A Strong Row Starts With Your Feet

Proper pressure application will allow you to recruit the strongest muscles on every pull.

The importance of power application onto the foot plate while rowing is often overlooked, especially when teaching basic rowing technique. However, proper pressure application through the feet is critical in recruiting the strongest muscle groups to move the handle through the rowing stroke. Check out the video below for an illustration of the following phases:

  1. At the catch, pressure should be applied through the balls of the feet, similar to the jumping position. This turns on the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. However, if the connection is too much in the toes, the glutes and hamstrings will turn off, and the quads will bear more load than they should. Conversely, if the heels are forced down at the catch or too soon in the drive, there will be too much tension in the calves and hamstrings to allow for proper firing of the glute and hamstring muscles.
  2. Through the drive, power is transferred down through the heels, keeping the glutes engaged. Again, if the connection is too much in the toes or only stays in the balls of the feet, the glutes and hamstrings will turn off, and the quads will bear more load than they should. It will also be difficult to keep a strong core in the second half of the drive if the glutes are not turned on.
  3. At the finish, pressure should be maintained through the balls of the feet and heels. The heels may lift slightly at the very end of the drive. This is only okay if the glutes stay activated in supporting good posture. Without the pressure on the foot plate, it is easy to fall back too far with the body, and to lose connection through the core. You will be forced to use the foot straps and your hip flexors to pull yourself back through the recovery. Instead, with adequate pressure thru the feet, squeeze the glutes to pivot your body forward to “float” back up the slide with little to no effort.
  4. On the recovery, the weight should be on the seat with little to no pressure through the feet. Your muscles should be relaxed in preparation for the next drive. On the drive, about 50 percent of your body weight should be applied to the foot plate, while still maintaining solid contact with the seat for stability.

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