In Coaching, Rowing, Videos

March 01, 2011

Video Article

Jon Kissick of Front Range CrossFit is a rower who competed in college and on the U.S. team. He coaches a specialized rowing program at Front Range CrossFit.

Kissick’s CrossFit community benefits from rowing seminars to improve technique for greater efficiency. The higher-level athletes and those interested in competing in rowing have more training and workouts to learn more advanced skills.

One of these skills is pacing.

“We want to make sure they have a good sense of their pace for a CrossFit workout,” Kissick says. “And what we have to work here is comfort level with not being the first one off the machine.”

He continues: “We encourage in our workouts for people to set the fan and their cadence to their body type. Bigger, stronger guys can pull heavier, can set the damper higher and row a lower cadence and cover more ground. Lighter, more aerobic people will set the fan lower but take more strokes per minute.”

He uses drills to help his athletes find their personal settings, including the “ring drill,” where athletes pull against great resistance to learn proper technique.

“The point of this exercise is if you put enough resistance on someone trying to row, there’s really only one way your body will solve the problem, which is the correct way: drive the legs first, then open the back, then bend the arms,” Kissick says.

10min 18sec

Video by Again Faster.

Additional reading: Rowing Workouts by Angela Hart, published May 1, 2007.



19 Comments on “Rowing at Front Range CrossFit”


Daniel Andrews wrote …

Big John is an incredible coach, and Front Range CrossFit is an incredible place.
Check this out

for details on how team FRCF excelled at the 2011 Mile High Sprints under John and Skip Miller's thoughtful training and watchful eye.


wrote …

Outstanding video, thanks for the great stuff Front Range.


wrote …

I really really want to get to a rowing class or two. Thanks for the video!!


wrote …

Very helpful. There needs to be more explanation regarding the rower like this article. Thanks John.


wrote …

excellent tutorial. I noticed some rowers reach between their knees and some outside their knees. is there a best way? thanks.


wrote …

1:30 pace in what appeared to be light rowing?!


wrote …

Great article! How do I find out which gym emphazises rowing and technique for competing? I live in San Jose, CA. I currently belong to a CF gym and would like to introduce this class to the owners.


wrote …

what does he mean by "haven't gone aerobic yet"?


replied to comment from jonathon mello

He said they haven't gone "anaerobic" yet, meaning he wasn't pulling hard enough for an anaerobic energy system (phospo/creatine or glycolidic) to kick in as the primary driving system. AKA, he wouldn't be tapped out in 2 minutes continuing that pace.

And at Carl Helstrom:
I have the same question, I think it's just preference. The best way is to test it out yourself. I would think that more of the legs (adductors/abductors) would be engaged with the knees out, but I don't know for sure, and most people i see do it with knees in. I'm definitely intrigued by that style and would like to try it out though.


wrote …

thanks, Ryan. I was thinking about how it would translate to other movements (first pull, SDHP) and it's easy to see how either style would be a benefit in that sense. But, as you say, it would be good to experiment and see which style gives the best rowing results.

This was an excellent video. A great reminder that the erg can be a sophisticated training tool, not just a warmup device or one phase in a circuit.


wrote …

Great job Big Jon. I'll be at the next rowing seminar. Promise:)


Skip Miller wrote …

Carl and Ryan,

The knees in vs. knees out is totally dependent on the proportions of the athlete's body. (And in some cases how big the belly is.)

The athlete that demonstrates the "ring drill' with Big Jon is Ryan Wenke. And Wenke has the longest shins in the history of mankind. That might be a slight exaggeration, but not a large one. We have found that with Wenke's leg proportion he gets a much stronger pull when he allows his knees to be outside of his arms.

For other's, they are more powerful when they reach outside their legs. I would recommend experimenting with both setups and see which one works better for you.

Front Range CrossFit


wrote …

I watched this video yesterday. This morning in my rowing to prepare for the WOD in my gym I used the simple legs, then back, then arms - constantly accelerating the wheel" technique. (I'd never heard it before.) My casual, warm-up pace from this morning was almost as fast as my busting ass, as fast as I could go pace of a few days ago.

Thanks a million for this video.


wrote …

If your shins are extremely long (a rare case) like Skip was describing and you row with your arms outside your knees, you may not be able to get to full compression on the slide, which will result in a short stroke. This is due to the fact that your knees get in the way of your your chest, preventing you from getting to the front end. A quick fix for this is to lower the foot stretchers on the machine. The machine is designed to accomodate very large people. I am 6'5 with extremely long legs, and I have rowed with people upwards of 6'11, and we all row with our arms outside of our knees. This is a more sustainable and safer position for your back. Rowing form breaks down on longer pieces like 5ks/10ks. Rowing with your knees outside of your arms allows you to relax your core when you get tired (leaving your back prone to injury), which is exactly what you don't want to happen when you are tired. Back problems aside, the other flaw in rowing with your knees outside of your arms is that your knees do not track over your toes (which I believe is what Crossfitters shoot for when attempting the perfect squat). If you row often enough with your knees not tracking your toes, this will cause problems with your knees.


wrote …

another excellent video. I like the drills just arms/ arms + back/ arms back legs and also the experimentation with damper settings and cadence. I will try all of them out!


wrote …

This is a great video, thanks for posting this on the journal. I use a WaterRower because that's what I was able to buy second hand. It is an excellent rower but I don't have the ability to adjust the resistance except by changing the water level, which would not be something you can do quickly. But I am anxious to try the warmup and the other tips in the video. John seems like a really good coach.


wrote …

Very great info!!! Just what I needed to probally get my 500 under 1:20!! I could see where I am doing wrong and platuea @ 121.. Man thats alot of rowers too in the background!!


replied to comment from Skip Miller

thanks for the follow up on rowing outside and inside the knees. excellent advice that I am incorporating into my workouts.


wrote …

Nice vid. This guy is a good example of smooth strong rowing technique ( but I think he should have explained about the shins and all.). It's helpful to watch a guy without a bunch of weird faults, even if he isn't a Games competitor.

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