Wondering how to improve performance on that rowing machine at your gym? If so, then who better to give some tips than the U.S. Men's Eight Olympic Rowing team. We visited the team two weeks ago in Princeton, NJ, where it was finishing up its last two days of training in nearly 100-degree heat before heading off to London. Besides enlisting photographer John Loomis to document the last day of the team's stateside practice in this series of Web-exclusive photos (with additional outtakes of our interviews with the athletes), we also asked each member of the Men's Eight for a few tips on rowing better, both on the indoor rowing machine (also known as an ergometer, or "erg"), and on the water. (Loomis also took pictures of seat 2's Grant James demonstrating most of the tips in the erg room at the Princeton Boat House.) Launch Gallery >>
It's all legs.
From a distance, rowing looks like it's all about pulling with your arms, but the truth is almost the opposite. "I'll see some people hop on the rowing machine, jack the resistance all the way to 10, and just start pulling with the arms," says Brett Newlin, the tallest guy in the 2012 U.S. Men's Eight at 6'9" and, therefore, not surprisingly, seat number 8 (or, the stroke, because he's the guy who sets the pace for all the other rowers in the seats after him). Jake Cornelius, in seat 7, agrees. "It's tempting to want to pull with your arms immediately," says the 27-year-old native of upstate New York, who got his start rowing in high school at Ithaca's Cascadilla Boat Club before going on to the big time at Stanford, Cambridge, and now, the Olympics. "But you really have to keep the arms straight and let your legs do the work at the beginning of the stroke, then let your back or core do the work, and then your arms." It's not unlike lifting a heavy piece of furniture – use your legs first for the heavy lifting, then ease your back and core into it. As with lifting, it's ultimately one fluid motion.
Credit: Photograph by John Loomis