We all know it and we all hate it…. The Rower. A simple piece of equipment that can bring even the toughest and most fit CrossFitter to their knees. The Rower or also known as an Ergometer (Erg) in the crew world, holds an athlete hovering just below their VO2 max range making lactic acid build up like no other movement or exercise out there. I’ve got good news, there are a few easy adjustments you can make to start getting more bang for your buck! You see, most of us aren’t setting ourselves up for success when we hop on the Erg. A few simple changes in your set up can make a huge difference. Let’s break it down.
1. Before even sitting down, check your damper (the fly wheel on the side). Simply put, the higher the damper is set (1-10) the more air you’re allowing into the fan, which in turn makes for a heavier pull. Typically, I suggest a damper setting for women somewhere between a 3 or a 4. This will give you enough drag to feel the pull without burying you. For men, I suggest a setting of a 5 to a 6, same reasons as above. These settings will allow you to rely more on your aerobic abilities rather than pure power output. Keep in mind, rowing is an aerobic sport, so you want to keep it that way. Now unless you’re doing a peak power output piece (let’s say under 10 seconds) there isn’t really a need to jack your damper up to a 10. The exception being a power lifter who’s aerobic capacity is limited.
2. Check your foot plates/heel cup. Moving them up or down will allow you to get a solid push at the catch of every stroke. You want the strap to be across the base of your toes or across the base of your shoe laces. This will allow your heel to raise slightly when you’re at the catch giving you a solid set up to really drive with your legs.
3. Let’s talk grip. Most people grip the handle too hard. The key to efficient rowing is to stay as relaxed as possible and your grip is a big part of that. You want to think about hanging on the handle, with your pinkies on the far edge. A loose grip will translate into more relaxed shoulders and a better chance of keeping your breathing relaxed.
4. Lastly, let’s discuss where to pull the handle into when finishing the stoke. You’ve driven your legs down, swung your body slightly back, and lastly you’re pulling the handle into your body, but do you know where you should be aiming? Most CrossFitters pull their handles way up high almost into the chest thinking they’re lengthening their stoke. Not the case. Instead your allowing your shoulders to be way up high next to your ears and in a really inefficient position. Next time you’re rowing think about pulling that handle into the base of a sports bra (men, think just below your pecs). This will allow you to keep your shoulders down, stay more relaxed, and in doing so have a better chance to take a big deep breath on the recovery before taking another stroke.
Four easy adjustments you can make today that will help with the ever dreaded rowing workouts! Try them out and see how you feel!