Is Rowing The Next Big Thing After Running?


You’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed when it comes to working out on the gym floor. Make a beeline for the rowing machine the next time you’re plagued by time-sucking indecision that threatens to derail your workout plans. It’s the low-impact, high-results workout that’s making a comeback.

Why is Rowing so uncommon these days?

It used to be a staple of many an athlete’s workout routine, but it seems to have fallen out of favour with gym-goers in recent years, losing out to the treadmill and crosstrainer in the race for fitness machine supremacy. Its importance, however, should not be ignored. Lawrence Hannah, founder of functional training studio Metabolic London and former Premier League hockey player, says, “It’s a very challenging style of exercise and is definitely featured highly in the world of Crossfit.” What, in his opinion, is the cause of its popularity? He observes, “Ironically, as fitness progresses, we seem to be moving back to basics.” “I, for one, enjoy going back to basics and have taken up rowing because it is very open, no one finds it difficult, and it is low impact, which is much better for the joints than pounding the pavement.” “There are many ways to describe fitness and many ways to measure it,” he continues, “but in my mind, a good rower will always be up there as someone who is ‘fit.’”

House of Cards Rowing Machine

It has piqued the public’s attention even further thanks to a guest appearance on House of Cards, where the White House’s resident WaterRower rowing machine has proved to be a fan favourite. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google searches for “House of Cards rowing machine” have increased with each new season. We can see why Claire Underwood (aka Robin Wright) prefers to row when it’s too inconvenient to run by looking at her muscles.

So, why should I switch to Rowing?

Do you want to try rowing? Here are 6 rowing facts and tips to help you get the most out of your workout, from proper form to advantages and who it’s for.

  1. It’s a whole body exercise

The indoor rowing machine does it all, from strengthening your heart to increasing your fitness levels and toning up. “When you use the rowing machine, you work different muscle groups, which allows for an intense aerobic workout,” says Fitness First personal trainer Alex Chaple. Rowing’s use of the ‘posterior chain,’ a large group of muscles on the backside of the body (that includes muscles that support the spine and back, as well as the hamstring muscles, among others), is especially effective in achieving a variety of training goals, according to him. “This is why rowing machines are used to boost conditioning and weight loss in so many sports,” Alex says.

As you gain confidence in your rowing routine, you can tweak it to better suit your goals. “You can row for distance, time, or intervals and get a great cardio workout… It’s also a brilliant way to strip fat when used in fast bursts of high intensity,” Lawrence adds. It has a remarkable amount of versatility.

  1. It’s for everyone

Rowing is a good choice for those looking for a hard-working aerobic session that avoids the joint pain that other high-impact exercises can cause. It has a lower impact than running and is a non-weight bearing exercise. “Rowing takes excellent technique but is one of the most accessible types of high-intensity interval training,” Alex explains. It appeals to the time-short too, meaning that a lunchtime visit to the gym or a quick after-work class isn’t out of reach during a busy week. “Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can strap in and complete a truly challenging workout in 20 to 30 minutes.”

Helen Glover, an Olympic rower, reveals her winning training and beauty routine.

  1. Ensure that you push, not pull.

Right form and technique are important for getting the most out of your rowing machine. Mistakes abound, the most popular of which is utilizing our upper body rather than our lower body. Alex points out that “a lot of people have a tendency to pull until they hit full knee extension.” “Because our legs are so strong, we waste a lot of energy if we don’t use them to their full potential. It’s more of a ‘lift’ with the legs than a ‘pull’ with the arms while rowing. Using the big leg muscles helps to protect the lower back while also the the training effect.”

Consider your body as a spring. “When rowing, the proper sequence is to finish the stroke with the legs, hips, and arms. When you are nearest to the machine, you produce the most power in the bottom position.”

  1. Begin slowly

Since form is so important. “Slow, regulated practice is the secret to maintaining successful rowing technique,” Alex advises. “We all want to jump right in and start sweating, but a few slow technical sessions will allow for a massive training impact down the road.”

  1. Avoid curling your back

If you have bad posture in general (raises hand), it will be exacerbated even more when you’re seated in a rowing machine, which might hurt your results. “Many people cause their backs to curl up,” says Simon Cowen, a personal trainer at Fitness First. “Keep your upper body tall to allow for a much stronger stroke. Focus on your stroke rate; rowing 33 spm (strokes per minute) can sound amazing, but it simply means that your legs will tyre out much faster than if you can maintain a stroke rate of 20 to 25. You will increase the intensity of the pull by maintaining this range.”

  1. Improves the strength of your abs

Improve your abdominal strength to improve your stroke even further. “Backing up your rowing with a few high-impact abdominal exercises will give you more flexibility at the peak of your stroke,” Alex suggests. “Begin with basic abdominal crunches and reverse crunches (knees to chest) on a flat bench. It’s best if you go slowly.”

We suggest…

booking into Metabolic London’s latest Meta-row class if you want to take it a step further and add a new dimension to your rowing workout. It’s not your typical rowing routine; it combines HIIT and weight training components into a 55-minute cardio and strength-building workout. It’s hardcore but satisfying, with timed bursts of box jumps, weighted squats, press-ups, mountain climbers, kettlebell swings, and more, as well as demanding 4 and 5 minute spurts of rowing, all done in a very positive and inspiring setting. Classes cost £20 per person, with a 50% discount on the first class and bulk class packages available. More details can be found here.



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