A few weeks ago, when I was rowing at CrossFit, I came to another realization about my form.
Months ago one of the coaches told me not to pull with my arms until my legs and hips were extended. I could see that my arms were not only bending early but that I was pulling while they were bent. I tried to keep them straight, but I didn’t really grasp this concept in my body until a couple of weeks ago.
It was during a workout that had us moving from a row to a farmer carry to a couplet of double unders and handstand push ups. I scaled the handstand push ups to box handstand push ups and went heavy on the carry with two 53 pound kettlebells. The row portion was 400 meters in under 2 minutes, which is pushing the pace for me, so I didn’t hold to it for all 4 sets. I scaled to 350 so I’d have time to transition over to the farmers carry.
But on that row, with my hip flexors quite sore from being worked on outside of class, I finally started to feel how rowing works in my body. My arms had no role to play other than connector until the last minute, kind of like how you don’t actually lift with your arms when you deadlift. The arms are just there to transmit the action and power of the legs. And the legs are not just pushing with the big muscles, but also, right before the end of the stroke, with the hips.
When I tightened my core and really felt that hip extension, I saw my 500 meter pace jump up with no additional increase in stroke rate. And I thought, wow, this is how I’m supposed to be doing this, just wow.
Of course, the next time I rowed, I didn’t feel that. I thought I’d lost it, having barely gained comprehension, as if understanding rowing efficiency were nirvana and I had caught only the briefest glimpse of enlightenment.
But I did get it back one more time, so I think it’s just a matter of breaking my bad, old habits and instilling new ones so that my body naturally rows more efficiently. That’s the goal. Not sure how I’m going to measure it exactly, but I think if I can make this change, then I’ll see my rowing times get faster as a result. They might just slow down a bit in the meantime as I experiment with my form, but that’s a worthy sacrifice.