Basic Rowing Machine Drills

Drill 1 - Arms Only
Backstops Rowing Technique

1. Sit at backstops with your toes pointed away from you. Keep your core engaged to sit in position. Keep your chest open and keep your head in a neutral position - not looking up or down.

Rowing Arms Technique

2. Move your arms to as far as they can reach, but don't use your body to tilt towards front-stops. Keep your legs down and knees flat - but not pressed rigidly down - keep them relaxed. Keep your upper body still - remember to only use your arms.

Backstops Rowing Technique

3. Pull lightly and finish each stroke to your body - the handle should reach a spot between your chest and navel/belly button. Row lightly - this is a drill. You don't need to pull hard. Keep smooth and keep your core engaged with your knees relatively flat and relaxed.


Drill 2 - Arms And Back

Sitting at backstops rowing arms and back only

Backstops Rowing Technique

1. Sit at backstops with your toes pointed away from you. Keep your core engaged to sit in position leaning slightly back. Keep your chest open and keep your head in a neutral position

Rowing Arms Technique

2. Move your arms away from you, but don't use your body to tilt towards front-stops until your arms have moved almost fully forward. Keep your legs down and knees slightly bent - and keep them relaxed. They should be slightly broken with no pressure on your hamstrings.

Rowing Arms Technique

3. Follow your hands and tilt your body forward and feel the weight of your body move from the back of the seat to the front of the seat. Don't bend your back - instead, look to rock from your hips while focusing on extending your chest forward and up. Keep your head neutral - don't bend it down.

Rowing Arms Technique

4. Pull the handle by using your body to tilt back towards backstops. The catch should not be forced but it should be easy and light. As you move back, keep your core engaged and keep your back in a natural position but not curved. Your arms at this stage are only a connector - don't pull with them yet.

Backstops Rowing Technique

5. Finish the stroke by pulling your arms like in Drill 1. Hold the position at backstops by engaging your core. Feel your bodyweight move to the back of the seat as you knees flatten. Don't pull hard with your arms, this is a drill.


Drill 3 - Quarter Slide

Rowing quarter slide from backstops. This is similar to Drill 2, but you break your knees and slide forward to quarter slide as you row.

Backstops Rowing Technique

1. Sit at backstops with your toes pointed away from you. Keep your core engaged to sit in position leaning slightly back. Keep your chest open and keep your head in a neutral position

Rowing Arms Technique

2. Follow your hands and tilt your body forward and feel the weight of your body move from the back of the seat to the front of the seat. Don't bend your back - instead, look to rock from your hips while focusing on extending your chest forward and up. Keep your head neutral - don't bend it down.

Rowing Arms Technique

3. Follow your body forward and feel your seat move forward to one-quarter slide. Keep your head and chest up.

Rowing Arms Technique

4. Pull the handle by using your legs and body to move back towards backstops. The catch should crisp and quick but it should be easy and light. As you move back, keep your core engaged and keep your back in a natural position but not curved. Remember your arms at this stage are only a connector - don't pull with them yet.

Backstops Rowing Technique

5. Finish the stroke by pulling your arms like in Drill 1, except this will feel faster because you will be moving back with more force and speed. Hold position at backstops by engaging your core. Feel your body weight move to the back of the seat as you knees flatten. Don't pull hard with your arms, this is a drill.


Drill 4 - Half Slide

Rowing half slide. This is similar to Drill 3, but you slide forward to half slide as you row and allow your legs to push on the footplate a bit more.

Backstops Rowing Technique

1. Sit at backstops with your toes pointed away from you. Keep your core engaged to sit in position leaning slightly back. Keep your chest open and keep your head in a neutral position

Rowing Arms Technique

2. Follow your hands and tilt your body forward and feel the wieght of your body move from the back of the seat to the front of the seat. Don't bend your back - instead, look to rock from your hips while focusing on extending your chest forward and up. Keep your head neutral - don't bend it down.

Rowing Arms Technique Rowing Arms Technique

3. Follow your body forward and feel your seat move foreward smoothly through one-quarter slide to half slide. Keep your head and chest up and catch each stroke crisply.

Rowing Arms Technique

4. Drive your legs and swing your body back to pull the handle towards backstops. The catch should crisp and quick but it should be easy and light. As you move back, keep your core engaged and keep your back in a natural position but not curved. Remember your arms at this stage are only a connector - don't pull them.

Backstops Rowing Technique

5. Finish the stroke by pulling your arms like in Drill 1, except this will feel faster because you will be moving back with more force and speed. Hold the position at backstops by engaging your core. Feel your bodyweight move to the back of the seat as you knees flatten. Don't pull hard with your arms, this is a drill.

More Advanced Rowing Machine Drills

Drill 1 - Pausing at Backstops
Drill 2 - Pausing at Arms Away
Drill 3 - Pausing at Half Slide
Drill 4 - Double Stops (Arms Away and Quarter slide.)

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