Hello fitness fanatics! So, we’ve all watched the Olympics at some point or other in our lives. I remember when I was growing up, I used to love watching the rowing. I think it was because of the GB team being almost guaranteed the gold medal. Although the guarantee was as close to 100% as possible, there was always that nervous moment, where you would think “surely not, they can’t lose!”.
The one name that everyone recognises is Sir Steve Redgrave. He is the only rower to have won 5 gold medals at 5 consecutive editions of the Olympics. When I began training, the rowing machine was the perfect cardio machine to really test yourself on. The routine was, warm up on the rowing machine, dynamic stretches, weights workout and then hit the concept rowing machine for 10 minutes.
Once I had worked up to 10 minutes, or 5000 metres, I knew that my fitness was at an impressive level. Don’t get me wrong, the other cardio machines in the gym are fantastic, but the rower offers us something a lot different to the rest. With some hard work and discipline, you can easily row to fitness. A rower is a great piece of equipment to have at home, as it doesn’t take up a considerable amount of space and can be picked up at a very reasonable price.
In this article, I will have a look at the history of the rowing machine, why the rowing machine is such a great piece of equipment, how to row (the correct technique) and some great workouts you can do on a rowing machine. Strap yourselves in because we are going for a row!
The History of the Rowing Machine
The indoor rower was created in 1872 by W.B. Curtis. It was designed to help water athletes stay fit on land. The rower is sometimes referred to as the erg or ergometer. It wasn’t until the 1950s that coaches began using specially used rowing machines for training and improved power measurement.
As mentioned above, the 1900’s is the period when rowing really took off. The introduction of boating competitions made it essential for students to be in good enough shape to be able to row and perform at that level. The first machines did not provide much resistance, so Gjessing Nilson decided to add weights, which allowed students to increase their power and endurance.
The rowing machine was made increasingly popular by Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent. Displaying muscular physiques and great physical strength and stamina, both these formidable athletes showed the masses that the rowing machine was a force to be reckoned with.
The Benefits of the Rowing Machine at Home
Where do I begin with the benefits of this majestic piece of equipment! I am going to take you just why you should be using almighty rowing machine:
1. The rowing machine provides a full body workout – It works 85 – 90% of all muscles. It has to incorporate all these muscles so each stroke can be performed with the correct technique. As you are pulling against a resistance, you are not only building your strength but also performing a great cardio workout.
2. It unequivocally blasts your core! – Your core muscles have to be switched on from start to finish. The power from all those strokes has to come from somewhere right? Although you summon a lot of the power from the arms, legs and back, it all starts with the engine, or as we know it, THE CORE!
3. Improves your posture – Rowing requires you to be upright when you pull. Slouching over will cause you no end of problems in the long run.
4. Tones your legs and glutes – Rowing is a great lower body toner. During the pushing part of the movement, you need to really drive with your legs, and then engage your glutes at the end of the movement. What do you end up with?…A pair of well toned pins and a peachy bum.
5. A great time saver – Rowing is so intense, that you only need to work at 80% of your max, for a period of 15 minutes. “Only”, he says! Trust me, working at 80% of your max for 15 minutes, on a rower will feel like a lifetime, however, the benefits are absolutely worth it. We’ll look at some great workouts a little later.
These are just a few of the many benefits that the rowing machine has to offer.
Row Row Row you Boat – With the Correct Technique
Before my home workout days, I used to go to the gym and I would see people giving their all on the rowing machine. The first thing I would notice was their techniques. Or should I say lack of! Anyway, you can’t really blame people when they haven’t been taught properly.
I would watch people under the supervision of a Personal Trainer round their backs and really strain to get that extra bit of power. This would send shivers down my spine, as technique is my forte. I struggle to watch someone perform an exercise incorrectly, knowing the damage that they are doing to themselves. This is why I am going to talk you through the technique of rowing, so that next time you use this wonder machine, you will get the most out of it.
There are four phases to rowing. They are as follows:
A. The Catch – Fully extend your arms and grip the handles. Ensure your seat is all the way forward. Your knees will have naturally bent at this point and will be close to your chest. Got it…brilliant!
B. The Drive – Press feet against the pedals and drive yourself back. Keep knees slightly bent. Make sure you engage your core and glutes. Still following…awesome!
C. The Finish – The rower handle should be pulled towards your abdominal area. This occurs simultaneously with the drive. You are nearly done…hang on in there!
D. The Recovery – Return to phase one, the catch position. Extend your arms, lean forwards and bend your legs. Wow…you must feel great after that!
Now you know how to row correctly, you should not only get the most out of your rowing session but you will ensure training longevity, by avoiding injuries.
Technique Nailed – Let’s Put in into Practice
Now we have discussed all we need to know about the rowing machine, let’s look at a couple of programs that will allow you to reap all the benefits:
– 20 seconds at 100% exertion
– 10 seconds rest
– Repeat this sequence for the entire 15 minutes
Tabata + Burpees
– Interval 1
– 10 seconds slow rowing
– 20 seconds maximum exertion
– Repeat this 10 times
– 1 minute maximum exertion row
– 30 seconds rest
– 1 minute maximum exertion row
– 250m row and 20 burpees
– 200m row and 15 burpees
– 150m row and 10 burpees
– 100m row and 5 burpees
– 50m row
The above are just a couple of examples of the amazing and intense workouts you can do with the rower. Yes, you could use other cardio machines to do these workouts but no other machine will give you the same all round body workout, like the rower.
What Have we Learned?
The rower should be an integral part of your home workout kit. In all fairness, unless you are an avid runner or you can’t cope without the elliptical, it is the only machine you need. It builds both upper and lower body strength, and can really take your fitness to levels beyond your wildest dreams. Yes, it’s that good!
As previously mentioned, athletes such as Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent boasted jaw dropping physiques and awe inspiring fitness, and this was all down to the rowing machine being a major part of their workout regime.
The question to ask yourself is, what do you want out of your routine…stamina, strength, lean muscle? Well the rowing machine can aid in helping you achieve all of these. Add some kettlebells into the mix and the results WILL be phenomenal.
Another great advantage of rowing is that you will not suffer with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) the next day. Those of you that haven’t suffered with this are the lucky few. Squats are a major culprit of DOMS, after leg day. DOMS occurs on the eccentric part of the movement (when the muscle lengthens). Rowing only uses concentric movements (when the muscle shortens), hence no DOMS!
As always, I have to reiterate the importance of technique. I have provided you with a step by step guide to using the rower correctly. Please ensure that you follow this guide. Adhering to my instructions, will allow you to get the most out of your rowing workout. Most importantly, it will allow you to stay injury free. Use equipment properly and it will do wonders for your health and fitness. After an intense rowing session, it is great to include massage into your cooldown. This will help to relax your muscles and start the healing process.
I would like to think that you have been provided with enough information to make you want to add a rower to your home gym. If you already have one, then you would have just read the above and patted yourself on the back. We can do so much with this slender unassuming machine. Come on guys, it’s time to row to fitness!
Thank you for reading this article. I hope it was very informative for you. If you have any questions, comments and/or feedback, please leave them below. As always, it has been an absolute pleasure having you here. Say safe and keep well.