Mistake: Pulling early
This is by far the most common error and one that hurts efficiency of movement, power production, and time. During the initial drive (work) phase of the rowing stroke, the seat and the handle should move together. Unfortunately, many athletes will begin the drive with either their back or their arms. This is evidenced out of the catch (the transition point between the recovery and work phases where your body is closest to the monitor) as the handle moves first while the seat remains in place. Instead, aim to initiate power out of the catch (and into the drive) with your legs—pushing into the foot straps and extending your legs. During the initial drive, your arms should remain straight. Once your legs are straight (and have done their job in the drive) your arms will finish with a powerful pull of the handle toward your torso.
Mistake: Trying to create length
In case you haven’t noticed, taller athletes have a natural advantage on the rower as they are able to drive (work) for a longer distance on each stroke. In an attempt to create ength, many (shorter) athletes compromise their form by hunching their back or opening their legs and flaring their knees out in order to get the handle closer to the cage. For the same reason, athletes may sometimes be tempted to lean far back. Each of these attempts at creating length causes you to sacrifice proper form, increasing an athlete’s risk of injury and decreasing their maximal force production.
Tip: If you want to increase your stroke length without sacrificing form, try increasing your ankle and hip mobility. Tight hips and ankles are usually the culprits keeping you from returning the handle closer to the cage.
Mistake: Resting during transitions
There are two transition points during the row: the catch and the beginning of the recovery phase. The catch is where an athlete transitions from the recovery to the drive and happens at the front of the rower. The beginning of the recovery phase is where you transition from the drive to the recovery. This transition happens at the back of the stroke with the handle near your torso. Many athletes assume that these are stop and pause points. However, any lag time during these transitions can slow the flywheel resulting in a loss of power.
At the beginning of the recovery phase think of an immediate push back—as soon as you finish the stroke near your chest, snap your hands toward your feet as quickly as possible to begin the recovery. At the catch, aim for a quick and explosive drive with your legs once you reach the end of the recovery phase.