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Rowing Uphill by Shane Farmer - CrossFit Journal

Rowing Uphill

By Shane Farmer

In HD Videos, Rowing

October 08, 2012

Video Article

To learn proper pacing and how to relax on the recovery while rowing, CrossFit Rowing’s Shane Farmer likes the uphill drill.

With a plyo box or bumper plate underneath the front of the erg, it’s difficult to rush forward, says Farmer, who also is a coach at CrossFit Invictus.

“We’re looking and focusing on emphasizing a slow recovery, taking your time up,” he says.

Next, he talks hand position and knee position.

“They’re smaller components,” Farmer says, “but they can have a big impact on your stroke.”

He advises keeping the hands and fingers relaxed so the handle sits in the fingertips. Death gripping, he says, is no good.

“Everything tenses up. He’s now created tension from his hand all the way up to his shoulder, into his traps,” Farmer explains as fellow Invictus coach Dave Lipson demonstrates. “It’s going to take a short amount of time before your arms start to burn out.”

Meanwhile, the knees should be close to the inside of the arms or nearly in the armpit, he says, to create tension and torque in the hip.

Video by Again Faster.

5min 46sec

HD file size: 160 MB
SD wmv file size: 69 MB
SD mov file size: 38 MB

Please note: These files are larger than normal Journal videos. For smoother viewing, please download the entire file to your hard drive before watching it (right-click and choose Save Link As...).

Additional reading: Smoother Rowing for More Power by Tom Bohrer, published April 1, 2008.

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3 Comments on “Rowing Uphill ”


wrote …

Looks like a cool drill, look forward to trying it. Just some irrelevant semantics here, and I can't claim much experience putting an oar to water, but that seems like rowing downhill to me...


wrote …

Thanks very much for the video can't wait to try the drill.

I've learned that to engage the butt for squats you should push your knees out, (opposite of what you are teaching for rowing) and also to improve hollow body position strength to wrap the baby knuckle over the bar (again opposite for rowing).

I'm not contesting but just guessing what carries over from gymnastics to olympic lifting does not carry over to rowing?

Thanks again,


wrote …

Excellent drill for reinforcing the concept of maintaining hamstring engagement through the recovery. It is a very subtle concept to grasp especially at stroke rates above 32 per minute or in racing on the water.

Please, please ensure that your demonstrators show good technique throughout the stroke. Mr. Lipson was consistently, on the drive, opening his back angle and engaging his biceps not only simultaneously, but also initiating those movements prior to his knees being fully extended.

The correct stroke on the drive is to extend the legs such that the knees are close to lockout (not over center, but fully extended) prior to the back angle changing even one degree. Then, once the back angle opened such that the shoulders are just behind a vertical line through the hip joint, then final portion the of the drive can proceed with the arms (controlled by the biceps along with the deltoids, rhomboids and upper portion of the trapezieus) coming straight back (parallel to the ground) to the solar plexus.

To row as Mr. Lipson was in this video will build enormous biceps to compensate for not finishing the last bit of hip extension and opening the back. The little muscles will be doing the work of the large muscles.

The rowing stroke, if executed correctly, can truly reinforce correct motion patterns for the beginning of the clean and snatch; especially for those who are having a hard time learning how to chain the multiple pulls together smoothly without initiating any major joint too soon.

No disrespect to Mr. Lipson is intended, he is an inspiring athlete and by no means the first elite CrossFitter in a rowing technique demonstration video to miss some of the more subtle elements of the stroke.

My suggestions are by no means authoritarian and I am not an ex-Olympian like many of those within our community. My successes in rowing were solely constrained to NCAA championships.

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