a time

Thanks :-)

Gabe Rinaldi
01-17-2007, 05:08 PM
Update -

For todays rowing session I did:

1000 meter warm-up breaking the stride into different segments
20 min, no straps, damper at level 2 really focusing on technique
then I took a 15 min. break and watched the concept 2 rowing video that I found
next I did another 20 min piece with no straps and still at level 2

today was the first day that I think my technique has started looking like it really should

I'll gradually add intensity

I would probably revert back to my same old technique if I were to do an all out 500 m

David Aguasca
01-17-2007, 09:49 PM
i'll agree with what linc, john, and peter have said.

don't rush the recovery.

on the drive, it's legs, back, then arms.

on the recovery, arms, back, then legs.

ideally, the recovery:drive time should be 2:1. so slow it down, you might actually row faster.

don't scoop your arms on the recovery.

you could do with a tad more layback (increased back angle)

when you've got all that, focus on producing even pressure on the footplate all throughout the drive. additionally, it should be a gradual acceleration from the legs to the back to the arms...so the legs open, then the back opens faster, finally the arms pull even faster than the back.

Chris Kemp
01-18-2007, 08:58 AM
Gabe, looked like a strong effort but I would agree with the gang and say with the mass and strength you have you could drop the rating some. This will probably happen all by itself if you focus a little more on a more relaxed recovery.

To help with the arms/ back/ leg sequencing think about brushing your thumbs along your thighs on the return until they clear your knees. To do this without bumping your knees you will need to delay bending them until your thumbs have passed (similar to a dead where you move the body round the bar, rather than bar round the body). Then just continue the movement until you are back in the starting position.

To get the thumbs in contact with the thighs you will have to push down a little after finishing a stroke. This is done with real rowing to clear the oar from the water but also serves to keep the oar moving. The alternative is push/pulling along a dead straight line which means twice a stroke the handle/ oar is dead. By moving the handle around a very thin oval it stays in constant movement without the stop start jerks. Very smooth.

Use the line of the chain to guide your movement - try for a nearly straight line between your elbow and the far end of the chain. Happens naturally on the power phase but use it on the return to try and "feed" the chain back into the cog.

Lastly, there is no real harm with a slight pause or at least slow down at the end of the stroke. On the water, this would be where the boat glides and you take advantage of the power you just put into the stroke. On the C2 it helps to enure that you have completed the stroke (full extension) before racing forward as well as building in a little breathing time. Rythym wise think of it as explode then glide. This should help you last a little better in these sprint efforts.

Cheers, kempie

Lincoln Brigham
01-18-2007, 11:28 AM
What works for me is putting a mental image of my old Sears jonboat in my head. Oh the hours of my youth I spent rowing that brick! There's nothing like rowing a barn door sideways through the water to give you a more powerful start on your stroke! Glide? What glide?

Chris Kemp
01-18-2007, 11:49 AM
Fair point - get a similar feel paddling against the tide on the Thames. Certainly a great mental picture for the drive phase but racing the recovery will drop your speed. Each time you pull on the handle you momentarily slow the fly-wheel.

Tip a bike upside down and spin the wheel with your hands. Does it go ever faster the more frequently you touch the wheel or do you end up slowing it down after a certain point? Rowing is the same.

Analogy provided by Angela Hart.

Cheers, kempie

Gabe Rinaldi
01-19-2007, 08:27 AM
I've searched the web for rowing videos with what I would consider good technique. I found tons of them with bad technique, but here's one that seems good to me. It is work safe.


Chris Kemp
01-19-2007, 09:04 AM
Gabe, that looks really good. Have you checked out the vid on the concept2 CrossFit page? Technique not quite as sharp but good demonstration of the power/ recovery ratio.

Peter Dreissigacker (co-founder of Concept2) rowing a 500m piece April 20, 2006 (WS/FS)

Cheers, kempie

Gabe Rinaldi
01-19-2007, 12:47 PM
Kempie, thanks for the video...I had not seen it yet. I see what you mean about the technique - he also does not fully recover his arms first....nice power and pace though.

I'm going to row this afternoon so I'll practice my technique and drive to recovery ratio.

Joshua Murphy
01-20-2007, 01:25 PM
Good thread, makes me want go row. Kempie, that for posting the link.

Gabe - how did it go yesterday?

Gabe Rinaldi
01-21-2007, 08:56 PM
I did a bit of rowing on Friday and Sat. I have been playing around with different damper settings, straps, no straps, stride rates, etc. and just trying to feel comfortable. The more time I spend on the erg the better I feel. This is all just a crash training schedule to attempt to do okay during this indoor rowing competition on 2/11. Maybe I'll record myself during a rowing session this week and put it up to compare.

Gabe Rinaldi
01-28-2007, 11:19 AM
Here's a good video with technique pointers. The link is work, kid, and everything safe.


I'm off to the gym to go row in an hour or so....I haven't been able to row for the last several days.

Gabe Rinaldi
01-29-2007, 09:49 AM
The training must be working because I had a PR 2k row of 6:50.8 on Sunday. Time to put in some more meters in the next few weeks. Hopefully I can drop that time 5-10 more seconds.

Chris Wyant
01-31-2007, 03:03 AM
It was only a matter of time till I saw this thread - go figure I should be writing a paper for a midterm tomorrow but instead I am keeping track of the Forums.

