Good rowing technique is easy to learn, and it is wise to take the time to do this in order to get the most from your workout without placing undue stress on muscles and joints. There are elements of the rowing cycle that a majority of people find counter-intuitive, and this means that those who have not been correctly taught tend to row with poor technique. But the good news is that once this is taught, the brain learns these movements in a matter of a few minutes, and what was counter-intuitive then becomes the complete reverse.

The goal is to achieve a smooth and repetitive cyclic motion, not one that is harsh and jerky.

We break this down by depicting six positions within the cycle and analysing the movement phases between these. It’s important to only move those body parts required between each position.

Position A

Sit with the legs straight, back straight but leaning slightly back from the hips, arms straight and hands level with the lower ribs.

Now swing to

Position B

Legs still straight, back still straight, but now leaning slightly forward from the hips, arms still out in front.

Note that this has taken your hands forward of your knees while your legs are still straight.

Now slide to

Position C – “The Catch”

Legs fully compressed – aim to get shins close to the vertical, but not beyond. Back still straight, and leaning slightly forward, as in position B, and arms still out in front.

And drive hard to

Position D

Knees partially straightened so seat is now at mid-point of travel, back and arms still just as in positions B and C.

And maintain the stroke to

Position E

Knees nearly straight, so seat is at 3/4 point of travel, back still straight but now leaning slightly back from hips. Arms still straight.

And squeeze through to

Position F – “The Finish”

Legs now fully straight, back as in position E, arms pulled in so hands are close to chest, forearms horizontal, and elbows close in to rib cage.


Focus on making these movements blend together as smoothly as possible.

The three phases from Catch to Finish are generally grouped together as “The Stroke”, as this is when the effective work is done, and the three phases from Finish to Catch are called “The Recovery”. But think of all six movements as a complete cycle, in which one phase flows seamlessly into the next, each movement is a transition between the one just finished and the one yet to follow.

Happy Rowing

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