Did you know you use 86% of your body when you row? Your legs, abs, back, and arms all work together to burn calories like there’s no tomorrow. It’s no surprise then that rowing studios like Row House, CityRow, or Row Club are appearing around the country.

Besides studios, there are over 47,000 athletes training online with Concept2Thanks to this popularity people are gravitating to these classes off and online. The promise of a great workout and happier body are appealing by any standard. 

To achieve 86% effort from your body, though, there’s one position that’s critical for success. Getting this position right assures a better experience and stronger workout. In these classes, athletes are missing this opportunity. They could burn more calories and work more of their body. They’re missing a position called the Catch.

Who Uses Rowing?

As it turns out, rowing has benefits far beyond the aesthetic. NASA astronauts are using rowing to reduce training time and improve their heart’s response to space.

Surfing legend Laird Hamilton agrees with our decision to put movement quality at a premium. He swears by the rowing machine and encourages others to get on board. His first pointer is “nail your form” and emphasizes how important it is to engage the whole body and how you can do that by starting with the catch.   

What’s The Catch?

The Catch is the first phase of the stroke and it’s THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE STROKE. If you miss the catch, you’ve missed the stroke entirely and have to start over on the next one.

The catch is where you create potential energy and put yourself into a position to unleash on that stroke. You should feel like a compressed spring here. If it’s tight, it’s right. Check out Concept2’s diagram of the biomechanics of rowing.

Because you can win or lose the stroke here, take extra time to make this position perfect.

The key points you’re looking for at the catch are:

  • Heels down and on the foot plate

  • Shins as vertical as possible

  • Knees underneath, not outside the arms

  • Hips behind the shoulders

  • Back flat but not over-extended

  • Shoulders relaxed and forward

  • Arms long and elbows extended

  • Handle being held in your relaxed fingertips, not a closed fist

  • Hands on the outside edge of the handle

  • Head neutral with eyes on the monitor

The Muscles You Are Using

At the catch, your triceps and abs are working to put you into a good position. Where the magic happens though is when you use the catch to start the drive. Your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves all engage with the push of the legs. Then the back, shoulders, lats, and abs work in unison to brace the core of the body for the hard exertion. Finally, the biceps engage to finish the movement. Take a look at Concept2’s visual breakdown of which muscles are engaged and when to see what we mean.

How it Works

You can make your body tight or loose depending on the situation. When rowing, the body needs tension for the legs to push and connect to the handle for you to be able to get a great workout.  If it’s loose or relaxed, your body isn’t really working it’s just moving.  

When you set the catch correctly the body is under tension. The flat back and heels down create posterior chain tension. The flat heels create tension of dorsiflexion in the ankles and calves, and the braced midline creates tension through the torso. And it all works to give you a platform to produce effort. Check out this article on why the tension is critical for you to get the most out of the stroke

Why it Works

The rowing machine measures force, acceleration, and distance. To amplify these things and improve your workout, a good catch creates resistance on the machine. Done right, the handle will be close to the flywheel and the flywheel will be spinning, while in a good position. Then you can move quickly to push against the machine, match the speed of the flywheel and create instant resistance.

More resistance means more work, which means a better workout. This is the key to getting the most out of a 1-hour workout instead of feeling like you had more left in the tank. This video emphasizes the importance of the connection. It’s all about your ability to push and have good positioning.

Looking at how much work you can do when you understand good positions you’ll start to understand that by paying attention to the right position you’ll improve all the other areas of your rowing workouts. 

It’s no wonder so many people are using rowing to prevent injury, train for their sport, and lose weight. Getting it right, you produce considerable results for your body and health. Taking the time to focus on the Catch promises to make rowing effective for you and your body.

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