Matthew Tarrant, multiple World Champion and founder of RowElite, offers ten reasons why the rowing machine is the perfect tool to transform your fitness.
1. Fat Loss
Rowing with the correct form can activate almost every muscle in the body (around 85 per cent), meaning you’ll achieve close to a full-body workout and burn far more calories than any other piece of conventional gym equipment.
For an hour on the rower, depending on your size and sex, you can burn a whopping 1,000 calories.
2. Joint Health
Not only do you get a time-efficient full-body workout targeting the upper body, lower body, heart and lungs, but rowing is also great for the joints as there’s very little impact compared with other activities.
That’s because you’re in the seated position with your feet strapped in, and they never leave the ground as they would do for running, jumping, skipping or walking.
If you’re someone that jumps on the machine for a quick 2,000m row before heading to another piece of equipment, it’s time to try something new.
There are three main elements in rowing: stroke rate, time, and speed. The stroke rate tells you how many strokes you’re taking each minute, the speed (split) tells you how fast you’re covering 500m, and the time speaks for itself. You can also use watts over splits – it’s a personal preference that achieves the same outcome. Use these three elements to mix up your training and breathe new life into your rowing.
Incorporate some stroke-rate ladders, where you increase how many strokes you take every minute, set up some interval work and see how fast you can complete multiple sets of 200m, 500m, 1,000m or even 2,000m.
Incorporate all of these with a variety of rest periods and your list of workouts on the rower is doubling every time.
4. Higher Oxygen Consumption
A study taken at the University of Tokyo found that rowing, compared to running on a treadmill, consistently achieved both a lower heart rate and a higher maximal oxygen – due to the seated position and number of muscles used in the rowing stroke.
The test was carried out in a step test format, where each athlete increases their work effort to a higher lactate concentration of 2mml, 4mml, 6mml and max effort. At each stage, the heart rate achieved with rowing was around 5-7bpm lower than that of.
Rowing may look intimidating, and that’s potentially why there is never a queue to use one at your local gym. However, once you start to spend more time on the rower, iron out your technique, and understand the basic elements of the stroke and how to structure and pace workouts, you’ll quickly see that your numbers start to improve.
On the rowing machine, there is nowhere to hide: it’s you against the machine and the numbers reflecting your effort are clear to see. That may seem daunting at first, but once you achieve a personal best you can take great pride in knowing that it was all you – your handwork, your passion, your mental strength.
6. Mobility and Flexibility
Everyone gets stiff joints and tight muscles, mainly due to the sedentary lives most of us lead. But incorporating rowing into your weekly workout routine can greatly improve your mobility and flexibility, thanks to the large range of movements required from the ankles, knees, shoulders, hips and back.
7. Stress Relief
For many, physical activity is a way to sweat out the stress that builds up during typical daily routines. When exercising, your brain manufactures endorphins which essentially make you feel good. Rowing can become highly satisfying with the correct technique.
When on the rowing machine you can focus on one of the three main elements of time, speed or stroke rate and block out the rest of the world. Put on your favourite playlist, find a comfortable rhythm and generate a gentle sweat, removing more stress with each breath.
8. Core Strength
A rock-solid core is just as important in rowing as it is in your day to day, to prevent injury and develop a healthy posture. Through a typical rowing stroke, you push with your legs and suspend off your arms and through your back, and the part linking these areas together is your core.
The stronger your core, the more connected each stroke will become and the more efficient you will be.
9. Mental Toughness
If you enjoy pushing yourself mentally, the rowing machine can take you to some extremely dark places if you so desire! The lactate build-up you can achieve in a fairly short time on the rowing machine will leave even the toughest athletes questioning their reasons for starting a sprint session.
And if you’re more of an endurance athlete and prefer the longer stuff, try 30 minutes at a consistent stroke rate of 20spm to cover the most distance as possible.
10. Goal Setting
The rowing machine is a great tool for gaining general fitness, losing weight, strengthening your core and increasing mobility – especially around the ankles and hips. It also increases muscular endurance and power output, and it can also help you become more dynamic and explosive.
If there’s an area of your fitness that you feel needs some work, playing with the resistance, intensity levels, durations and slide lengths can help you do so.
RowElite offers bespoke and standardised online training programmes for Rowing as well as in-person coaching. It was founded by Matthew Tarrant, who has represented GB Rowing for the past 14 years. Find out more at rowelite.com