Gabe, I have to say that you have decent rowing stroke to say the least. As others have mentioned before hand - there are certain key parts that you need to focus on.

1. Start - Look for some of my other topics in which I talk about racing starts. Doing a racing start is a great way to help you get the fan spinning before starting a piece. By starting your 500 from a dead start - you are most likely going to add on about 3-4 seconds to your 500 meter piece and about 7 seconds to your 2k. A general start for someone your size and weight is to begin the first stroke from the 3/4 slide. That is, to be 3/4 up your total stroke - for most people this tends to be hands slight past your toes. Following this initial 3/4 stroke, the second stroke will be a 1/2 stroke - hands around ankles, 3rd and 4th strokes again at that 3/4 length and then full strokes all the way home. This essentially gets the fan spinning at a rate where your body does not to exert alot of energy to get it to max speed.

2. HANDS!!!!! As others have mentioned, you are dropping your hands. The best way to help correct this is imagine that the handle is on a table and has to keep parallel to the floor. A good technique I use when coaching others to row is to take a piece of tape and put it about 2 inchs up on the gate (The resting position for the handle near the fan). Tell yourself not to hit the tape - this will keep your hands up and also help your finish.

3. Ratio! Once again, as brought up by others, a ratio of 1/1 is actually going to fatigue you much faster than you think. For an individual your size your stroke rate for a 2k should be around a 28-30. 500's should be no less then 32-33. How do you get to the point where you are doing 33 strokes a minute and maintaining ratio?
The idea is that on your recovery - that is exactly what you are doing. So the more recovery you have the stronger your next stroke will be. Right? So for mathmatical sake - lets say that you are doing a 500 meter piece at 32 strokes a minute. (This is about to get very very math based - so if you dont want to follow the exact numbers - at least listen to the underlying message) 60 seconds a minute/ 32 strokes a minute = 1.875 seconds. Now if each stroke is less than 2 seconds long....how much recovery can you get? Well...1/1 ratio would be about .9 seconds. Last I checked - thats nothing. So the idea is that you want to have a 2/1, and if you get really strong, a 3/1 ratio. For now lets stick to 2/1 ratio. 1.875 seconds should yield at least a 1.25 second recovery followed by an explosive .6 second stroke. Now taking a stop watch to your strokes on youtube you were averaging about .86 per drive while averaging about .9 for a recovery. Funny how that adds up right? =)

So what does this mean? Keep your hands up so you are not wasting time lifting your hands at the catch to engage the drive. This will get your turn around going faster at the drive, and with a faster turnaround, you will not need to rush the slide, thus slowing it down, having a faster catch will mean a better connection in the stroke - better connection = more power = faster stroke.

The other part to make up time is to have fast hands away. Instead of pausing at the finish where your body is elongated, your abs are working to keep you from falling back etc, instead get your hands forwards, your back forward, and THEN slow down a bit, have your leg recovery slower... If you need any more detail I can see if I have some time next week to get onto an erg and video tape it for you - this week my schedule is crammed.

4. I say this about all of the Model D ergs - turn the handle upside down so the ends are pointing upwards - it will help keep your wrists from breaking. While your wrists looked good, as you were getting tired they were starting to break at the finish - over a 2k youll lose them about 1200 meters in.

Chris Wyant
01-31-2007, 03:05 AM
Oh and in regards to drag factor - refer to my previous posts regarding how to set your drag factor as opposed to saying "its at a 5" - for someone your size - you should be around a 130-135 drag factor at least.

Gabe Rinaldi
01-31-2007, 11:59 AM
Thanks for an awesome post. A lot of what you've said I've started slowly figuring out over the last two weeks from spending time on the erg and analyzing myself. Reading this puts a lot of the pieces together and makes it much more quantitative for me. I love the math and plan to use our Dartfish software to analyze myself to improve my rowing technique. The more I learn about rowing the more interesting it is. Thanks again for the reply...it came at a perfect time for me.

Oh, if I start rowing with the handle upside down do you know if that is legal in competition?

Chris Wyant
02-09-2007, 03:57 AM
Turning the handle upside down is fine. The only thing not legal is gloves.


Gabe Rinaldi
02-12-2007, 11:32 AM
Yesterday I competed at the Peninsula Indoor Rowing Championships in Burlingame. I ended up rowing a 2k in 6:47.3. This was good enough for 3rd place in my category - club rec. rower. I'm happy with my performance since it was a PR for me, my first time competing, and I only rowed 62k meters in the last month to train for this event. From reading training logs of other competitors this is far less time spent training for this specific event. While I am by no means elite, I consider my performance possible due to my varied training with many different functional movements at high intensity (CrossFit).

Thanks to everyone who gave me rowing advice!

Lincoln Brigham
02-12-2007, 08:56 PM
Nice job Gabe. 62K sounds like a lot to me; the most I ever did was just last month with 37K.

Gabe Rinaldi
02-12-2007, 10:06 PM
Thanks Lincoln!

62k was a lot for me....I typically only use the rower for maybe a 500 meter warm-up or as part of a random WOD.

However, looking at serious rowing competitors it seems many do 3-4+ million meters per year...yikes.

Chris Wyant
02-21-2007, 12:06 AM
Welcome to my life - When I am in season - between on the water and the erg I average about 40-50k a day. Ugh.