Ahhh the rower. The love of some athlete's, the kryptonite of others. Well we're here today to give you the answers to five questions that we're always asked about rowing technique and who knows, you may just come out of those WODs feeling like you may have finally tamed the beast!
Why does stroke rate matter?
Stroke rate is the number of strokes you take per minute, or spm (Strokes Per Minute). The monitor displays this number in the upper right corner on every workout display.
For rowing, a stroke rate between 24 and 30 strokes per minute is typical for most workouts. When racing, stroke rates are generally a bit higher but usually still below 36.
An important notion to understand is that an increased stroke rate does not necessarily mean that you are working out with more intensity. Instead, the key to increasing intensity is knowing how and when to apply power. Focus on getting as much power as you can into each drive/pull. Think of using a ratio of one beat on each drive, for every two beats recovery.
Should I be using my arms or legs more?
While legs are generally considered the major muscle group in rowing, the ratio of muscles working will depend on which part of the rowing sequence you’re in.
During the ‘catch’ to ‘drive’ portion of the sequence, your legs should initiate the push back. As you work through the drive sequence, your back and abdominals will work together with your glutes and hamstrings to swing your torso open and extend your hips. As you finish your stroke your biceps and back will contract to pull the handle in.
What damper setting should I be using?
The damper is the lever on the side of the fan cage. It controls how much air flows into the cage. The higher the number (eg.10), the more air is allowed into the housing and the more work it takes to spin the flywheel against the air. Vice versa for lower settings.
Be careful not to confuse your damper setting with resistance or intensity…these are controlled by YOU and how much you use your legs and arms to move the handle or, in other words, how fast you pull. This is true regardless of where the damper lever is set: the harder you pull, the more resistance you will feel. Because indoor rowers use wind resistance (which is generated by the spinning flywheel), the faster you get the wheel spinning, the more resistance there will be.
Think about rowing on the water. Regardless of whether you are rowing in a sleek racing shell, or in a big, slow row boat, you will need to increase your intensity and apply more force to make either boat go faster. The difference is in how it feels to make the different boats go fast. Making a sleek boat go fast requires you to apply your force more quickly. Making the slow boat go fast also requires more force, but the speed at which you apply the force will be slower over the course of the rowing stroke.
So, while you will need to experiment a little in order to find your personal preference, we recommend starting at a lower damper setting (between 4-6) as higher settings will tend to encourage poor technique and fatigue your muscles quicker.
What’s a ‘good’ pace?
500m Row time standards are roughly:
|World Record (Heavyweight)||<1.14.5||<1.26.5|
|World Record (Lightweight)||<1.20.1||<1.34.0|
It’s important to remember that it’s very rare for us to do one set of 500m in a workout. If you want to improve your rowing for the purpose of CrossFit, you will need to make sure you also have a good recovery system and the ability to maintain your pace across several rounds.
Why do I have to row?
You don’t. No one is making you row, but we reckon that by adding rowing into your training regimen you can get a host of benefits including learning how to use ‘power’ to your advantage, improve your breathing, work on your anaerobic and aerobic capacity at the same time. As a low impact exercise, it’s also a fantastic alternative for those who cannot run or used as a tool for active recovery. Oh, and did we mention it’s one of the most effective exercises for burning calories in less time?
Work on these five tips and we reckon you'll be the one excited, rather than groaning next time a WOD pops up with rowing!