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Behind GT12: Everything You Need to Know About The Rowing Machine Station!

So you’ve done GT12 before. Which probably means you’ve sat on this so called “rowing machine” and have had your go on it. In the midst of everything, the pain, the panic, the loud, yet encouraging, trainer yelling in your face, you manage to get on to the machine and frantically pull at the handle.

Once you start, you notice a screen full of different numbers that make no sense to you. You sort of have your feet strapped in, but it doesn’t feel right. Your butt is sliding on and off of the moving seat. You’re wondering if the fan settings you choose were corr- wait, there are numbers on the fan? How do people expect us to drag our disorientated, lifeless bodies onto this machine and get going in the 20 second rest we’re given?

Well, here are a few tips I can give to hopefully lessen that struggle.

Okay, first thing’s first. Familiarize yourself with the machine. In the same way you would never take a driving test before you’re familiar with the car you’re using, the first time or only times you use a rowing machine should not be during a GT12 workout. There are a few things that can be adjusted for each individual’s reference.

The feet straps where you lock your feet in are adjustable based on the length of your feet. A general rule of thumb would to have the strap somewhere between the top and bottom of the laces on your shoes. It would be wise to practice strapping in, and releasing the strap as well. Make sure to lift the inner half of the buckle outwards to easily remove your feet, as opposed to threading the strap through the buckle holes.


Another important adjustment would be the air intake handle on the fan. To make things as simple as possible, the higher the number, #10 being the max, the more resistance there will be each stroke. Vice versa all the way down to #1. A personal recommendation would be at setting #5. Once everything is set to go, start to row and the screen should automatically turn on. At last, we’re good to go!

Oh wait... We haven’t talked about how to properly row have we? Well at least you’ll look like a pro up to this point! Ok let’s keep going!

Just like any sport, the proper form and technique takes hours and hours to master… That’s a lot of GT12 classes! However, here is a general guideline of what to be conscious of when rowing. Starting with the start position, also referred to as the set up. Your seat will be forward, posture tall, arms are stretched forward outside the knees, and legs should be parallel to one another.


A common mistake we’ll see here is many people will set up bow-legged. Meaning their legs, specifically their knees, will be opening up and pointing outwards. This will then translate to the second common mistake, collapsing or rounding forward. Yes, we want to get forward and have a strong extension, however getting too far forward and rounding our backs is never a strong position to generate force. So for the set up, remember to keep tall, arms outside of the knees, and legs stay parallel.

Wow, guess we still haven’t actually started to row yet eh? Phew, that’s a lot of work just to get started. At least now we can finally dive into the fun stuff! Rowing is meant to be a full body exercise.That’s right my dudes. The rowing machine isn’t meant to be cardio on arms day. It’s main victim would be our legs. Speaking of legs, that’s the first muscle group we use to initiate the stroke!

As we enter the pull stage of our stroke, we want to start off by driving from our heels, pressing with our legs, exhaling our breath, while keeping our core strong and posture tall. Common mistake we’ll see here, especially as people increase intensity, are peoples’ legs and seats moving back without the oar coming back.


The disconnection here is from the lack of core strength to connect the lower body to upper body movement. Part two of the pull is to now engage our mid to upper body. Hip and back extension is the key ingredient. This is where we can really begin to use more of our body weight and momentum. And finally part three, the arms. This is simply the cherry on top at the end of the stroke.

Compared to the leg and back, the arms are far from generating anything close to an equal amount of force, however they’re still not to be neglected. Finish every stroke by pulling the handle all the way to your chest, make sure we’re engaging our shoulder blades, and not simply using our biceps.

You’ve learned too much up to this point to be muscling through! The last thing we’ll need to mention is the recovery. In the same order in which we pull, we want to do the exact opposite during the return. Here’s what that looks like. Set up -> Pull with Legs -> Pull with Back -> Pull with Arms -> Arms move forward -> Torse comes back forward -> legs bend and seat moves back forward -> return to set up position -> repeat.

The final advice for today would be, practice. Like anything in life, practice will eventually make perfect (or at least something that’s pretty darn close to it). Don’t worry about fancy things like doing starts, pushes, finishes, tempo changes, or any of that jazz just yet. Work on the basics and fundamentals.

No one ever complains about having too strong of a foundation. And don’t be frustrated either if you can’t get it right away. It takes time and occasionally a bit of guidance to help get someone moving better. But for now, that’s it from me! That’s at least one less of twelve stations for you to worry about!

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