Reasons to Row

The new season of House of Cards starts this month and it can only mean one thing – it’s time to get onto the rowing machine. Yes, Frank Underwood, Machiavellian politician and now President of the United States, is also an unlikely fitness icon. Rowing away in his Washington basement in the first couple of seasons, he inspired a lot of people to try this often-overlooked piece of fitness equipment.

I’m not really a fan of cardio machines but if I had to choose one it would be the rowing machine. That’s not because I like it; I actually find it very difficult but I know just how effective it can be.

Reasons to Row

Low Impact
Rowing is a low impact exercise. It minimises the amount of stress placed on the joints but still works them through a large range of motion, making it ideal for those with joint pain or managing injuries.

Full Body Exercise
Those who haven’t rowed before expect it to be an upper body exercise it actually works both the lower body and the core. In fact rowing works every major muscle group (84 per cent of the body’s total muscle mass according to WaterRower), making it an extremely efficient form of exercise.

Calorie Burner
Because it recruits so many muscles, rowing torches calories. According to reasearch, it can burn between 10 and 15 per cent more calories than cycling at the same intensity.

Versatile cardio
Rowing places huge demands on the cardiovascular system and because it lends itself to both steady state endurance workouts and high intensity interval training it can be used for both aerobic and anaerobic workouts.

A note on technique

It’s easy to make mistakes with technique. Common problems include making the stroke too big, rounding your back or rowing with just your arms. It makes your workout inefficient and you’re usually exhausted or in pain after five minutes.
The initial part of the stroke, or drive as it’s known, is a powerful movement that should come from pushing back with the legs. You then hinge back at the hip joint and your shoulders move behind your pelvis. Only then do you pull with your arms.
As the direction of the stroke changes, the amount of effort required reduces. You reach forwards with your arms, then tilt the pelvis and bend the legs.

Rather than rounding forwards, your spine should remain in neutral throughout, the core should be engaged and your shoulders relaxed.

It’s definitely worth doing a bit of research or watching some of the many technique videos available online.

Getting started

Most gyms have a rowing machine and a number now run indoor rowing fitness classes but rowing is also a great home exercise if you’re willing to make the investment. If you’re not convinced, why not hire one for a few weeks and see how you get on?

There are hundreds of rowing machines on the market but like Frank, I have a WaterRower in the studio. Its rather elegant wooden frame houses a large cylindrical water tank with a flywheel. This creates a lovely, smooth action and resistance increases in direct proportion to the intensity of the stroke. It more closely resembles real rowing than on a machine that utilise air for resistance.

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