You want to know something I find kind of funny? People have this love/hate relationship with the rowing machine. You either love it or hate it. There truly is no in between.

Using the rowing machine in workouts is something that I love to do because you can use it to warm up or to cool down, or to seriously add in some killer cardio and get your heart racing after just a few pulls.

There are some things though that people tend to do that can cause the rowing machine to not be a fun experience for them because of form, etc.

The rowing machine can also be intimidating as with a lot of machines in the gym because a lot of the machines look weird and nobody wants to be one of those viral videos that you see online of someone using a machine wrong.

And you know exactly what I’m talking about. The ones where the person either hurts themselves terribly or they simply have an ‘oops’ moment and walk away looking sheepish.

Either way, let’s not be one of those gals, shall we?

Also – if you’re mainly doing home workouts, then you can actually order one for your house! They’re definitely pricy, but if you’d like that option, you can grab one on Amazon!


Alrighty, first, let’s make sure that we’re on the same page. A rowing machine is one that simulates a person rowing a boat. (See below Amazon ad)

They used to be rare in gyms, but gyms are really picking up on the fact that they are not only great workouts, but people love them as well.

Alright, so spot your rower in the gym and march yourself right up to it and sit down on the seat. Be aware that the little seat moves and it moves fast so be sure that you don’t miss the seat and make sure you sit square on the seat.

You’ll see what I’m talking about when you sit down. That seat is crazy fast and slick! But don’t stress, you got this. Have a sit then put your feet in the foot straps.

At the top of the foot holds, you will holes with numbers beside them. The ball of your foot should be right across the padded area on the foot hold. You can adjust the numbers so that your foot is in the proper place. This leads me to my next point.

Rowing Machine Form | Dos and Don'ts for the Rowing Machine


Take hold of the straps as shown in the pics below – don’t judge my nails, I needed to go get them done when I took these pics. Kay? Kay.

Back to the point at hand. Take hold of the strap on the outside of your foot and pull it tight.

The strap should fit nicely around the widest part of your foot while your heel is snug in the heel cups at the bottom of the foot strap. This allows your foot to have the best mobility during the rowing motion.

Feet nice and snuggly in their foot straps? Nice. Let’s move forward.

Rowing Machine Form | Dos and Don'ts for the Rowing Machine


Keeping your core nice and tight, reach forward to grab ahold of the handles and wrap your thumbs around the bar as shown. This gives you better grip and you won’t have to hold on as tight which causes stress to the forearms.

Let’s first practice with just your legs, so you can feel the motion. So just hold onto the handle bar for now.

While holding onto the bar, push down through your legs until your legs are straight. Then release and go back to a bent knee position. Do that several times until you get the feel of what your legs should be doing.

Your legs are where all of your power will come from on the rower and this is super important to remember so that you don’t put a crazy amount of strain on your back. Ready to ads in your arms?

I’m sure you are because right now, your arms are just hanging out there holding onto the bar.


Here’s our first don’t. Don’t leave out your arms! Your arms are super important and even though 90% of your power comes from your legs on a row, your arms need that other 10% to make sure that we’re working out the full body.

So, as you are pushing through your legs, pull with your arms at the same time to your chest. Relax your shoulders and don’t let them creep up around your ears.

Your hands should come to about nipple level then as you come back forward, reach your arms forward just like you would if you were actually rowing a boat.

Rinse and repeat! Do this for several minutes to really get the feel of the row.

Rowing Machine Form | Dos and Don'ts for the Rowing Machine


Don’t #2 – Don’t over extend your back

When you’re in the throws of a good rowing workout, it’s super easy to lean way too far back at the back end of the pull. This will put unnecessary strain on your back and you will eventually start to ache in your lower back.

At the back end of the row, stop around 60 degrees. (Watch video example below to see what I mean.

Don’t #3 – Don’t Pull to Your Face

I see this often, where people will pull all the way up to their face while they’re rowing. 

Just don’t do it. It’s super uncomfortable for one, for two, that’s not a row, and second, what happens if your hand slips off of the handle bar? That’s right, you smack yourself in the face and nobody wants to walk out of the gym with a bloody lip or black eye.

Keep it simple, sister. Pull to your chest

Don’t #4 –  Don’t Over Arch Your Back

When you’re reaching forward at the end of the row, it’ll be super easy for your back to go into what I call a “cat back”. This is where your back gets super round.

Make sure that as you’re reaching forward, you’re reaching with your arms and your back stays flat and your belly stays nice and tight and buttoned up.

I promise it will be much more comfortable this way, anyway!

To combat the cat back, make sure that you’re hinging at the hips and you’re truly at the bent knee part of the row so that your back will stay flat.


  • A row is measured in meters and it will pop up on the screen right in front of you. If you don’t see a space on the screen with a capitol M, hit “units” on the pad until you see a space pop up with a capitol M and you’ll be all set.
  • Adjust the level on the side as necessary (see below pic). 10 is the hardest and one is the easiest. My suggestion if you’re a beginner rower is to start at 5, then work your way up.

Take a look at the below video I recorded in my home gym. Yes, quality is a little rough, but hey, that’s real life. Also, you’ll see this is an air/fan rowing machine and I recommended a water one. The water one is simply more cost efficient, you will get a fantastic workout with either one and form remains the same.

You’ll see in this video that I am flowing very steadily through a row and that the motion is very fluid.

If you’re in a hurry, a row can be a workout all on its own, or you can incorporate it into circuits and take those circuits to the next level.

Rowing is an amazing way to make sure that you get your full body incorporated into the workout and really get those lungs built up. Like I said before, I use it in cross training workouts for my runners because it really helps to build up that endurance lung capacity.

One last piece of advice in regards to the rower, relax. Really let your body take over and flow. When you’re trying too hard, your body tends to have “choppy” motions. Relax and let your body flow with the motion. Because once your body realizes what you’re doing, it will naturally flow with a proper row motion.

Enjoy! *Be Sure to Pin for Later!

The benefits of a rowing machine are quite numerous and they give you results like no other. A workout on the rowing machine will leave you sweaty and out of breath. Here is how to properly use a rowing machine for the best benefit plus a free download of a week of rowing machine workouts. #rowing #rowingmachine
Coach Amber George