Rowing Mistakes and How to Improve Your Technique

We should keep in mind that if someone took the time to create a machine that simulates the action of rowing, without a doubt, it's a highly effective exercise for muscular development, but only if we do it correctly. So keep reading to avoid rowing mistakes and improve your technique.
Rowing Mistakes and How to Improve Your Technique

Last update: 03 January, 2019

It’s normal to make mistakes when we start a new workout program. However, it’s important to improve and eventually perfect the execution in order to avoid pain and injuries. For that reason, in this post, you will learn how to avoid rowing mistakes and correct and fine-tune your technique, so take note!

A rowing machine simulates the action of rowing, the purpose being to work the upper body or practice for rowing in water.  The use of a rowing machine is also considered a separate indoor sport.

Rowing is a popular exercise in the gym due to the fact that it combines strength training with cardiovascular exercise. This allows the body to burn calories, increase resistance and at the same time improve strength and muscle tone.

Which muscles are worked in rowing?

Rowing works on various muscle groups and it’s worth knowing which ones they are so we can focus our energy on those muscles.

Woman using a rowing machine in a dark gym showing the rowing mistakes to avoid

Improve your technique and avoid rowing mistakes

Using the rowing machine is great for exercising the body in an integral way. As you improve your execution, your muscles will work optimally, promoting their growth and health.

Therefore, it’s important to avoid rowing mistakes in order to prevent injury, pain, and most importantly so that the exercise is effective. See the following dos and don’ts, take note of your rowing mistakes and correct them as soon as possible!

You might also like: The Ever Forgotten Rowing Machine


1. Protect your back

Bending the back is a common mistake. Not only does this defeat the purpose of the exercise, but it also creates a risk for injury to the lumbar area.

For that reason, you should concentrate on maintaining good posture, this means that your back must be straight: not bent, not arched, but perfectly straight.

2. Synchronize your movements

In music, there is harmony among musical notes to obtain a fluid melody. The same thing happens in rowing. Your extremities (arms and legs) should be in unison in order to make the exercise more fluid.

Three women in a gym using rowing machines with good technique

Lack of coordination of the knees and arms causes poor execution of the rowing exercise, which translates into working the muscles for nothing.


1. Forget to align your elbows

Your elbows must be aligned with your shoulders. If you put your elbows above or below, you run the risk of injuring your ligaments due to bad posture.

Additionally, this puts the majority of the tension onto your neck and vertebrae, which could cause excessive contraction of the muscle. For that reason, you must keep your elbows aligned with your shoulders and slightly near your ribs.

2. Do the movement half-way

An exercise that works various muscles is not straight-forward, nor is it easy. However, with practice and perseverance, you can do it. At first, because of how difficult rowing is, it’s likely that you will perform the movement half-way.

However, it’s important that you avoid this mistake at all costs, as it’s necessary to follow through on the complete movement in order to achieve a good workout for your muscles. 

3. Open your knees

When we do certain poses, it’s normal for us to open the knees outwards, but it’s something that we must correct. The right way to do it is to have your knees together at all times. That way, the flexor muscles can be worked adequately.

4. Hold the bar in the middle

This may not seem very important, but in reality, it is. People tend to make the mistake of holding the bar right in the middle, with both hands very close together or completely together. This will affect the alignment of the arms with the shoulders.

Therefore, you shouldn’t hold the bar very close to the center or very close to the ends. Instead, hold it so that your arms are aligned with your shoulders.

Get to the gym!

Don’t underestimate the rowing machine. It is a powerful piece of equipment that can work the body fully, so take advantage of this. Practice is the key to achieving a clean execution without mistakes.

Put your heart into this exercise, imagine that you are really in a boat rowing and you are taking the lead. Additionally, you will have the power to achieve great things with this exercise, so put this advice into practice, improve your technique and avoid rowing mistakes!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Nobuta, Y. (1988). U.S. Patent No. 4,735,410. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Kiefer, T., & Shrauger, V. (2005). U.S. Patent Application No. 10/966,253.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.