How To Get The Right Set-Up On The Indoor Rower

Written by Concept2 NZ on May 31st, 2018.

Exercise often goes hand-in-hand with a certain degree of physical discomfort, we all know the phrase no pain no gain, right? But there is a difference in discomfort caused by exertion, and discomfort caused by factors such as a hard seat, chafing shorts, or unnecessarily high resistance. These factors can cause discomfort in training on the Indoor Rower but are completely unnecessary and avoidable. We run through our picks for easy adjustments you can make to your workout to mitigate these detractors and get on with enjoying your row.

Foot Stretcher Position

Symptoms: tight/sore glutes and hamstrings, difficulty getting to the catch, difficulty getting the rating up.


The foot-stretcher adjustment is one of the key ways you can adjust your set up on the Indoor Rower to suit your height and body type. Your ideal foot-stretcher position will depend on your height, and the length of your shins, which will determine how tall your knees sit when you are in the catch position. If your foot-stretcher position is too low, you will notice that you have a lot of space at the catch between your knees and your chest, making it difficult to compact into a strong driving position. On the other hand, if your foot-stretcher is too high, you will find your body and legs will compact too early, making it difficult to achieve a full length of stroke. Either of these incorrect foot-stretcher positions can lead to incorrect rowing technique which can place unnecessary strain on muscles and ligaments and causing discomfort. Ideally, your form at the catch indicating a correct foot-stretcher position should see your knees line up beneath your arms (but not touching) and just ahead of your armpits. Check your position on your next row and see if you can increase your comfort on the Indoor Rower with improvements to your foot-stretcher position.

Drag factor

Symptoms: sore back, rowing feels unsustainable

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One of the best things about the Indoor Rower, is that it offers the option of adjusting the resistance of your workout. It is a common misconception that the drag factor setting is a measure of strength, and that we should all aspire to rowing on the highest drag factor possible. By taking this approach to endurance rowing sessions, not only do you compromise your rowing technique, but rowing with an unnecessarily high drag factor can make you vulnerable to muscle stiffness and injury, particularly in the lower back. The best way to approach drag factor, is to use it as a mechanism to calibrate the rowing machine to allow you to row efficiently. Rowing on the correct drag factor should enable a wide range of achievable stroke rates, with an approximate range of 17-36 SPM- a good indicator that your drag factor setting is about right. If you are a beginner rower, you may find yourself wanting to increase your drag factor as you refine your technique and increase fitness, just make sure any changes are made progressively and in small increments in order to avoid discomfort or injury down the track. 

Note: High Drag Factor can also be used in certain training sessions focused on strength and conditioning. However, the goal of these sessions is not to increase the drag factor or endurance rowing sessions, but rather to add strength and efficiency that will allow the rower to pull faster splits at their usual endurance drag factor setting.

Workout Clothing

Symptoms: chafing, rubbing, overheating, difficulty with foot-stretcher set up.

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Fortunately, it isn’t too hard or specific to get the Indoor Rowing wardrobe in order. Much like other gym activities, you will want to make sure you exercise in breathable fabrics, that don’t hold water and make you feel heavy as you inevitably begin to sweat. Top rowers will row in a one-piece row suit, mainly to streamline things on the water, but also on the Indoor Rower to avoid getting hands or limbs caught up in baggy fabric. Fortunately, you don’t need a row suit to emulate this, just a pair of tights or close-fitting shorts, and a singlet or t-shirt will do the trick.

Picking the right shoes for indoor rowing is another area that could improve your comfort as you exercise. As you row, the force you apply on the drive passes through your shoe to the foot-stretcher. Unlike running which involves impact, the Indoor Rower is impact-free meaning you will not require the same cushioning that you might look for in a running shoe. The ideal shoe for Indoor Rowing would have a more simplistic, semi-rigid sole, so as to allow the power to pass directly onto the foot-stretcher, giving you a strong platform to drive off. CrossFit or Gym shoes could be a good choice, but if you don’t have another use for a pair of these (and have an Indoor Rower at home) you can also try rowing barefoot- a popular choice for tall athletes, as it allows the feet to rest even lower on the foot-stretcher.

The Seat

Symptoms: Sore butt, difficulty staying seated on the rower for long periods.

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Probably the most common discomfort complaint for rowing athletes is a sore butt or glutes. As a seated exercise, a level of butt discomfort can somewhat come with the territory but should subside as your body adjusts. In order for this to happen, you will need to persevere through some discomfort in the beginning, but if that becomes unbearable there are ways to make it better. The best way of improving seat comfort is to invest in a seat pad. A seat pad is a foam layer that you can attach to your rowing seat, or slip under you so that you can take it with you to and from the gym. The seat pad is designed to provide extra cushioning, that won’t roll up or crease as you row, so you can use it for extra comfort row after row. A seat pad is a great option for those who find this type of discomfort is a significant barrier to their enjoyment of rowing, or who seek to row long distances and need some extra padding. To view our seat pad in the Concept2 NZ store, click HERE.

Not sure if you've got your set-up quite right? Send us an email or give us a call on 0800 769 464, and we will be happy to advise how you can get the most out of your indoor rowing workout.