Big 3 rowing machine mistakes, according to one coach

i amndoor rowers used to be some of the lone machines in the gym. Treadmills and ellipticals can fill up quickly, while rowing ergometers will sit empty collecting dust. But over the past decade, indoor rowing has become much more popular, with gym-goers attending classes at boutique studios like Row House and homebodies enjoying gamified rows on smart machines in their living rooms.

No wonder: Rowing is a great total body workout, engaging 86 percent of your muscles and challenging your heart in an intense cardio session without putting too much of a strain on your joints.

The problem? The rowing machine can be very intimidating for beginners—and very easy to use incorrectly. Many people don’t have much familiarity with rowing, so it’s easier to walk on a treadmill or exercise bike and do more intuitive movements. But if you’re curious about the machine and want to see what all the buzz is about, Liam Power, a six-time New York state champion rowing coach whose rowers have broken more than 10 world records, shares his top tips for new rowers here.

3 Common Rowing Machine Mistakes

“Most of the mistakes I see involve improper form, whether it’s from poor posture or a lack of understanding of the biomechanics of taking the rowing stroke,” says Power. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much time or money to learn proper rowing technique. Most of the resources you need are already at your fingertips (well, that is, if your fingers are holding a smartphone).

Mistake 1: Improper form

Before you step on an ergometer, learn the basics of proper rowing technique. For starters, squatting or crunching on the rowing machine won’t properly engage your core muscles. Not only does this make your stroke less effective, it can also strain your back and shoulder muscles.

Another common form of problem seen in beginners is that the power isn’t pressing hard enough on the drive part (when you’re pushing away from the machine). Many people think of rowing as an upper body exercise, so they put too much emphasis on pulling on the handlebars, but most of your power will really come from pushing through your legs.

Even if you can’t afford coaching, Power says there are plenty of great resources for beginner rowers online, such as videos on YouTube that can help you learn the basics, as well as advanced techniques once you get the hang of the machine. “Watch some videos that detail the intricacies of the rowing technique and try to commit it to memory as much as possible,” he says.

Next thing to see? own video “I would encourage beginners to film themselves rowing so they can go back and compare their form to correct form. It’s something that even elite rowers do regularly,” says Power. “Even after you’ve mastered the stroke, it’s still possible to form bad habits.” Ask a friend to capture some footage for a minute, or hold your phone nearby and record.

Mistake 2: Rowing at the wrong speed for you

Many beginners get on an indoor rowing machine and tire themselves out in just a few minutes. Instead, Power recommends reading up on pacing so you can get a feel for what an ideal pace would be for your height, age, weight and experience level.

“It’s also good to read the different cardio training zones and understand how to train within each one on a weekly basis and why it’s important to do so,” he advises.

Mistake 3: Not going with a game plan

Power says another common mistake he sees beginners start their sessions with is not having a clear workout plan or goal in mind. “As a result, they can’t pace themselves properly, which leads to poor technique and early quitting,” he says.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out some of the many free online training plans. “There are a ton of free plans that anyone can use in their own training,” says Power

“The best coaches spend more time coaching than technique; Again this is something that is available online for free,” he says. “Many popular rowing machine suppliers have entire sections of their websites dedicated to education – take advantage of it.”

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