Rowing Technique


Beginning each stroke with the correct posture will ensure a positive workout, poor posture in the rowing stroke can result in injury.

To achieve correct posture,
Sit tall on the seat – pull the navel into the spine and lift the pelvic floor muscles
Row with head up and eyes looking forward
During the Rock Over phase, the torso is rocked at the pelvis from a backward (11 o’clock) position to a forward (1 o’clock) position.
It is essential that a strong postural position is maintained throughout the Rowing Action.


To achieve full range of motion, the user must aim to reach as far forward with the handle and compress the legs as much as possible while maintaining a strong upright position. The length of the reach comes from the upper back and shoulders during the rock over phase.

A common problem when rowing is using movement of the torso to contribute to the range of motion. This is usually done by bending the torso at the lower back, therefore weakening the posture (most lower back injuries occur when work is being transmitted through a weak posture).

Another problem is the legs often open up to allow for extra reach (see this video), this may lead to tightening of the muscles on the lateral part of the thigh and in the gluteals. Try to keep the knees together and row with a shorter slide if necessary.


Ratio is the relationship between the work phase (the Drive) and the Recovery phase (the Rock Over & Recovery) of the rowing action. The correct ratio in rowing is 1:2 – spending twice as long to ‘recover’ and move forwards up the slide as was spent driving the legs down. When the correct ratio is achieved, there is a satisfying rhythm to the continuous flow of the rowing stroke.

A common problem in rowing is that people “rush” up the slide, meaning that the ratio of drive to return is more one to one, rather than one to two

Lower Body Movement

The muscles of the legs are the largest and strongest muscle group in the body, and therefore contribute a large portion of the work during the rowing stroke. The muscles of the upper body and torso simply add to the work of the legs, as the angle between the calf and the thigh increases and the effectiveness of the legs declines.

The speed at which the leg angle opens is related to the speed of the boat moving through the water and is relatively slow. The speed of the drive phase is anything from ½ second to 1 second.

Upper Body Movement

Rowing Technique

As the leg angle passes through 90 degrees the contribution of the legs lessens bio-mechanically. At this point the muscles of the upper body and torso are recruited to add to or maintain the acceleration initiated by the lower body. The transition between the two is made seamless by maintaining a flowing motion.

The hands are drawn into the body so that the forearms are horizontal. This is at about the height of the second bottom rib. The hands do not stop at the end of the drive, they flow back out and into the recovery phase, moving in and out from the body at a constant speed.

A common problem when rowing is stopping at the end of the drive. This encourages “two-piecing” of the stroke where the drive and recovery are two separate actions. “Two-piecing” often allows the rower to slump at the release position, encouraging poor posture. The rowing action needs to be smooth and seamless with each phase transitioning into the next.

Stroke Rate

Rowing is a relatively low cadence exercise. Even when racing, stroke rates rarely reach 40 strokes per minute (spm) and most training is done between 18 to 26spm.

The correct way to increase stroke rate is to quicken the hands away during the rock over phase and to have a more powerful drive back during the drive phase. It is important to use this correct way to build the stroke rate, a good technique rower can not increase their stroke rate from 20spm up to 32spm in 1 or 2 strokes, it usually takes around 10 strokes to reach 32spm.

A common fault when increasing stroke rate is to shorten the stroke length and quicken the recovery time. This will result in rowing fast up and down the slide but ‘getting nowhere’.


In a crew boat, it is important that all crew members keep in time with one another by rowing at the same stroke rate. Co-ordinating technique so that everyone does the same thing at the same time improves efficiency and hence speed, and is essential to on-water elements such as boat balance.