Raw Conditioning with Rowing


Rowing is a fantastic metabolic conditioning exercise where the athlete simulates rowing in a water craft on a rowing machine. The proper rowing motion consists of the athlete starting in a tucked position with knees bent toward the chest, the back upright, and hands holding onto the handle. The athlete then pulls the handle as he/she pushes and extends the legs straight and completes the movement by  returning back into a tucked position with legs bent and the handle close to the starting point. This is a full-body exercise that provides a great workout.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.


  1. Proper Foot Positioning: Before rowing can occur, you want to set up correctly with your feet in the right position. The rower has a foot pad that allows you to secure your feet with a heel and toe strap, which enable you to adjust the fit according to your foot size. When adjusting the straps, be sure that the ball of your foot is toward the base of the upward slope area of the foot pad and that your straps are tight, as this will allow for a better push position with your feet.

  2. Don’t Get Caught: One of the most difficult things when learning to row is how to quickly and efficiently get your feet out of the rower so you can swiftly move to the next exercise in a workout. As simple as it sounds, people quite frequently get their feet caught in the straps and stumble out of the rowers, wasting valuable time in workouts. To easily get out of the rower, pull on the toe straps to loosen the tension and then slide your foot upward before pulling your foot out. If you pull your foot out right away, your toe will still be caught in the heel strap; however, by sliding the foot up and then out, you will be able to avoid catching your foot on the heel strap altogether.

  3. Get a Solid Grip: When gripping the handle, place hands at the outer edges of the handle rather than close to the center. Often people take too narrow of a grip, causing their back and shoulder to crunch up as they pull. Keeping a wider grip ensures room for your elbows to fluidly move back and forward with each pull while keeping your torso stable and shoulders down. Also, if feasible, try to keep your knees in between your arms rather than outside your arms, as this will help you have a more efficient pull on the rower.

  4. Stay Flat: Keep your back straight and in a flat position while also keeping your feet flat against the foot pads throughout the entire row movement.

  5. Push then Pull: To initiative the first half of the row movement, engage your legs and push yourself away from the rower. Just after you push with your legs, begin to pull with your arms, bringing the handle to your ribcage. This sequence allows you to leverage your leg strength to get the maximum distance or work from each row.

  6. Reverse the Sequence: To complete the second half of the row movement and get back to a proper starting position for your next rowing rep, do the opposite sequence as you did when pulling. Allow your arms, then chest, then your legs to come forward toward the rower until you are back in a starting position. Remember that you do not need to hunch forward with your hands all the way to the rower itself, but focus instead on keeping your arms straight and your torso slightly forward while your legs are bent. This position provides the maximum opportunity for utilizing your strength as you pull.

Tips & Tricks:

  1. Keep Proper Order: Often athletes will rush to bring their legs forward on the way back from the row, creating a sequence of their knees going up first, then their hands having to move around their knees to get back into a starting position. This improper sequence also causes the heels to lift from the foot pads and then the athlete pushes through their toes rather their heels on the next row. Always remember to lead with arms, chest, and then legs.

  2. Engage the Legs: Focus on keeping the heels down and maintaining the proper pull sequence to ensure you are activating your glutes and hamstrings to get the most strength from each pull. The legs contain some of the strongest muscles in the body, so we want to use that strength to get as much from each pull as possible, rather than only using our arms.

  3. Long, Steady Pulls: Try to not rush your rowing reps, but instead take long and steady pulls. This will help you keep proper form throughout the rowing movement while also allowing the rowing machine itself to maximize the distance you row with each pull.

QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency.


Fierce Play’s Metabolic Conditioning Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.