Do rows go up and down? The truth about rowing form

Rowing is a fantastic full-body exercise that works multiple muscles at once, including the legs, core, back, and arms. However, rowing effectively requires utilizing correct form and technique. One of the most commonly asked questions about rowing is whether the rows go up and down or not. In this article, we will explore the truth about rowing form and answer other frequently asked questions about this exercise.

Understanding Rowing Form

Rowing is a movement that involves lifting your own bodyweight, which can put strain on your muscles and joints if not performed correctly. The correct form for rowing involves a smooth motion that combines leg drive, body swing, and arm pull. The goal of rowing is not to move the rows up and down but to drive the seat back by pushing with the legs and twisting the torso, then pull the handle towards the chest using the arms.

Leg Drive

The first part of the stroke is the leg drive, also known as the catch. In this position, your legs are bent, and your shins are vertical, and your hands are holding the rowing handle close to your shins. Begin by pushing the seat back with your legs and extending your knees until your legs are straight. During this part of the stroke, your back should be straight, and your arms should be fully extended.

Body Swing

As your legs reach their maximum extension, you will begin the body swing. Lean back slightly from the hips and engage your core muscles. This will bring your shoulders behind your hips and allow you to transfer the power from your legs to your arms. Your arms should remain straight at this point.

Arm Pull

The final part of the stroke is the arm pull. Pull the rowing handle towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body. As you pull the handle, your shoulders should remain relaxed, and your wrists should remain flat. Once you reach your chest, begin reversing the motion by extending your arms, then leaning forward, and finally bending your knees to return to the catch position.

Common Mistakes in Rowing Form

One of the most common mistakes in rowing form is using too much arm strength and not enough leg drive. The power in rowing comes from your legs, so it is important to use them throughout the stroke. Other mistakes include collapsing your back, failing to engage your core, and pulling the handle too high toward your chest.

Benefits of Proper Rowing Form

Proper rowing form can help you maximize the benefits of this exercise. Some of the benefits of rowing include improving cardiovascular fitness, building endurance, strengthening your core and back muscles, and improving your overall posture. By using the correct technique, you will also reduce your risk of injury and prevent strain on your joints.

Equipment for Rowing

To get the most out of rowing, you will need access to a rowing machine or a body of water suitable for rowing. A rowing machine can be found in most gyms and fitness centers, or you can purchase one for home use. When selecting a rowing machine, look for one with adjustable resistance levels that can accommodate different fitness levels.

How to Get Started

If you are new to rowing, start slowly and gradually build up your endurance. Begin with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts. Always warm up and cool down before and after rowing, and pay attention to how your body feels during the workout. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop rowing immediately and seek medical attention if necessary.

Rowing Workouts

Rowing workouts can vary in length and intensity depending on your goals and fitness levels. Some common rowing workouts include:

  • Steady-state rowing: Row at a moderate intensity for a set duration, typically 20-30 minutes.
  • Interval rowing: Alternating between short periods of high-intensity rowing and periods of lower intensity or rest. This can help improve cardiovascular fitness and burn more calories.
  • Pyramid rowing: A progression of intervals or steps that increase and then decrease in intensity or duration, so it resembles the shape of a pyramid.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about rowing:

Q: Can rowing help me lose weight?

A: Yes, rowing can be an effective way to burn calories and lose weight. Depending on the intensity of the workout, rowing can burn up to 600 calories per hour.

Q: How often should I row?

A: The frequency of rowing workouts will depend on your fitness goals and schedule. Some people may choose to row every day, while others may only row a few times per week. It’s important to listen to your body and avoid overtraining.

Q: Is rowing bad for my knees?

A: Rowing is generally considered a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints. However, if you have a history of knee injuries, it’s important to use caution and talk to your doctor before starting a rowing program.

Q: Can I get a full-body workout from rowing?

A: Yes, rowing is an excellent full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups at once. By rowing with proper form, you can work the legs, core, back, and arms all at once.

Q: Is rowing a good exercise for seniors?

A: Yes, rowing can be an excellent exercise for seniors because it is low-impact and can help build endurance and strength. However, seniors should consult with their doctor before starting any new exercise program.


Rowing can be an effective and enjoyable way to improve your fitness and strength. By using proper form and gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts, you can maximize the benefits of rowing and avoid injury. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced rower, there are many workouts and variations to choose from to help you reach your fitness goals.


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