Basics of Rowing for CrossFitters


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Below is my viewee twoee guide to rowing for CrossFit:


I want maximum carry over to the other movements of the program so:

“Chest up and heels down” is my usual catch cry on position.

If your athletes row in a similar position to that which you want them to dead lift then you are getting valuable practice in.


This is a great opportunity to practice the unchanging element that is core to extremity.

From the front, Legs, Hips, Arms, Arms, Hips, Legs”

The start position should be similar to a dead lift set position and then the row stroke occurs by straightening the knees and driving through the heels while keeping the back angle.

When the knees are straight then the hips open to bring the shoulders behind the hips and finally the arms pull the handle in to the sternum.

Almost instantly the handle should be pressed away until the arms are straight and then the hips can close before the knees re bend.


The drive is faster than the recovery – Explode, reload”. Don’t allow or encourage athletes that are new to the rower to “row it like they stole it”. A lower stroke rate will be more sustainable for the longer distances. A fast stroke rate may have a 1:2 explode, reload ratio while a slower stroke rate may have 1:3 or 1:4.

The explode, drive or fast bit should include legs, hips, arms and arms of the above sequence (that is right as soon as the arms have pulled straighten them back out so they can rest). The reload, recovery or slower bit should include hips and legs of the above sequence.

So there you have it this method may differ from what actual rowers teach but a) we are unlikely to take our skills to a real boat and b) teach people to row in positions that are as similar as possible to dead lift, power clean etc.


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