Saturday, February 5, 2011


Rowing, “The other white meat”
Why is rowing great? Maybe it is because it is unlike any other sport. It is both mentally and physically rewarding and it is certainly the only sport that you can accomplish sitting on your butt going backward. Ok fine, I suppose the legitimacy of this claim is undermined by those who consider channel surfing a sport. After all, you can very easily put your couch on wheels and have your kids push you backward across the room. I admit that in this instance, you are indeed sitting on your butt while moving backward. Unfortunately for us, this means of seated mobility is not going to give us the fitness benefits that rowing will. This brings me to a stronger argument in favor of rowing’s greatness. Rowing is just plain good for you. It is a great way to burn fat, build muscle tone, prevent injury and help us look fabulous in our little black dresses and Hawaiian swimming trunks. Conveniently, we don’t even have to go outside to do it. With a rowing machine, we can reap the benefits of rowing without getting wet.
The rowing movement utilizes a number of muscle groups all at once including the quads, biceps, lats, traps, glutes and abdominal muscles. Because it is a full body workout, it burns more calories per minute than your average treadmill or bike and is a great way to burn fat and boost your cardiovascular endurance. Whether your goal is to tone the buttocks and thighs or build your cardio for fat loss and disease prevention, rowing can be used to your advantage.
Further, rowing is a tool to promote core strength and prevent injury. It helps in the development of proprioception ( the body’s ability to control itself unsupported in space).Because most of the movement in the upper body is unsupported, your stabilizer muscles get a real workout resulting in a stronger, more supported core. The strength gained in these muscles may be what helps avoid a back injury when handling a cumbersome load.
You won’t find any “downward dogs”or other yoga poses in the rowing stroke, but you might be surprised to find that rowing can improve flexibility. Rowing takes your body through a wide range of motion, stretching muscles and moving joints to a greater extent than most exercises.
Rowing may not come across as soft an serene as yoga, but some of your joints will thank you for not pounding them to death. Unlike running, rowing puts very little impact upon the knees and ankles. For this reason, it is often recommended for people looking to prevent joint pain.
While rowing is extremely beneficial in all the ways listed above, that does not mean that you should not take precautions when climbing onto an indoor rowing machine. Proper technique will help to prevent injury and to make sure you are getting the most from the exercise.
First of all, there is a progression that you want to pay attention to with every stroke. Start with your legs straight and the handle pulled into your body. From there, release the arms and lean forward to get some body angle. At this point, bend the legs and move up the slide. Once you are at the top of the slide, drive with the legs. When your legs are just about straight again, you can bring the body angle back and then pull your arms into your body.
One thing that most people don’t realize about rowing is that it is about 70% legs. Don’t be afraid to really push those legs down .That is where most of the power comes from in the stroke. Back in the early days of rowing, rowers wore greased up leather pants to allow for sliding up and down inside the boat. Thankfully the rowing world has discovered the ease of rolling seats and you can now save your leather for your Harley. The point is, learn from history. If the point of rowing was about ripping through the water with your arms, rowers of the past would not have put themselves through the inconvenience of greasy “Ricky Martin” pants. Also, don’t make the mistake of bending your arms too soon. Think of your arms as strings. They are there merely to connect your body to the oar handle. Let your legs do most of the work.
Another thing that you want to pay attention to is your posture. Sitting straight up, not slouching, you will support your back and prevent back injury.
Lastly, when using the rowing machine, try to make your trip to the front of the slide slower than your leg drive. Remember that the trip to the front is your rest time while the leg drive is your chance to show the machine who is boss. If you are ever in doubt about how to use a rowing machine, don’t hesitate to ask someone for help.


  1. Unquestionably the best article on this site.

  2. Katie Lynch you make rowing sound fun! You did a great job writing this article. Where can I sign up!

  3. This article brings back good erg memories. Nice job Kate.

  4. It’s been a while… but your right… There is no better way than erging to get a cardio work out!