Dan Staton MS, PES
Fitness & Archery Editor

February is a cold and dark month. Many hunters out West head out to call dogs into range, horn hunt, and some dedicated archers join the indoor leagues. Too many of us slowly hibernate behind our computer checking out applications and planning our fall hunts. How about you start getting ready for your hunt now with an indoor ergometer a.k.a the rower. You’ll never have to wait in line for the rowing machine. If you’re able to apply proper form and programming, this floor skimmer can sear more calories than a fist full of treadmills. The rower is a reliable resource when it comes to constructing your upper body into a broad V shape, and injury-proof your lower back. Us mighty archery enthusiast must prioritize our physical fitness needs by placing the posterior (backside) to the top of the list. To make rowing work for, you’ll first need to find a groove, meaning, if you lack rhythm, you’ll tire quickly and won’t yield serious output. Let’s first prime your rowing form then we’ll set you free with a great program.

Your Perfect-Form Primer

  1. Sit with your legs bent, shins nearly vertical. Lean your upper body toward your knees but keep your back and shoulders straight. Hold your arms in front of you and grab the handle with an overhand grip, wrists flat.
  2. Without moving your arms or leaning backward, push off with your legs, driving your feet into the stirrups while keeping your back straight.
  3. When the handle is over your knees, pull the bar toward your lower chest. Lean your upper body back until your shoulders are behind your pelvis. Draw your elbows behind you and continue to push with your legs.
  4. As the bar touches your lower chest, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Relax your arms, let the cable gently pull your arms back toward the flywheel, and lean forward at the hips. Once the handle passes your extended knees, bend them to slide forward on the seat.

The rowing stroke consists of four phases: the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery. Your body position in each phase is outlined below.

The Catch

  • Extend arms straight toward the flywheel.
  • Keep wrists flat.
  • Lean your upper body slightly forward with back straight but not stiff.
  • Slide forward on the seat until your shins are vertical (or as close to this as your flexibility will allow).

The Drive

  • Begin the drive by pressing down your legs.
  • Keep your arms straight and hold your back firm to transfer your leg power up to the handle.
  • Gradually bend your arms and swing back with your upper body, prying against the legs until you reach a slight backward lean at the finish.

The Finish

  • Pull handle all the way into your abdomen.
  • Straighten your legs.
  • Lean your upper body back slightly.

The Recovery

  • Extend your arms toward the flywheel.
  • Lean your upper body forward at the hips to follow the arms.
  • Gradually bend legs to slide forward on the seat.

The Catch

  • Draw your body forward until the shins are vertical.
  • Upper body should be leaning forward at the hips.
  • Arms should be fully extended.
  • You are ready to take the next stroke.

3 Rowing Workouts

Day 1: The Pyramid

Row hard (90 percent of your maximum) for 5 strokes and then do 5 easy (60 percent). Now row 10 hard and 10 easy. Repeat but increase your count to 15 each, then 20, 25, and 30. Next, go back down the pyramid, decreasing by intervals of 5. Repeat when you’re able.

Day 2: The 1-to-1

Row hard for 1 minute and then do 1 minute of easy strokes. Repeat, alternating hard and easy, for 15 to 20 minutes. Gradually increase your time to a half hour. Aim for 18 to 20 strokes per minute. After several sessions, shoot for 30 strokes per minute.

Day 3: The Sprint

Set your machine on a 500-meter interval program with 2 minutes of rest. Row at 75 percent of your max and then rest 2 minutes. Do 10 intervals.

The rower and I have a complicated relationship of love and hate. Nothing can leave me flat on my back in a matter of minutes like the ergometer. These machines are found in most gyms tucked away in a corner with lots of dust on them. I think they lack gym popularity because they flat out make you feel uncomfortable fast. This is a good thing, so put your hoody up and your headphones in, and start tightening the noose on your fall quarry. No matter what tag you land, what new rifle or bow you dope in, your body will be your number one hunting asset, so keep it sharp and strong by incorporating row workouts into your program.