The Importance of Proper Technique in Rowing

Rowing is considered a low-impact exercise that provides a full-body workout. It is a great cardiovascular activity that can burn up to 800 calories per hour. However, without proper form and technique, it can lead to injury and inefficiency. One of the most common questions beginners ask is whether they should bend their knees when rowing.

The Proper Rowing Technique

Rowing is not just about pulling the handle towards your chest. The proper technique involves using your legs, core, and arms in a coordinated motion. According to USRowing, the national governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States, the proper rowing technique can be broken down into four parts: the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery.

The Catch

The catch is the starting position of the rowing stroke. It involves sitting with your knees bent, shins vertical, and your arms extended while holding the handle. It is important to maintain proper posture and engage your core muscles. When you begin the stroke, you should push off with your legs and lean forward with your upper body at the same time.

The Drive

The drive is the second part of the stroke, which involves extending your legs, pulling your arms towards your chest, and leaning back slightly. Your legs are the strongest muscles in your body, and this is where most of your power should come from. According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, rowers who increased their leg strength also increased their rowing performance.

The Finish

The finish is the third part of the stroke and involves bringing the oar or handle close to your chest while leaning back. At this point, your legs should be fully extended, and your arms fully pulled back. You should keep your core engaged to prevent your back from arching too much.

The Recovery

The recovery is the final part of the stroke, which involves returning to the catch position. You should let your arms extend straight out in front of your body while your knees bend to bring you back to the starting position. It is important to maintain balance and avoid leaning too far forward or back.

Should You Bend Your Knees When Rowing?

Yes, you should bend your knees when rowing. In fact, proper form requires you to bend your knees during the catch position. This allows you to engage your leg muscles and generate more power during the drive. However, it is important not to hyperextend your knees during the finish position, as this can lead to injury.


In conclusion, rowing is a great exercise that can provide numerous health benefits. However, it is important to learn the proper technique to avoid injury and maximize your performance. Remember to engage your legs, core, and arms in a coordinated motion, and always maintain proper posture to prevent injury. By following these tips, you can enjoy the benefits of rowing while avoiding the pitfalls of improper technique.