Since we have a time trial row coming up this Thursday, and we also frequently use the rower, this is a good opportunity to talk about efficiency on the rower. Now in comparison with other CrossFit movements rowing is often thought of as not the most technical of movements and is often overlooked when it comes to what we focus on in terms of technique work. We tend to place a lot of emphasis on the barbell and gymnastic movements since they do require a high amount of skill, but rowing still requires a good amount of technique to be efficient at it. Being more efficient on the rower can allow you to move faster and expend less energy and in CrossFit we are always trying to maximize our efficiency.
I came across a more old school video of Jason Khalipa giving out some rowing tips as well as an article that covers similar tips but in more depth. I will give you a couple of bullet point tips and explain them, but I strongly encourage checking out the article or 3 minute video.
- Do not pull the arms until the legs are fully extended
- Do not excessively round the shoulders or back on ascend or descend
- Keep the handle in a relatively straight line on the pull and descend.
- Be explosive in the pull and recover on the descend
To elaborate more on the bullet points above you may have heard the saying, “When the arms bend the power ends,” when talking about the olympic lifts. This is relevant not only in the olympic lifts but also relevant to rowing as well! You want to primarily utilize the lower body when rowing and you do this by fully extending the knees BEFORE pulling with the arms. If you pull early with you arms you tire your self out much quicker and end up rowing at a slower pace.
As said before you want to primarily utilize the lower body when rowing. Now when rowing a slight rounding of the back in the descend will occur, but it should not be excessive. If it is causing you back pain or isn’t allowing you to get into a good position for your pull, then it is probably excessive.
When on the descend on the rower you want to keep the handle in a relatively straight line returning from your chest all the way back to the bottom position of your descend. This will keep constant tension on the chain and allow you to maximize your pull. If the handle is moving up or down excessively the chain will not maintain as much tension and therefore you will not be able to maximize your pull.
Are you the kind of person who ends up pulling at 35 strokes per minute? If so, you are performing to many pulls and are not maximizing your pulling strength! You should be pulling somewhere between 24-26 strokes per minute as this will allow you to be the most efficient. You want to be explosive in the pull and recover on the descend and keeping the optimal strokes per minute count will allow you to do that. It will keep your heart rate down and allow you to be a more efficient rower. You might need to adjust the damper or take a look at your rowing technique to figure out how to get to the more optimal strokes per minute count.
Now I know that was a lot of information but even if you just use one of these tips it could help you be a more efficient rower! Even though rowing is not as glamorous as the barbell lifts or flying around on a pull up bar, it is a common tool utilized in CrossFit and something we should have proficient technique on. Being a more efficient rower will not only allow you to minimize the time you spend on the rower, it will also allow you to come off of it feeling less fatigued. I highly suggest taking a video of yourself doing a 500m row and see how you could clean up your technique. You can also talk to any of the coaches to help tighten up your rowing technique.