Rounded shoulders, hunched back, pulling as hard as possible: This is how most people think they should use the rowing machine, and it makes trained rowers cringe. "I always see people using this machine as an arms-and-back workout," says Esther Lofgren
, current World Champion rower who is training for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. "They usually conk out a minute or so later." It's a blessing that these amateur rowers don't last long, because, as Matthews says, misusing the machine this way puts a lot of force on back and spine muscles, which can lead to herniated disks.
Push back with power from the legs, and let the arms and back follow. Instead of hunching your shoulders up to your ears, keep a long neck and straight back throughout the stroke. If you feel any
pain in your back, lighten the resistance.