I’d like to thank Stars and Stripes for covering indoor rowing (“Rowing rules: Indoor workout gains popularity for super-cardio delivery,” article, Health & Fitness page, Sept. 18). However, most rowing benefits can only be realized by utilizing proper technique.
I was a member of the varsity crew when I was in college. Every day I see people at the gym who are either gaining very little benefit or setting themselves up for injury.
Contrary to popular belief, the primary power in the rowing stroke is generated with the legs. Starting out, the body should be at a 45-degree angle forward. The legs should begin the stroke, and you should feel like you’re “jumping.” The body remains forward until the legs are fully extended. Then the body leans back to 45 degrees away from the feet, and the arms and hands are pulled into the chest.
On the “recovery,” the exact opposite occurs, the hands and arms shoot forward quickly, the body leans forward, then the legs pull the rower back up to the starting position.
Three important things to remember: The progression goes “legs, body, arms — arms, body, legs.” If you’re hands are rising up and over your knees, you’re doing it wrong. Your hands, arms and the chain should remain level throughout the stroke.
Speaking of the chain, a good way to judge efficiency is the length of chain being engaged. It does no good to flail away at 36 strokes per minute if you’re only engaging 18 inches of chain. The chain should extend anywhere from three to four feet, depending on height.
Finally, monitor split times. Varsity rowers row at about 34 strokes per minute at a 1:45/500m pace. A good rule of thumb for beginners would be about 24 strokes per minute at anywhere between 2/500m and 2:30/500m for at least 2,000 meters. Anything less and you’re just wasting your time.
First Lt. Daniel W. Smith