Alex Shaw

Rowing: An All-In-One Exercise

A full-body workout requires a lot of trainers. But is it possible for one trainer to deal with it? Rowing machines are close to this!


Rowing has been beneficial for many people since ancient times. When Athens and Sparta were at war about 2,500 years ago, an Athenian admiral called Chabrias pushed his warriors to practice ashore in wooden rowing frames. Mustering the rowing skills lead Athens to victory at the Battle of Naxos, Athens’ first naval triumph in many years. A lot of time came through and we are still rowing. But today, we use rowing for slightly different purposes, such as keeping our bodies in excellent shape.

It is now a competitive sport, and a lot of today’s competitive rowers have a very well-developed overall athletic build, with a flexible and balanced body. And while not a lot of us can afford to make rowing with real boats and in the open water, indoor rowers give us access to one of the most efficient exercises.

Rowing machines, also known as ergometers (abbreviated “ergs”), have been used by rowing teams to stay in shape when they are unable to train in open water. Rowing machines are springing up in gyms as a new type of low-impact aerobic training machine.

The motion of the rowing

The rowing stroke is a complex movement that involves the coordination of multiple muscle groups and can be divided into four phases: the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery.

The “catch” position on the rowing machine is the starting position. When you’re in the catch, your seat should be near your heels, your arms should be extending forward, and your shins should be parallel to the ground. Your legs should provide the majority of the force for each stroke. If you don’t train on a rowing machine before, practice rowing with just your legs while keeping your arms and back straight. This will enable you to comprehend how it feels to exert the majority of your force through your legs. After you practice rowing with only your legs, add the arms. Push all the way back until your legs are straight, then use your arms to pull the handle straight into your chest. Maintain a flat back and pull straight back while pinching your shoulder blades together. Then incorporate your core. To finish the row, lean back slightly with your legs straight and the handle to your stomach.

Benefits of rowing

When you see someone working out on a rowing machine, you probably think of it as a good aerobic exercise that can help you burn a lot of calories. And this is a true benefit, but only when taking rowing superficially. If diving deeper you will see that rowing can provide a wider list of benefits for your physique and health.

1Rowing allows you to have a strength and aerobic workout at the same time

Rowing is a good full-body exercise because it activates all major muscle groups when done correctly. As a stroke progresses, different muscles in your legs, buttocks, back, and arms are engaged. In addition to the fact that the ergometer allows us to work on all the muscles at the same time, it also can give you a very effective aerobic workout. This is because it will get your heart rate up much higher than any other strength machine.

2Rowing can make your heart stronger

Rowing is a great exercise for improving the heart’s capacity to pump blood throughout the body. In fact, when you engage in any form of cardiovascular exercise, your heart rate increases and your body demands more oxygen-rich blood being pumped throughout the body. This increased demand causes the heart to work harder, which can help to strengthen it over time. But a study that was published in the Physiological Research journal and compared rowing and cycling revealed that rowing increases stroke volume (with a baseline value of 85.6, this measure increased to a mean value of 137.8 ml after rowing and to a mean value of 100.3 after cycling) and cardiac output (with a baseline of 6.1 l/min, this parameter increases to 11.7 l/min after rowing and to 7.9 l/min after cycling) greater than cycling, indicating that rowing gives a more intense cardiovascular workout.

3Rowing is gentle to your joints

When you do an exercise like running, you put huge pressure on your joints, especially your knees and hips. Despite the fact that rowing still involves some physical effort, compared to high-impact exercises like running, rowing is less taxing on the bones and joints. You can row at a high intensity without causing as much wear and strain on your joints. This allows you to achieve significant gains in physical fitness while reducing your risk of injury.

4Rowing is good for your bones

The study that looked at the process of bone destruction across rowers, cross-country runners, and swimmers, revealed that these processes were significantly different among athletes participating in training for the three sports. The low-impact nature of the rowing exercise shines at its best in this study. While the running group has the highest level of cartilage tissue damage (this tissue acts as a cushion between the bones of joints) among the others, the crew has the highest level of new bone tissue formation. Meaning that rowing can give you bone-building benefits without the excessive stress that can be produced by high-impact exercises like running.

