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How to get leg power on a Water Rower

We got this question from Debbie English: Bradford on Avon over the River Avon (Photo credit: Wikipedia) How … read more

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We got this question from Debbie

English: Bradford on Avon over the River Avon English: Bradford on Avon over the River Avon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to get good power through feet/ legs?

Hi, very novice rower here. Following mid life, post London Olympics, crisis I signed up for a Learn to Row course at my local club, Bradford on Avon, last September. Thanks to some great coaching I am now hooked! We have a Water Rower machine at home. I am finding it difficult to get a good push off through the balls of my feet and would like to know what I am doing wrong? I am quite short (5’5″) and it feels as if the height of the heel rest is too high relative to the angle and height of my legs. If I adjust the heel rest to its lowest setting my toes aren’t in the strap. What am I doing wrong please?

Charlie came back with some great advice
Sound like your feet are still too high? 
Don’t let your shins go past the vertical otherwise you will have difficulty with opening up the angle between your upper and lower legs. 
Have you tried increasing the water level to increase the resistance?


We recommend the Legs Only Rowing Drill

This should help show the athlete which muscles they need to use and combined with the increased resistance (more water in the tank), it’ll help Debbie get some load on the power phase.

Legs only rowing

Try this exercise drill as a way to train the right muscles to do the drive.

  1. Start by rowing normally
  2. Move to keeping your arms straight (just use legs and back swing).
  3. Then remove the back swing so you are rowing legs only (keep leaning forwards through the whole stroke).
  4. Do this for 20 strokes normal; 20 strokes straight arms; 20 strokes legs only; 20 strokes straight arms and 20 strokes normal.
  5. Use half pressure the first time you do the drill. Look at the split on the display of the WR and see how it changes as you remove and add each body part during the drill.
  6. Then do it again at three quarters pressure. Look at the display again – notice any change?
  7. Then do it at firm pressure. Look at the display – notice any change?

This is part of a longer drill sequence Slide Progression from Front Stops.

The athlete should find that by isolating a body part  and then adding them together (legs, legs back, legs / back / arms) they work out which muscles make the power and how to join the body parts together to create a powerful drive.

What do you think Debbie will see by watching the display?

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About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

2 thoughts on “How to get leg power on a Water Rower

  1. i have one of the best erg times in my crew but on water i lack the power in the drive of my stroke how do i improve this because this is the only thing keeping me out of the top boat for the 3rd year now. HELP

  2. The short answer is that the way you move your body on the ergo is not the same as in a boat. A Rowperfect is a different “erg” designed to teach you how to move your body effectively in a boat.

    Can you get one to use to learn the correct technique?

    Where to start

    In the blog post you commented on – have you tried this drill on an ergo?

    Also read this Particularly the pre-requisites for a good drive section. Try the drills described there.

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