There are many ways to exercise, but of all of them rowing is one of the best overall. Rowing combines the best of aerobic and anaerobic exercise in a low impact movement pattern that is safe and effective for anyone from the unfit to the highly conditioned athlete.
If you want to give indoor rowing a try (outdoor rowing aka sculling is also excellent but requires access to skull and lessons on how to use it!) there are many high quality units and the best of them al have you seated on a seat which slides so you can access the strength and power from your legs and hips to do the lion's share of the work.
Indoor rowing will take a little getting used to because there is some technique to it, but most people can learn to use one of these indoor rowers quickly with a little help from a trainer. The rowing stroke can be divided into four phases:
The Catch – where you begin to pull back on the rower handle
The Drive – where you drive backwards using legs and hips to push
The Finish – where you finish pushing back and quickly pull the handle to your mid-section
The Recovery – where you flex the ankles, knees and hips as you reach forward to the next catch
There are several keys to effective rowing. First and foremost is that the power should come from your legs and hips NOT your arms. Your arms just finish the pull at the very end where they should be quickly pulled to your mid-section as you finish the drive.
Keep your back straight the whole time! There is a little forward and backward lean as you lean forward to begin the pull/catch and then lean slightly back as you finish the drive. However your back should be straight and posture upright the entire time and this is very important for preventing any potential injury.
To help with posture and keeping the back straight you need a strong core and exercises like the front and side plank are perfect to build the type of core strength you need for rowing!
Here is a breakdown of proper technique for each part of the rowing stroke:
The Recovery (Phase 1)
- Extend your arms until they straighten.
- Once your hands and the oar handle have cleared your knees, allow your knees to bend and gradually slide the seat forward on the monorail.
The Catch (Position 1)
- Arms are straight; head is neutral; shoulders are level and not hunched.
- Upper body is at the one o’clock position—shoulders in front of hips.
- Shins are vertical and not compressed beyond the perpendicular.
- Balls of the feet are in full contact with the footplate.
The Drive (Phase 2)
- With straight arms and while maintaining the position of the upper body at one o’clock, exert pressure on the foot plate and begin pushing with your legs.
- As your legs approach straight, lean the upper body back to the eleven o’clock position and draw the hands back to the lower ribs in a straight line.
The Finish (Position 2)
- Legs are extended and handle is held lightly at your lower ribs.
- Upper body is at the eleven o’clock position—slightly reclined with good support from your core muscles.
- Head is in a neutral position.
- Neck and shoulders are relaxed, and arms are drawn past the body with flat wrists.
The drive is the work portion of the stroke; the recovery is the rest portion that prepares you for the next drive. The body movements of the recovery are essentially the reverse of the drive. Blend these movements into a smooth continuum to create the rowing stroke. A good rowing cadence, or tempo, is 22-26 strokes per minute.
Rowing is best done in intervals alternating high intensity efforts with a focus on perfecting your technique with low intensity recovery intervals. Done correctly rowing provides a completely balanced total body workout that can burn a ton of calories, improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness and building an athletic physique. If you take the time to learn this form of exercise it can be your one and only go to for total fitness!