5Indoor rower is a great option for your home gym set-up

A rowing machine is a great option for those who swear by a home workout. Indoor rowers have many qualities that make them an excellent tool for at-home exercise. Firstly, it can train all your main muscles, meaning that you can replace a lot of training equipment with just one trainer. Secondly, rowing machines take up little space on their own, plus many of them can be folded up when not in use, and compared to something like treadmills, it’s much cheaper. For example, a good rowing machine can be found for as little as £200. It might not be easy to find a treadmill for the same price. The same goes for the top-end prices. The top-tier rowing machines will cost slightly more than £2,000, while a similar-level treadmill will cost up to £10,000.

Downsides of rowing

A highly aerobic activity, rowing calls for technical proficiency, motor coordination, sufficient strength, and endurance. While rowing can be an excellent low-impact cardiovascular exercise, if you don’t get the proper form or abuse it, rowing can cause some problems.

Rowing can be painful for your back

When rowing, the lumbar spine muscles are susceptible to injury due to the high load and repetitive nature of the exercise. If you are experiencing back pain while using a rowing machine, it is important to stop your workout and consult with a healthcare provider or fitness professional to determine the cause of the pain and find an appropriate treatment.

Tips for beginners

Rowing, like all other exercises, can provide the most benefits when done correctly. And even though, it may appear to be a relatively straightforward exercise in terms of execution, it has enough elements to pay your attention to.

Track your progress

On a treadmill, it’s easy to understand how hard you’re working out – the faster the pace, the harder the workout. You will see slightly different numbers on the rowing machine, which will indicate the intensity of your training.

1. The stroke rate. Stroke rate can be compared to your speed on a treadmill. It shows how fast you are performing the stroke. However, while increased speed is an indicator of improvement in running, the ability to perform the stroke consistently at a higher pace is the measure of improvement on a rowing machine.

2. 500-meter pace. 500-meter pace, also known as split time is something similar to the power rate in cycling. It is intended to simulate how long it would take you to row 500 meters as if you were rowing on the water. Force determines the 500-meter pace; the harder you work, the less time you’re going to need to cover the 500-meter distance.


When rowing for the first time, don’t push yourself too hard

There is no set length requirement for the rowing workout. Even brief (20–30 minute) rowing sessions can be highly beneficial. Compared to other activities like jogging and cycling, rowing utilizes roughly twice as many muscles. It is recommended to start with shorter workouts for beginners and gradually extend them over time. For instance, you may begin with 10-20 minute sessions and build up to 30-40 minute workouts as your fitness level and comfort level with the rowing machine increases.

Fun & curious facts about rowing

  • Le tour du lac Léman à l’Aviron (also known as the Lake Geneva Rowing Tour) is an annual rowing event that takes place on Lake Geneva, Switzerland. With a length of 160 kilometres, it’s the longest regatta in the world.

  • British rower Dave Holby holds the indoor rowing endurance world record. On December 18, 2010, he became the first person to use a Concept2 land rowing machine to virtually row the entire circumference of the world, setting a new Guinness World Record of 934 days.

Let’s sum rowing up

Rowing is a fantastic activity as it can strengthen and tone all of our muscles while also providing a solid aerobic activity that strengthens the heart. Not only is rowing beneficial for the heart and muscles but also has the advantage of delivering these benefits with a low risk of injury.

Therefore, try including rowing in your training regimen and see how you feel about it!

Hungry for knowledge? Here is more!

Additionally, check out the beginner’s advice from UCanRow2 on how to begin your rowing workout. The indoor rower programs available on the UCanRow2 YouTube channel allow users of all ages, body types, and athletic prowess to benefit from a secure, enjoyable, and beneficial workout.

Healthypedia FAQ

Rowing helps with weight loss by giving you a full-body workout. The more muscles you engage in training, the more energy you will expend and, as a result, the more weight you will lose.

Your core, arms, back, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings are all worked-out during a single rowing stroke.

Because rowing is a full-body workout, it should not be too long; even a 20-minute session will bring benefits.

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