Rowing is one of the best exercises around, offering a low impact, full body workout that targets everything from your chest to your back to your legs. If you want to get the most from your at-home rowing machine and nail your workout every single time, you need to think about your rowing technique and how you use this piece of home gym equipment. Here's how to get set up and row properly!


Want to move fast? Jump to the right section below.

  1. Warming Up
  2. Strapping Your Feet
  3. Gripping the Handle
  4. Setting the Resistance
  5. Setting Up the Computer*
  6. Legs First
  7. Pulling the Bar
  8. The Return

Warming Up

Lower half of someone training on a rowing machine

As with all forms of exercise, warming up is a vital part of your workout. You cannot afford to miss your warm up with a cardiovascular workout, especially rowing.

Back stretches are a great place to start. You should also remember to stretch your arms and legs for a great rowing workout, too.

Strapping Your Feet

Once you have warmed up and sat comfortably on your rowing machine, you should strap your feet. This is something that's easy get wrong, but a vital part of ensuring a good rowing technique.

When you strap your feet into the rowing machine, make sure the heel is adjusted correctly. That’s the best way to secure your positioning, even when you’re moving. On top of that, make sure that the strap is set at the height of the ball of your feet. Any higher or lower and you are putting a range of different muscles and ligaments at risk. You shouldn’t be able to go on your tiptoes.

Gripping the Handle

Hold the bar with a mid-grip (this is generally speaking, depending on your height). That means that if the bar were split in two, and you had one in each hand, you'd have equal length either side of your grip. Try your best to remember that at all times, and you should be in the right place. Always keep an overhand grip, too.

Setting the Resistance

You need to ensure that the resistance is set at the appropriate level for your workout.

If you're unsure, think about it like this: the higher the resistance is, the more resistance training-focussed your workout will be. If you’re looking for a higher calorie burn, you may wish to half your maximum resistance. For a longer, lower intensity session, you could set it at 30% of your maximum. It all depends on how long your workout will be and what your goal is.

Setting Up the Computer*

Most rowing machines have integrated computers. They are capable of measuring your progress; that's everything from speed and distance to estimated calorie burn. It is all essential information.

On top of that, you can set up the computer system to help you along in your workout. You might wish to see how long it takes for you to complete a 1000m sprint, or you might want to know how many calories you can burn in 20 minutes. Whatever your targets, the computer can assist.

*Please note, not all rowing machines include integrated computers and some computers may not provide all the information you require. Always do your research before purchasing.

Legs First

The back of a woman training on a rowing machine

When you start to row, the most important point is that your legs push first. You don't move everything at the same time. From your starting position, and with good posture, push with your legs and lean slightly back.

Pulling the Bar

Once your legs are fully extended or thereabouts, it's time to start using your arms and back. Pull the bar into your chest, keeping your elbows semi-close to your torso, which prevents activation coming from your rear delts.

The Return

Now it's time to get back to the starting point. Reverse the process, ensuring that you don't do a 'scooping' motion. You should pull and return in a horizontal line, and not going up and down too. Don't hunch your back at the end.

Remember: legs first, top second, back straight, gradual lean, arms in, chest height. This is the best rowing technique.

You are now set for a solid rowing workout. Rowing machines really do provide some of the best cardio workouts from your home, no matter your age or ability. Make sure you're using yours to its fullest potential, and always exercise safely.


rowing machines

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.