The Ultimate Tool for Going Faster While Doing Less on the Rowing Machine
Written by Shane Farmer of Dark Horse Rowing

Work smarter, not harder. No doubt you’ve been told this throughout your life.

We’re going to cover the one thing you can do to go faster on the rowing machine while spending less energy doing it.

Win meet win.

Whether you agree or disagree with the above quote as a euphemism for your work life. It’s a homerun when it comes to rowing.

That’s because the Concept2 rowing machine is built to be unbeatable. You can’t beat it into submission. Just take a look at some of the world’s strongest men trying to beat the machine…

Brian Shaw may have set a world record in 100m, but he still didn’t break the machine.

Basically, the harder you work. The harder the machine works against you.

That means unless you’re this guy

or this guy

You should be finding the most effective way to get the machine to work for you, instead of against you.

The Tool

The rowing stroke is broken into four distinct parts. The catch, the drive, the release, and the recovery. For a reminder on how each of these should look, check out this video here.

What we care about for your purposes today, is the recovery.

Guess why it’s called the recovery? (Hint: It’s not a trick question).

Because during the recovery, it’s your time to “recover” from the work you did during the drive.

All we’re saying is during the recovery YOU CAN’T DO ANY WORK TO THE MACHINE. It literally won’t let you.

But, a lot of people spend their energy pulling themselves back to the catch, only to re-invest energy into the drive again. It builds an endless loop of constant action and always being under tension.

Tension during recovery = slower times.

The Solution

Think of using the recovery for its purpose…Recovering.


Using a simple drill we call the counting drill.

You’ll take seven seconds per stroke. You only get one second to complete the drive, while the other six seconds HAVE to go to the recovery. It’s best if a friend or coach does the counting for you.

The real reason this drill works, though? It’s all in the forced relaxation.

Until you’ve felt what relaxation feels like. It’s going to be near impossible for you to implement it into your rowing. So by doing this drill, we leave you no choice but to slow down.

Now, you’re going to need an actual clock in front of you to stay true to eight seconds. None of this eight seconds counted quickly so you pull it off in four seconds shenanigans ok?

Take the counting drill and run it for five minutes. It may be a challenge to do for the first minute as you adjust to that slow recovery but you’ll settle in.

The Aftermath

Doing this drill takes approximately zero extra energy. It only asks that you slow down enough to think about your stroke and give yourself the benefit.

HOW does it make you faster? Because the machine likes tension. When you slow down the recovery, you give the flywheel more time to slow down.

When the flywheel slows down and you slow down, you have more tension on the flywheel for the handle and chain to grab onto.

When you have more tension on the handle, you have a greater resistance to push against.

When you have something to push against, you can unleash your power of destruction on the machine.

Power of destruction = Going faster, without doing anything extra except relaxing.

Win meet Win.

It’s a truly free way to improve your power and speed.

So remember, relax through the recovery and crush it on the drive.

Just give us a little shout out as you fly to a new PR.


Also Check Out…

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Common Handstand Problems

The Problem With Like-Minded People

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Michele VieuxBrett StahljuampaCandy Olkey Recent comment authors
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Candy Olkey
Candy Olkey

I struggle with rowing….have watched a ton of videos….but had not seen this one. Definitely going to work with this pace. But I was hoping to get some feedback about the tension. Nobody ever mentions the tension and how one should determine the right tension for them. When I first stared crossfit and actually had a gym to go to with a live coach…he had me set the tension at 8. Since I’ve become much stronger and don’t have anyone watching my row I decided “heck go up to 10” for whatever reason. Was that a good move or should… Read more »

Juan Pablo Rostra
Juan Pablo Rostra
Brett Stahl
Brett Stahl

The correct tension setting for YOU can greatly help your rowing efficiency. I am by no means an expert rower, but a coach recently told our group that the more fast-twitch muscles you have (were you a sprinter, are you great at burpees and box jumps??) the lower the damper setting (4-6), the more your body craves heavy (power) lifting (very strong on Deadlifts and Squats), the higher the damper setting (7-9). I hope this helps you with your rowing.

Candy Olkey
Candy Olkey

THanks so much! That makes sense. ..I am a burpee/box jump girl! I LOVE them both and am every efficient with them. I’m going to lower the tension and work on the pace…let’s hope this all comes together for me!

Michele Vieux
Michele Vieux

Check out these other posts on that topic:

“How To Find Your Optimal Drag Factor Setting

“Damper Setting And Drag Factor Part 2