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How to Set Up a Rowing Machine (A Step-By-Step Guide)

man on rowing machine

Congratulations on bringing a rowing machine into your home or commercial gym. An indoor rowing machine is a great way to get a full-body workout, improve cardiovascular health, and build strength. But before you push off for a virtual regatta, let’s ensure your machine is set up correctly for optimal results and safety. Our step-by-step guide will provide you with everything you need to know.

Unboxing and Assembly (if required)

Most rowing machines require assembly so please refer to your machine’s manual which will have specific instructions but here’s an overview of how to unbox and assemble your rowing machine:

  1. Clear the Space: Find a clear area for your indoor rower, allowing enough room for the full range of motion (typically around 200cm long and 57cm wide)
  2. Identify the Parts: Familiarise yourself with the main components like the rail, seat, foot plate, rowing handle, and performance monitor (if applicable). Lay out all the parts and hardware.
  3. Follow the Manual: Each machine is different, so consult the user manual for specific assembly instructions. It will typically involve attaching the rail to the base, securing the seat, and connecting the footrests. Pay close attention to tightening bolts and adjusting straps securely.
  4. Level the Machine: Some rowing machines have adjustable levelling feet. If not, ensure the machine sits flat on the ground for a natural motion when rowing.

Finding the Perfect Handle Grip

Proper hand placement is crucial for efficient rowing and preventing injury.

  1. Shoulder-Width Grip: Grip the handle with your hands shoulder-width apart. Imagine you’re holding a large beach towel.
  2. Overhand Grip: Your palms should be facing down with your knuckles pointing towards the ceiling. A proper position uses your back muscles more effectively.

Understanding the Monitor (if applicable)

Many rowing machines come equipped with a performance monitor that displays workout data. Here’s a breakdown of some common features:

  • Distance: Tracks the total distance rowed in meters or kilometres.
  • Time: Shows the elapsed time of your rowing workout.
  • Strokes per Minute (SPM): Indicates your rowing cadence (rowing stroke rate per minute).
  • Calories Burned: Estimates the approximate number of calories burned during your workout.

Additionally, the performance monitor can also help users understand and adjust the ‘display drag factor’ for optimal rowing performance, ensuring the right workout intensity and performance during rowing.

Consult your indoor rower’s manual for specific functionalities and how to navigate the display.

Rowing Machine Maintenance and Care Tips

Taking care of your rowing machine ensures a smooth and safe rowing experience:

  1. Regular Cleaning: Wipe down the rail, seat, and rowing handle with a dry cloth after each workout to remove sweat and dust.
  2. Air Resistance Adjustment (if applicable): Some machines have a damper that controls air resistance, mimicking the feel of rowing on water. Experiment with different damper settings to find your preference, similar to adjusting bicycle gearing, this affects the rowing feel without directly changing the resistance. It’s crucial to find the right damper setting for your workout preference and technique, and not to confuse it with the intensity level. Additionally, understanding and adjusting the drag factor is important for achieving optimal performance and results, as it directly relates to the resistance felt during rowing.
  3. Regular Inspection: Periodically check for loose bolts, worn straps, or any signs of damage. Tighten bolts as needed and replace worn parts according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Southside Fitness Pro Tip: For extended rowing machine life, avoid storing your rower in direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.

Indoor Rowing with Proper Form

To start rowing effectively, it’s crucial to begin with a focus on proper form to maximize your workout and prevent injury. Now that your rowing machine is set up, let’s focus on proper rowing form to maximise your strength workout and prevent injury:

  1. The Catch: Sit tall with your core engaged and shoulders relaxed. Reach forward with your legs, pushing off with your heels while keeping your back straight. This is the “catch” position.
  2. The Drive: Once your legs are extended, lean back slightly from your hips, engaging your core and pulling the handle towards your chest. Maintain a straight back and avoid hunching your shoulders.
  3. The Finish: After pulling the handle to your chest, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a moment. This is the “finish” position.
  4. The Recovery: Reverse the sequence by pushing the handle forward with your arms while leaning back slightly. Straighten your legs, returning to the “catch” position with a tall posture and engaged core.
  5. Focus on Smoothness: Maintain a smooth and controlled motion throughout the entire rowing stroke. Avoid jerking movements and focus on using your legs, core, and back for power.
  6. Practice Makes Perfect: Like any exercise, when you start on an indoor rower, a proper rowing stroke takes practice. Start with a shorter stroke rate at a moderate pace, focusing on proper technique before increasing intensity.

Rowing Workout Routines

Once you’re comfortable with the machine and proper form, you can explore a variety of rowing workouts to target different fitness goals:

  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Alternate between periods of intense rowing with short rest intervals to elevate your heart rate and burn calories.
  • Distance Rows: Set a distance goal and row at a steady pace to improve cardiovascular endurance on your indoor rower.
  • Strength-Focused Rows: Increase the resistance on your rowing machine (if applicable) and focus on your arm pull with slower, more powerful strokes to build muscle strength.

Southside Fitness: Your Rowing Machine Partner

Following these steps and incorporating proper form will equip you to set up indoor rowers safely and unlock the full potential of your indoor rowing machine. Remember, consistency with your stroke rate is key! So, set up your new rowing machine, set some goals and get ready to experience a fantastic upper body workout from the comfort of your home gym with Southside Fitness.

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