How to Use a Rowing Machine

Catch -> Drive -> Finish -> Recovery

Indoor rowing is one of these exercises which do not require a lot of instruction - most people can perform the right motion instinctively. There are a few details though to have in mind to avoid any injuries and to maximise the performance of your exercise.

Here’s our guide to using a rowing machine.


The rowing stroke is a fluent movement consisting of four distinguishable parts: catch, drive, finish and recovery. Learn how to perform these elements using the correct technique from our instructions below.

catch rowing positionCATCH

Catch is the initial movement in the rowing stroke. When rowing on the water, in taking a stroke we want to add to its speed, and not disrupt it. In indoor rowing, we want to achieve similar momentum, allowing for a smooth action, so pay attention to your timing.

Take the position as illustrated on the left. The arms are relaxed, neck tall, shoulders down. Feel the pressure of the initial drive from handle to your feet, lower back, glutes and quats - make sure the resistance is met through legs and core, not the shoulders. Keep the hands moving, the initial pressure should feel light and quick. If the catch feels heavy, increase the tempo of the catch and make sure the flywheel does not slow too much.

drive rowing positionDRIVE

The drive is the full body slide motion and the most dynamic part of the rowing movement. The legs are applied against the resistance, with back, arms and shoulders ensuring the pressure remains on the legs during the whole slide motion. At all times, make sure you keep your back straight. When the legs reach about 80% of the extension, shift the resistance from legs to the upper body in a smooth transition in sequence legs -> hips -> hands. Think of it as continuing the momentum created by the legs.

finish rowing positionFINISH

The finish is carrying that momentum further by allowing your body and arms to extend the stroke, by pulling on the handle (see the illustration on the left). At the end of the finish the handle should be close to your chest and your body at about 100 degrees angle, while maintaining straight back. keep the chain of the motion smooth avoiding any ‘bouncing’.

recovery rowing positionRECOVERY

The recovery motion is the opposite movement to the drive, so the sequence for the recovery is hands -> hips -> legs. Start by leading with your hands and then swing your body forward, finally bend your legs returning to the catch position. Remember to keep your back straight. If you want to master the recovery, try to recreate exact the same movement you perform in the drive position but reversed.



If you are new to rowing, try to perform the catch, drive, finish and recovery with almost robotic precision. Once you get accustomed to the correct technique, you will find smoothness in the motion and the strokes will flow naturally. Please note that despite of the intensity and speed you are performing the strokes, each of the fourth phases should be distinguishable. Otherwise you risk personal injuries and loss of efficiency.

Rowing machines are great for working out but only if you use them correctly. Rowing with poor form will not only give you worse results, but can also cause injuries. Stay safe and improve the effectiveness of your workouts with these final general tips:

- sit up straight
Make sure you don't hunch your back while rowing. Hunching will mean your shoulders are left doing all the work and could lead to an injury.
- keep your arms below the chin
When you pull the handles back make sure they don't come up to your chin. For the most efficient and effective stroke, bring the handles to just below your chest.
- don't drop your knees
If your knees are dropped to the side you won't be working your inner thighs or hips properly. Finish each stroke with your knees in line with your hips. 
- strap in your feet 
Make sure you strap your feet in correctly. The  strap should sit directly above the ball of your foot and you should be able to easily flex your toes
If you have any other rowing related questions feel free to contact our Rowing machines Online expert team.
Happy rowing!

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