CrossFit Athletes Shares Their Pre-Rowing Workout Routine

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Pre-Rowing Workout Routine

Meet Jake Thompson, a 28-year-old CrossFit athlete with a passion for rowing. Jake’s dedication to fitness began in his teenage years, and he has been refining his skills ever since. As a former college rower turned sports coach and nutritionist, he knows the importance of a well-rounded routine. 

Today, Jake shares his pre-rowing workout routine and insights on preparing for a rowing workout, with a strong emphasis on hydration, nutrition, mental preparation, and technique. 

Join us as we delve into the meticulous details of Jake’s pre-rowing ritual, and learn how he stays focused, energized, and ready for each workout. By following Jake’s approach, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle your rowing workouts with confidence, focus, and determination.

Hydration, Nutrition, and Tonic Tea

Staying well-hydrated and fueled is crucial for any athlete, especially when engaging in high-intensity workouts like rowing. In this section, we’ll dive into Jake’s approach to hydration, nutrition, and his choice of tonic tea to boost focus and stamina.

The Importance of Hydration

Hydration plays a pivotal role in athletic performance. Jake emphasizes the significance of drinking water throughout the day, not just during workouts. 

Staying well-hydrated helps maintain optimal bodily functions, prevent cramping, and improve overall endurance. As a rule of thumb, aim for at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water daily, adjusting the amount based on your activity level, body weight, and environmental factors.

Pre-Workout Nutrition: Fueling the Body

The pre-workout meal or snack is essential for providing your body with the energy it needs to power through your rowing workout. Jake recommends consuming a light meal or snack containing a balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates about 30 minutes before the workout. 

This combination ensures that you have readily available energy while preventing any discomfort or sluggishness during the session. 

Some great options include:

  • Greek yogurt with berries and a drizzle of honey
  • Almond butter and banana on whole-grain toast
  • A small serving of grilled chicken, brown rice, and steamed vegetables

Personalize your pre-workout meal based on your dietary preferences, and remember to give your body time to digest and absorb the nutrients.

Energizing Tonic Tea: A Natural Boost

An intriguing aspect of Jake’s pre-workout routine is his choice to drink a tonic tea about 20-30 minutes before his rowing session. Tonic teas, which typically contain natural, energizing ingredients like green tea, ginseng, or ginger, can provide a gentle boost to focus and stamina. 

These teas often contain antioxidants, which may help reduce inflammation and support overall health.

When selecting a tonic tea, be mindful of your caffeine tolerance. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, opt for a caffeine-free or low-caffeine option to avoid potential jitters or sleep disturbances. Some of Jake’s favorite tonic teas include:

  • Green tea with a squeeze of lemon
  • Ginseng and ginger herbal blend
  • Caffeine-free herbal blend with ashwagandha, licorice root, and cinnamon

Drinking tonic tea can be a soothing ritual that not only prepares your body but also helps calm your mind before the intense workout ahead. Give it a try and see how it enhances your rowing performance.

Dynamic Warm-up

A proper warm-up is essential for injury prevention and maximizing performance during any workout. For rowing, which involves full-body movements and coordination, a dynamic warm-up is particularly crucial. 

In this section, we’ll explore Jake’s approach to warming up, focusing on general exercises, dynamic stretches, and rowing-specific movements.

General Warm-up Exercises: Raising the Heart Rate

Jake kicks off his warm-up with 3-5 minutes of general exercises to increase his heart rate and blood flow to the muscles. 

These exercises can be anything that gets you moving and elevates your heart rate, such as:

  • Jogging in place
  • Jumping jacks
  • High knees
  • Butt kicks

The goal here is to transition your body from a resting state to an active one, preparing it for the demands of the rowing workout ahead.

Dynamic Stretches and Mobility: Targeting Key Muscle Groups

After the general warm-up, Jake moves on to dynamic stretches and mobility exercises. These movements help to improve flexibility, increase the range of motion, and activate the key muscle groups involved in rowing. 

