Imagine for a moment you could get the perfect workout using indoor rowing. With the ease of using rowing as an exercise to complement your at-home workout or your workout at the gym, there’s an immense value in owning a Concept2 rowing machine either as a primary machine or as a skill in your toolbox.

Indoor rowing workouts have become incredibly popular lately because of this easy-to-use machine and because of an increasing number of rowing machines in gyms around the world.

With the increase in erg rowing it’s inevitable that you might want to know how to row. It’s not that you want to be an “expert” at rowing but you probably want to know how can you use the C2 rower effectively to get a great indoor rowing workout.

We’ve put together the 4 things you need to be telling yourself every time you hit an indoor rowing workout to be successful, plus one bonus that goes beyond just skill.

#1. Keep Your Heels Down

If you talk to any good personal trainer or coach about how to move, you’ll pick up on the concept that when you’re using your legs, for the most part, you should have your weight evenly distributed through your whole foot.

That means putting some of your weight on your heels and the ball of your foot. This is done to engage the entire leg and not dominate to either the quads or hamstrings exclusively. This balance is critical to good indoor rowing and how to row well because 60% of force production comes from your legs if you lift the heels and don’t learn to push through the entire foot you’re missing a lot of force and setting yourself up for poor movement habits. Watch this video on heel placement to help reinforce what we’re talking about.

To address the challenger’s to this idea: we want to make it clear that we advocate this for anyone who wants to learn how to row for indoor rowing purposes and once your fundamentals are solidly in place, a little heel lift can be beneficial for erg rowing.

#2. Push, Push, Push

The C2 rower is a fixed machine. It stays in place and your goal is to move in the confines of its system as effectively as you can.

When most people tell you to go faster they start yelling “PULL HARDER!” When in reality what they’re telling you to do is actually going to minimize your efforts. Your arms are only responsible for 10% of your force when indoor rowing. So if you’re trying to pull, you’re maximizing 10% of your system.

HOWEVER, if you can learn to push through your legs for any rowing exercise, you’re tapping into what #1 talked about; the 60% force driver.

So, when you’re picturing how to row on the C2 rowing machine, you want to be thinking about a big forceful PUSH from your legs with the feet flat. You can do this by putting yourself in a good catch position.

#3. Make Your Mother Proud!

Careful not to overdo it here. We’re not talking about rigid straight, but we are advocates for a “sit-up” mentality where you’re asking your back to support you.

When the back rounds excessively at the front of the stroke, it then tends to extend at the back of the stroke. The problem here is that your spine flexes under load, and it does it EVERY time you take a stroke. Check out this research article by Dr. Fiona Wilson on back pain in rowing.

You can fix this by sitting tall on the machine with your whole trunk, not just your chest. Imagine trying to make your mother proud when you sit on the machine. Keeping your back in this strong position will make sure you can transfer power to the C2 rower when you need to and improve your times and speed in your indoor rowing workouts.

#4. It’s All in the Hips

Going back to #3, when you’re approaching a rowing exercise you need to keep your back flat. However, if you’re learning how to row and you know that your legs give you 60% of your force, and your arms only give you 10%, there’s a missing 30%.

This is where the hips come in. Think about trying to jump to a basketball hoop. You can’t jump if you don’t open your hips. Just watch this NFL combine athlete jump for a maximum height. Notice how he closes his hips, and then jumps and completely opens his hips in the air? Imagine how little he’d be able to jump if he kept his hips closed.

Now apply this to rowing on the erg. If you want to get the most out of your hips, you need to close them (with good posture) and then as you’re pushing the C2 rower away, you need to aggressively swing your hips open AS you’re pushing through the legs.

The legs and the hips then work together to create a strong, connected, accelerating push of the machine, giving you great force! Check out our article on hip swing for further explanation.

#5. BONUS: Get Your Head Right

A discussion about making the most out of your indoor rowing workouts wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the mindset that comes with indoor rowing.

The machine can be a very solo and mentally challenging effort because once you start, there’s no stopping. You can’t push so hard that you physically fail on the rowing machine. If you stop it’s because you choose to stop. That in and of itself is one of the hardest parts to learn on the C2 rower.

It’s an attitude of determination and commitment that sets the tone for how successful you can be at indoor rowing.

If your head is getting in the way of your performance, it’s time to try and break through that wall. Check out this article on getting your mind out of the way and allowing your body to perform.

So, if you’re looking to seriously improve your indoor rowing game on the C2 rower and you want mantras you can repeat to yourself to improve your times, your force, and your understanding of the machine, give these a try. You’ll be amazed just how much of an impact each one can have.


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