Regular rowing delivers a variety of health benefits – a virtue which has helped it make the transition from outdoor sport to an increasingly popular indoor exercise.  Indeed, when it comes to group training, many people are coming to regard rowing as ‘the new spinning’.

With the advent of the indoor rowing machine, the benefits of this particular exercise were no longer restricted to those fortunate enough to have access to water, but could also be enjoyed by the masses.

The benefits

One myth associated with rowing is that it is primarily an upper-body workout.  This is most definitely not the case.  Rowing is a full-body activity which engages every major muscle group, namely:

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Back
  • Biceps

It also provides an excellent cardio workout.

The benefits don’t stop there either – indoor rowing is also low impact inasmuch as the sliding seat absorbs one’s weight, a feature which makes it a great exercise for rehab or in situations where injury prevention is a concern.

The technique

The basic technique can be learned relatively quickly, for example:

  • Catch – the starting position. The rower’s knees are bent, the body is leaning forward slightly and the arms are extended towards the flywheel in order to grasp the handle
  • Drive – the rower straightens the legs and drives backwards, swinging the upper body back through the vertical position.  Halfway through the drive, the arms remain straight
  • Finish – at the conclusion of the drive phase, the arms bend and the handle is pulled in towards the abdomen (not the chest or the lap).  The legs are straight and the body is leaning back slightly.
  • Recovery – the recovery begins by extending the arms and swinging the body forward at the hips.  It is a steady and controlled movement intended to return the rower to the starting position with minimal resistance
  • The machine

    Resistance is provided in a number of ways, namely magnets, water or air.  In each case, the resistance is created at the flywheel, making it harder or easier for the rower to extend the strap or chain.

    Magnetic resistance has the advantage of being quiet, but it is constant (having been set by the user) and therefore tends to feel less ‘real’.  By contrast, machines that utilise air or water for resistance tend to feel more ‘authentic’ in that the resistance increases when the user pulls harder on the handle, as would be the case with oars in water.

    Current trend

    The latest trend in indoor rowing is to arrange the machines in a group setting similar to the way in which spinning bikes are used.  This can help create a real community spirit and provides a great motivational boost to those taking part.  Little wonder then that many die-hard spinners are abandoning their bikes for rowing machines!