Some examples of dynamic stretches that Jake incorporates into his routine are:

  • Leg swings (front-to-back and side-to-side)
  • Hip circles
  • Arm circles
  • Torso twists

When performing dynamic stretches, focus on controlled, fluid movements and avoid bouncing or jerking, which could lead to injury.

Rowing-specific Warm-up Exercises: Activating and Engaging the Muscles

To further prepare his body for the rowing workout, Jake incorporates rowing-specific warm-up exercises that activate and engage the muscles required for the workout. These exercises not only warm up the muscles but also help improve muscle memory and reinforce proper movement patterns. 

A few rowing-specific exercises that Jake recommends include:

  • Bodyweight squats
  • Glute bridges
  • Plank-to-push-up transitions

By incorporating these exercises into your warm-up routine, you can ensure that your body is primed and ready for the rowing session ahead.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, is a technique that can help alleviate tightness, reduce muscle soreness, and improve overall mobility. 

Jake incorporates foam rolling into his pre-rowing routine to target tight areas and work on any trigger points, ensuring his body is ready to tackle the intense rowing workout ahead.

The Benefits of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling offers several benefits for athletes, particularly when it comes to improving performance and speeding up recovery. Some key benefits include:

  • Increased blood flow to the muscles
  • Reduced muscle soreness and tightness
  • Improved flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhanced muscle recovery

By incorporating foam rolling into his pre-rowing routine, Jake can address any tightness or discomfort that might hinder his performance on the rowing machine.

Targeting Key Muscle Groups for Rowing

When foam rolling before a rowing workout, it’s essential to focus on the major muscle groups involved in the rowing motion. Jake recommends spending 5-10 minutes on the following areas:

  • Lower back: A crucial area for rowers, as the lower back is heavily involved in the rowing motion and can be prone to tightness and discomfort.
  • Glutes: The glute muscles are responsible for generating power during the rowing stroke, so it’s essential to keep them supple and mobile.
  • Quads: As the primary muscles used in the leg drive portion of the rowing stroke, the quads can become tight and fatigued.
  • Lats: The latissimus dorsi muscles play a vital role in the pulling phase of the rowing stroke, making it essential to keep them loose and flexible.

Foam Rolling Techniques

When foam rolling, the key is to apply steady pressure to the targeted muscle group, slowly rolling back and forth to identify any tight spots or trigger points. Once you find a tight area, hold the pressure on that spot for 20-30 seconds, allowing the muscle to release and relax.

Remember to breathe deeply and maintain a relaxed posture while foam rolling. If you encounter an extremely painful spot, ease off the pressure slightly to avoid causing further discomfort or injury.

Specific Warm-up

A specific warm-up is an essential component of any pre-workout routine, as it helps familiarize the body with the movement patterns and demands of the upcoming exercise. 

In this section, we’ll discuss Jake’s approach to a rowing-specific warm-up, focusing on gradually increasing intensity to prepare his body for the rowing workout ahead.

Rowing Machine Warm-up: Getting Comfortable

After completing his dynamic warm-up and foam rolling, Jake hops on the rowing machine to perform a few minutes of light rowing at a comfortable pace. This specific warm-up is crucial for several reasons:

  • Familiarizing the body with the rowing movement pattern
  • Engaging the muscles needed for rowing
  • Warming up the joints, particularly the shoulders, hips, and knees
  • Practicing proper rowing technique

During this phase, it’s essential to focus on proper form and efficient movement. Concentrate on the different phases of the rowing stroke – the catch, drive, finish, and recovery – ensuring that each movement is smooth and controlled.

Gradually Increasing Intensity

As Jake progresses through the specific warm-up, he gradually increases the intensity of his rowing. This incremental approach allows his body to adapt to the increasing demands of the workout, further preparing his muscles and cardiovascular system for the rowing session ahead.

