5 Reasons to add Rowing to Your Workout
The most effective at-home exercise you can do to improve your fitness! And the best rowing machine to kick off your health journey
Rowing: the most physically demanding sport your will ever encounter. (via Urban Dictionary)
Urban Dictionary isn’t wrong. But don’t let this definition scare you off the amazing benefits to rowing, because despite many crazy people (ahem, me) out there dedicating hours in their week to early wake-ups, gruelling sprints on the rowing machine, and getting as many blisters as possible, it’s actually a fantastic activity for beginners to add in to their workouts!
What’s so fantastic about using the rowing machine (or ergo), and why should you include it?
First off, It’s low impact
Unlike the other popular cardio exercises, a.k.a running, it doesn't make your knees and ankles ache after only a few minutes. While you can torch the calories and work up one heck of a sweat on the ergo, you can also control your movement and pace depending on what you want to get out of the workout- when it’s done properly.
Technique is the fine line between loving rowing as a low impact exercise that can help you recover from your heavier workouts, and hating it because it can cause injury when not done properly.
Not sure if you’re doing it right? This clip by Concept2 is a great video that breakdowns technique on the rower so you get the most out of it!
It can help you reach your goals
Wanting to build muscle? Lose weight? Work on tone? Improve your cardio or flexibility? Improve posture?
Rowing can do all that for you. You use your whole body, where all the different types of muscle groups from quads and hamstrings, to back and shoulders, are put to work! This can translate to many different sports including weight lifting, running, swimming, and even yoga!
While it gets your heart rate up and torches the calories like there’s no tomorrow, thus helping you reach your weight loss goals, rowing can activate up to 86% of the body’s muscles in the fluid up-down movement. You’re pushing yourself off the “catch” (what the start of the stroke is called), and in an explosive movement that will really get your legs firing, your upper body follows and tenses at the “finish” (what the end of the stroke is called). So it’s a bit like a squat, jump, hold, and bent over row all in one!
It can be a HIIT or a LIIS workout
Want to train sprints but don’t really want to jump on a treadmill at 17km per hour? Or need a long, steady sweat session but get way too bored on the stationary bike after 10 minutes?
I use Concept2’s Model D rowing machine, a very common machine used among gyms and rowing clubs like mine. If Covid has your gym shut down, and you’re looking at building your own home gym, then this machine is worth adding to your collection!
The reason why I highly recommend this one is the momentum and flow of the drag is similar to that on the water, it’s easy to use, and it’s great for personalising your own workouts!
You can set custom times, distances, and intervals on your ergo to suit whatever workout you’re after.
If you’re after a short and sweet HIIT (high intensity interval workout), then you can choose to do 10 lots of 100m sprints with 1 minute rest in between, or if you prefer timed, do a more tabata-style workout that includes 20 seconds of sprinting with 10 seconds off.
However LISS is another valuable style of working out that is great for recovery, fat loss, and is an effective way to train your endurance fitness
How many rowers train steady-state is a 30 minute erg, or 5km, or even 10km. This allows them to settle into a moderate pace and improve on their times and distance to show their fitness levels!
It can be a warm-up or a finisher
Surely you’ve got the idea that rowing uses your whole body, right?
Doing a low intensity 2km on the erg is a great warm-up before you start your weights and resistance workout. It gets the blood flowing and helps you engage the muscles you’ll be training later on, leading to better use and lower chance of injury. Plus with that fantastic muscle pump you’ve got after 10 minutes on the rower, you’ll be eager to get into those deadlifts to show off that booty!
If you’ve already trained, and are looking for a cool down, the exact same 10 minute exercise can be beneficial to loosen out your muscles and make sure you get the lactic acid moving out of those fatigued muscles.
But what I like to do after a weights workout is to include a short and sharp “cardio finisher”. It’s called a finisher for a good reason, because it can help add a metabolic element to your workout, thus expending more energy to fire up that fat-loss, and it will also leave you ready to finish up and go home!
Even just repeating 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off 4-8 times is enough to really get the most out of your finisher. (Disclaimer, combining this with a heavy legs day may result in your walking like a baby giraffe!)
It’s for people of all levels
While I’ve been rowing since I was 11, I knew I loved the sport the moment I got on the rowing machine (and eventually, in the boat!).
You don’t need to be 6 foot, muscular, or an athlete to use the rowing machine. I was the chubby unfit kid when I started rowing, but even starting from just 5 minutes on the erg once a day, I was able to work my way up to easily rowing 15km on my erg every week!
Just be aware that if you do want to commit to that many kilometres a week, you WILL get some serious callouses on your hands.
It’s also super convenient as it can easily be set up in your lounge room or on a balcony, where you can train while you’re listening to music or even just looking out the window. It will really help you kick off your fitness journey if you’re not sure what to focus on just yet!
I'm a 22 year old rower from Melbourne, Australia. She has been rowing since 2011, and is now representing Banks Rowing Club in current regattas in Victoria. I want to share my love for the benefits of rowing as a sport to as many people as possible, so please leave a like/<3 on this story so I can reach all those gym-junkies out there!