There are always a number of questions that arise when talking about technique on the Concept2 or Waterrower rowing machines. Most beginners make the same mistake of using their arms far too early in the stroke and not really putting much leg power into the pull. These are fairly basic errors that can be corrected by getting an experienced rower to coach you or watching a training video such as this one.
This video shows some of the common mistakes
So as you improve and start to work on your 2000m times, finer points of technique start to come into play.
Where should you pull your hand to when on the rowing machine?
Afloat you have to keep the blades in and then feather, wherever that takes your hands. Low for flat water, higher if rigged for rough weather. Most oarsmen seem to keep wrists high aground too, presumably from habit.
But on a grounded erg, no need to lift wrists, it’s much easier to keep wrists flat and all in line with the chain, as Concept2 writes, so that there are no bending moments anywhere. Any extra length from cocking the wrists can only be small and at the expense of small muscle-tendon units in the forearms, so not worth it and possibly risky as noted above. Better save a little time to get in an extra stroke done full body.
The Big Test – 2000m
The 2K is the world standard for comparing rowers and it is an absolute killer! You get to the first 500m mark and you are thinking “this is hurting already and I’m only at the first quarter”. The next 1000m are all about perfect technique and efficiency and the last 500 is where you separate the men from the boys. Pain pain pain!!!! You have to keep your technique even though your lungs are burning and you can’t see for the sweat pouring into your eyes.
How fast should your stroke rate be?
Focus on being more efficient in the strokes throughout first. Lots of higher strokes mean nothing if you’re not being completely efficient with each one…28-30 would be ideal for 2K, but full strokes throughout, with plenty of efficiency on each stroke, making each one count. Make sure you are still rowing with the full slide in the last 150m.
A half slide stroke may increase your stroke rate, but it lowers efficiency and gives you less recovery time between strokes.
Over reaching and over leaning at the end is an inefficient stroke technique – there is little mechanical advantage in going too far forward by reaching beyond the catch and there is little or no advantage in leaning back beyond about 1 o’clock. A “shorter” (but still full) and stronger stroke will help a lot and allow you to raise the stroke rate.
Having said all that, it is fitness that is the key – the best 2ks are well over 30 strokes per minute and for lightweights the elite guys this can be up to 40, so you just have to be fit enough to maintain a 30+ stroke rate for 7 minutes or so.
Don’t Forget To Breath!
Breathing is usually something that we do without thinking. But next time you row, think about your breathing. Is it regular? When do you inhale or exhale? The most important thing to remember is to breathe with a regular rhythm that is related to the rhythm of your stroke. Most rowers take one breath per stroke at lower intensity rowing and they add a second shorter breath as they start working harder. The optimum point to switch from one to two breaths will differ from person to person. You should experiment and see what works best for you.
The next thing to consider is the timing of your breathing within your stroke cadence. The following recommendations are based on our own experience and are backed up by the research we have found on the subject.
Breathing for Low Intensity Rowing: Exhale gradually on the drive, being sure to expel all remaining air at the finish. Inhale on the recovery.
Breathing for High Intensity Rowing: The first exhale comes as you finish the drive. On the recovery, you should inhale, exhale quickly, and inhale again just before the catch. Perhaps you have developed a breathing rhythm of your own. That’s okay. The most important thing is that you establish a regular breathing pattern and stick with it.
There is certainly an obvious reason to breathe properly while rowing – your muscles require oxygen in order to function well! In addition, focusing on a regular breathing rhythm may help you increase the intensity of your workout. Try it next time you are having trouble getting going. An awareness of your breathing can also enhance the stress-relief aspects of rowing, as it does with yoga or meditation. And finally, when you are rowing hard, it gives you something else to think about besides the lactic acid building up in your legs!
Technique = Efficiency = Better Time
Keep working on your Concept2 technique, there is always room for improvement. Try to stay relaxed throughout the stroke, make sure you use the whole slide but don’t over-reach at the catch or over-extend at the finish. Breath effectively. And of course train hard! There is nothing more satisfying than breaking your personal best knowing that it was hard work that got you there.