Rowing. We all have done it and have improved over time as we become familiar with the equipment and motion. I haven't really ever thought about all the muscles engaged during rowing, so I'm going to use some tools to illustrate that a bit into that while delving into some points of performance and cues to improve our rowing technique. The schematics I'm using are from the Concept 2 website, where they also have a helpful directory on training

The rowing stroke can be divided into two parts: the drive and recovery. The highlighted muscles on the illustrations show what muscles are recruited for each phase and position. Every large muscle group will be engaged in rowing. 

Row 1.png

The drive is the work portion of the row. For the drive, think of the sequence of emphasis as the following:

  • Leg- full extension of the legs; glutes and hamstrings contract to extend the hip.
  • Body Swing- Back muscles engage to move the torso from the 1 o'clock to 11 o'clock position 
  • Arm Swing- Biceps engage to pull handle back

As the drive phase is finished, most of the upper body muscles are engaged. 

row 2.png

The recovery is the rest portion that preps you for the next drive. The body movements of the recovery are essentially the reverse of the drive. 

  • Arm swing -- Body swing -- Leg

The finish position is surprisingly much more relaxed than one would think- the head is neutral, wrists flat, and relaxed neck and shoulders. If you think about it, having that momentary phase of relaxation for energy management becomes especially important on longer rowing pieces. 

Stay tuned-the next time I talk about rowing, I'll address breathing techniques.   


A. 5x2 Hang Snatch
B. 10 mins to work up to 3RM OHS


1000m Row
50 Thrusters 45/33
30 Pull ups