A Biomechanical Analysis of Rowing

By Joel R. Martin and Bryan St. Andrews

In Rowing

December 06, 2012

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Proper coordination and sequencing of movements will result it efficient, powerful rowing. Joel Martin and Bryan St. Andrews explain.

Rowing requires proper technique to maximize performance. Maintaining correct posture and properly sequencing leg, trunk and arm motion are important aspects of proper rowing technique.

Several research studies have been performed to characterize optimal rowing techniques. Most rowing experts agree that the proper sequence of motion—in order to maximize both stroke power and efficiency—is to start the stroke by driving the legs, then extending the hips, then pulling with the arms last. The majority of the stroke power comes from the legs and trunk. The greatest force exerted on the handle occurs in the first 40 percent of the row cycle.

Interestingly, the general coordination of the legs, torso and arms does not change with an increase in stroke rate. However, the arm-power contribution to the stroke and overall efficiency of the stroke does decrease with stroke rate. These findings suggest that the power developed in the legs and the sequencing of the leg drive to the trunk extension are the most crucial aspects of rowing. Failure to properly sequence motions can compromise how the spine is loaded, which may explain why low-back pain is common among elite rowers.

The purpose of this article is to present the findings from a small study performed at CrossFit Nittany, which quantitatively describes the rowing technique in several of its more experienced members and compares their data to that of a new member with little rowing experience.

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6 Comments on “A Biomechanical Analysis of Rowing”


wrote …

Very cool to see some Kinesiology studies here on Crossfit Journal! I am almost finished with my degree in Kinesiology (finally!) and am very excited to start applying my knowledge to Crossfit. Thanks for the article!


wrote …

Great, and very scientific breakdown. I bet you could take the same analysis, flip the picture 90 degrees and show that you are using the same technique we have already learned in all our pulling movements. (Deadlift, High-Pull...)


wrote …

What software did you use for the motion analysis?


replied to comment from Peter Jordan

I used software called MaxTraq to get the position of certain points but I have my own proprietary software that I use for further processing of the data and computing certain performance measures.


wrote …

I am fairly new to CF and extremely new to rowing. As an engineer, I love the analysis, but I would like to see some proper form stills included next to the improper form photographs.


wrote …

I downloaded the maxtraq software. But it seems like the software will worl only for videos of certain format in which it is recorded. Is it possible to use this software for videos which are downloaded from broadcasting websites other than recording in the lab? And how do I save a file after placing and tracking the marker?

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