When increasing intensity, pay attention to your perceived exertion and stroke rate. Start at a comfortable pace and gradually increase your effort and stroke rate throughout the 5-minute warm-up. By the end of the warm-up, you should feel warmed up, energized, and ready to tackle the main workout.

The Value of a Specific Warm-up

Incorporating a specific warm-up into your pre-rowing routine can have a significant impact on your overall performance and reduce the risk of injury. 

By familiarizing your body with the rowing movement pattern and gradually increasing intensity, you set the stage for a successful workout.

So, the next time you hit the rowing machine, dedicate a few minutes to a specific warm-up that will help you excel during the main workout.

Set up and Mental Cueing

The final step in Jake’s pre-rowing routine is to ensure the rowing machine is set up correctly and to engage in mental cueing to maintain focus and reinforce proper form throughout the workout. 

In this section, we’ll discuss the importance of proper rowing machine setup and the role of mental cueing in enhancing your rowing performance.

Rowing Machine Setup: The Key to Comfort and Efficiency

Before starting the workout, Jake takes a moment to check and adjust the rowing machine settings. Ensuring the rowing machine is set up correctly is crucial for comfort, efficiency, and injury prevention. 

Here are some key aspects to consider:

  • Footplates: Adjust the footplates so that the strap sits across the widest part of your foot, usually just above the ball of your foot. This positioning allows for proper force transfer during the drive phase of the stroke.
  • Damper Setting: The damper setting controls the resistance of the flywheel. Jake recommends starting with a damper setting between 3 and 5, which simulates a realistic rowing experience. Adjust the setting according to your preference, keeping in mind that a higher setting will require more strength, while a lower setting emphasizes cardiovascular endurance.

Taking a few moments to adjust these settings can make a significant difference in your rowing performance and overall comfort during the workout.

Mental Cueing: Staying Focused and Maintaining Proper Form

Once the rowing machine is set up, Jake spends a moment re-focusing on the workout goals and using mental cues to remind himself of proper form and breathing throughout the session. Mental cueing is a powerful tool that can help you:

  • Maintain focus and motivation during the workout
  • Reinforce proper rowing technique
  • Improve efficiency and power output
  • Prevent injury and promote overall rowing success

Some common mental cues for rowing include:

  • “Legs, hips, arms” – To remind yourself of the proper sequence of movements during the drive phase
  • “Breathe in, breathe out” – To maintain steady and controlled breathing throughout the stroke
  • “Sit tall” – To encourage proper posture and engagement of the core muscles

By incorporating mental cueing into your pre-rowing routine, you can ensure that your mind remains focused and engaged, allowing you to get the most out of your workout.

So, before you jump into your next rowing session, take a few moments to adjust the rowing machine settings and engage in mental cueing to set yourself up for success.

Before You Go…

As you prepare to incorporate Jake’s pre-rowing routine into your own fitness journey, we encourage you to take action and apply these expert tips and techniques. Remember, a well-structured pre-workout routine can significantly impact your performance, comfort, and enjoyment during your rowing sessions.

Don’t stop here; stay engaged on our site by exploring other articles that will help you start rowing:

Finally, we’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts, experiences, and success stories in the comments section below. By engaging with our community, you can gain valuable insights, motivation, and support from fellow fitness enthusiasts and rowing aficionados.

So, before you go, take a moment to reflect on the expert advice shared in this article and prepare to unlock your rowing potential. Happy rowing, and we look forward to hearing about your progress!

Sam Watson


Sam is a CPT, Functional Movement Specialist, and content writer. As an ex-collegiate rower, Sam is an expert in the field of rowing and is passionate about helping people move more freely. With a dedication to excellence, Sam is a respected authority in the fitness and wellness community. When she's not working, she enjoys practicing yoga, hiking, and spending time with her two beloved dogs. Sam's expertise and personalized coaching make her an invaluable asset to the Start Rowing community.

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