Proper technique is essential whether you complete your rowing workouts on a real boat or on a machine in the gym. Positioning your elbows correctly as you complete your workout can improve your performance and reduce your risk of developing an injury.
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The basic rowing technique involves the whole body working together to achieve smooth and coordinated movements. If any part on the body is out of time or not quite right in some way you will suffer from an uneven and uncomfortable stroke. Bend your knees and reach forward to take hold of your oar or the bar of the rowing machine. Ensuring that your back is straight and your chest is lifted, straighten your legs while your arms remain outstretched. Once your legs are straight, bend your arms, bringing your oar or bar to your stomach. Return to your starting position firstly by straightening your arms and then by bending your legs. Repeat "legs, arms, arms, legs" to yourself if this helps you to find a good rhythm.
Your arms are straight during the first and fourth phases of your stroke. At these points, ensure that your elbows are soft and neutral. Bend your elbows as you pull the bar towards your body during the second phase and straighten them again during the third phase. Your elbows should travel in a horizontal line during these two stages and they may need to come away from your sides of your body to allow this to happen. Ensure that your elbows point either downward or slightly to the side during your stroke and that they are never more than 90 degrees from the floor at any point.
Elbow injuries can occur as a result of an incorrect rowing technique. Rowing with your elbows in an incorrect position could put you at risk of pulling your arm muscles or developing elbow tendonitis. Despite its name, tennis elbow is also a threat to rowers with a poor technique, instability in the elbow joint and lack of strength. It causes pain when straightening the arm, dull aches and soreness around the elbow and grip problems.
Being aware of the correct technique and monitoring your body position during your workout can help you to avoid rowing related elbow injuries. If you need further assistance, ask your fitness instructor to monitor you and help you to correct any mistakes. Always stop if you feel pain or discomfort at any point during your exercise session.