Rowing in a Nutshell

25 Sep

By Sam Matten

How do you cram ten years of rowing experience into one hour? This was my first dilemma when asked to deliver an introduction to rowing at Crossfit London. But with a great bunch of athletes they were quickly easing their way through anything I could throw at them including some very strange rowing terminology.

This is how the session went:

Set Feet height – aim to get vertical shins – if your shins are past vertical raise your feet height, not getting vertical then drop them.

Set Drag factor (this is not a cross dressing competition judged by Simon Cowell!) a more accurate way of measuring the resistance of your rowing machine rather than level

We then began our warm up. This was a progression which is used by all rowers to get them moving through the stroke phases correctly and goes like this:
*Arms Only
*Body swing
*Quarter slide
*Half slide
*Three quarters slide
*Full slide – low rate (20 SPM)

The key to good rowing technique is simple: hands, body, (control the) slide. This will allow you to generate a good rhythm and put you in a good bio-mechanical position; it will also make you more efficient and when you are rowing you want to waste as little energy as possible.

To ensure everyone was going through the phases correctly they had a go at the 100m challenge (take as few strokes as you can to cover the distance), a big hand to Cameron for his impressively low 4 strokes but everyone else were not far behind.

Everyone then had a quick walk around to alleviate numb bum syndrome and then it was back onto the machine for more rowing / torture.

As the WOD would involve rate (strokes per minute) changes we practised changing up and then down effectively. When changing up you need to ensure you push harder with the legs to improve your speed and keep the handle moving rather than rushing the slide, to change down you need to find control on the slide and try and maintain your speed.

The WOD was a 10 minutes piece. This is relatively short for a seasoned rower but for anyone else unaccustomed to the rowing machine it is a bit of a culture shock.

In rowing workouts rate (SPM) is used to set the intensity of the work. Low rates 18-20SPM would be low intensity, long duration sessions and higher rates (30SPM+) shorter, more intense workouts. Today, as the focus was on technique, the rate prescribed was low (20-26SPM). But the focus is always on quality of technique taking one stroke at a time, getting as much out of each stroke as possible.

The 10 minutes was broken down follows
4 minutes at rate 20
3 minutes at rate 22
2 minutes at rate 24
1 minute at rate 26

When the WOD was over I think everyone was pleased to get off the machines! If you are going to spend a decent amount of time on a rowing machine I would recommend a seat cushion! Well done Mel, Andrew, Jeff, Tom, Ed and Cameron; great work today, keep practising and your Fight Gone Bad score will improve massively.

If you missed the session and want to improve your rowing technique why not come along next time or check out the concept 2 website for everything you could ever want to know about indoor rowing.

Hopefully see you at the next rowing class

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