Indoor rowing machines (ergometers) are a great work-out – when they are used properly. If you don’t take a little time, (and it can take a little time), to learn the correct technique you can waste a lot of energy and possibly injure yourself.

If you get it right however, you can get an efficient, full body warm up or workout, because correct technique will use all your large muscle groups.

Learn the “Legs, Arms, Arms, Legs” 4-step technique with a personal trainer

Get set: Shoulders back, stomach held tight from the inside, start in close with knees and hips bent


1: Drive – push and extend your legs.

2: Once your legs are fully extended, and your back is vertical begin to draw the handle to the body with your arms pulling your elbows and leaning back  (keep your shoulders straight!)


3: Straighten your arms

4: Follow your arms with your hips and then your knees

The most frequent mistake is on the “recovery” phase – as you are moving up the slide. In a rowing boat this when you balance the boat, and relax between strokes. Your arms must go away from you first. Just let them go – the machine will pull the handle back – allow it to go. Then follow that with your body before you bend your knees and move up the slide – otherwise you will have to raise your hands over your bent knees!

Then move up the slide until the point where you calves are vertical (90 degree angle to the floor) – this is the strongest position from which to take the “catch.” This is where you would be putting your blade (oar) in the water and starting the stroke (the “drive” phase). Your arms are straight at this point – so use the power of your legs first, then your body – arms always last!

Over time practise moving your hands away quickly and being controlled as you move up the slide – this will pay huge dividends if you ever do take up rowing! Look out for tension – especially in the shoulders – try and keep them relaxed. If you do a serious work out on a rowing machine – warm down a little before you stand up as you may feel lightheaded.

Try the indoor rower for a 5-10 minute all over warm up before other cardio or weights exercise, or build up to a 25 minute rowing workout for a killer core workout.


Learn correct indoor rowing technique in the Active Women’s Fitness: Two Day Bootcamp


Interested in rowing? Read our article How to Get into Rowing


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