More and more rowing inspired workouts are appearing across the country. It’s a staple in Cross-fit and has become mainstream in many fitness programs and fundamental to many sporting disciplines to augment athlete training and development. There are a number of reasons why this is so. If you haven’t tried indoor rowing yet, now is the perfect time as its rising popularity means the availability of rowing machines (called Ergometers or Ergs for short) in recreation centers and fitness clubs has never been greater.
We have a number of Ergs at Inlet Rowing Club (Port Moody) and we’d be more than happy to show you the correct technique and let you experience it! We, of course, also have the added bonus of real boats (called ‘shells’) so you could experience rowing on-water also.
The high intensity, low impact workout uses all major muscle groups while giving you a tremendous calorific burn.
There are an infinite amount of tried and testing workouts that focus on endurance, power, strength building, cardiovascular fitness etc. So mixing things up is not an issue. There are even a number of free apps for smartphones that monitor various things (speed, strokes, power, distance etc.) and visually depict your ‘boat’ either against a pace boat or other people that want to join your workout. This certainly provides motivation and frankly, is fun.
Rowing has some unique and quite astonishing health benefits. In addition to the various attributes that come along with rowing (discipline, technique, leadership and teamwork etc.) I wanted to share some key reasons to row from a health benefit perspective:
Strength, Cardio and Flexibility
With rowing, not only are you improving your strength and cardiovascular fitness, but your body goes through a full range of motion (with no impact!). For those that sit at a desk 9-5, rowing is the perfect movement to improve posture as you maintain a straight back, long, tall neck, engage your core and work muscles, (upper/lower back, glutes and hamstrings) that oppose those used when sitting.
Full Body Exercise
Rowing is approximately 60% legs, 25% core and 15% arms. This makes your workout time efficient and effective as you strengthen your whole body in the correct proportion to muscle group size/function while getting a tremendous calorific burn - typically between 300 –to 500 calories in a 30 minute workout. While rowing really will strengthen and tone all muscle groups, I’d emphasis the core from a perspective of on-water rowing. The core is a key element to balancing those rather thin ‘jet plane’ aerodynamic racing ‘shells’. My first few sessions on water, the core felt it the most! You want the ultimate core strength, come and row!!
Stronger For Life
The challenge/goal for many of us is not only to get fit, but stay fit and healthy - for life. Rowing offers tremendous and sustainable health benefits from a high intensity push while keeping impact very low on the joints. You control the intensity of the workout by pushing more or less with the legs so rowing can be fully tailored to you. The national rowing association, Rowing Canada Aviron, advocate various pathways of rowing, you will see from the illustration below that there is a focus on long term athletic development and rowing/being active for life.
Be Inspired by Progress
Rowing is a great way measure self-improvement. Common rowing distances used in HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) include 250m, 500m, 1,000m and 2,000m which drives a unique mix of aerobic and anaerobic activity. After a few weeks of practice and getting your down, not only will you see your time on these distances consistently improve but you’ll actually feel stronger and in control of your breathing such that you can step up the intensity as desired.
In two senses of the word. Firstly, due to the strengthening of all fundamental muscle groups including your core, rowing is known to aid better balance and correct body mechanics. There is also a sense of personal balance that comes from rowing, whether it’s with a rowing machine or shell on a lake or river, there is a sense of calm and balance to decrease stress and improve mood. The rowing cadre is generally an amenable group!
Rowers have big hearts. Yes, we’re a nice group, but we literally have bigger hearts than others and the resting heartrate is considerably lower than average and better than any other sporting activity which fuels a long and healthy life. The unique blend of aerobic activity and pushing the anaerobic threshold over race distances (1,000m and 2,000m or approx. 3+minutes to 6+ minutes) is different than any other activity. Sprinters and other sports that get into the anaerobic zone do so for typically for less than 40 seconds. More endurance (aerobic) activities such as long distance running or cycling don’t typically push into the anaerobic zone. Rowing, whilst aerobic in spades, pushes anaerobic activity for longer than any other sport on the planet. The aerobic and anaerobic mix physically makes the heart bigger and stronger to push blood around your system to feed the demands for oxygen to the muscle groups. I think you might find that useful!
Al Morrow, National Rowing Coach, Canada
When Canada’s best rowers can’t train on water, a rowing machine helps them maintain fitness and refine technique. Here are 3 tips from the National Team to take to the gym to maximize the impact of your workout.
1 Set the machine up for you
Adjust the shoe plate height so your knees are at chest level in the forward (catch) position. Training with the bar in the 3-5 range is recommended. For machines that show you the drag factor (resistance as if in water rowing) for women and juniors, this should be around 110, for men, 120.
2 Ease into training
It is better to take a gradual approach to let your body adapt to the rowing motion. So go easy for the first few weeks and focus on posture and technique or form:
Good and effective rowing is about correct sequencing of the body parts. On the power phase (drive) push with the legs first and simply hold on to the handle. Then use the back and finally bend the arms and use the shoulder girdle. The head should be level throughout the whole stroke. Keep back and neck tall.
There are some videos here to help: