Can You Really Row Your Way to Results?

If you think rowing is just for crossfitters or those preparing for a dragon boat race, think again. This machine packs a powerful punch, hitting all major muscle groups, and stimulates the heart and cardiovascular system to burn calories at a higher rate. 

Rowing machines are becoming increasingly more popular, and for good reason. These machines mimic the act of rowing a boat in the water but in a much more convenient fashion. The machines track your distance, speed, power, and calories burned, and pack a powerful and efficient workout.

Rowing essentially works every major muscle group in the body when it is performed correctly. Contrary to the way it looks, rowing requires approximately 60% lower body and 40% upper body engagement, stimulating the legs and the core, even more so than the arms and the back. Rowing creates resistance in both directions, creating a push and a pull (unlike a stationary bike), which gets your heart pumping and increases the amount of calories expended.

 Whether you are looking to increase your cardiovascular system, strength, or endurance, rowing has got you covered. Similarly to running, you can complete short distances such as sprints, or longer distances - even rowing a half marathon. Regardless of your goal, you can rest assured that your heart rate will stay elevated and your body will reap the benefits.

You should row if you want to improve your:

Aerobic capacity:

Aerobic fitness plays an important role in your overall health for all ages.  Aerobic capacity can attribute to weight loss, increased stamina (being less winded after you climb a flight of stairs), and increased immunity. Because it engages so many major muscle groups, rowing is an effective way to raise your heart rate and increase your oxygen intake for a great cardiovascular workout. Yet, the adjustable resistance allows you to work up to your own comfortable pace or target heart rate and implement warm up and cool down heart rate levels as well.

Upper Body Strength:

Rowing provides an excellent upper body workout, engaging the rhomboids of the shoulders, the trapezii of the upper back, and the latissimus dorsi of the back. These muscles play a role in improving posture and decreasing back pain. And these are not the only muscles reaping the benefits of rowing; the biceps, pecs, and abdominals are also involved, as are the muscles of the hands and wrists from holding the handles.

Lower Body Strength:

Visually, rowing appears to be an upper body dominant exercise, but the legs pack the punch. As you power and push through the legs, the quads are continuously working, while the calves and glutes will also feel the burn. Rowing is a great cardiovascular option for those primarily concerned with preserving muscular tissue and are worries about loss of muscle mass from cardiovascular activity.

Balance and Flexibility:

In addition to building overall muscle strength and tone, rowing will also improve balance and flexibility as it requires and promotes a full range of motion through the row pull (also known as the ‘catch’). Plus, the cycle of the row is  “Legs! Core! Arms!” which promotes muscle coordination and transduction, leading to better overall balance and possible recovery from a slip, trip, or fall.


It’s Low Impact:

Weight bearing exercises like running, jogging, hiking, and even walking can put increased pressure on the joints. Rowing is a fabulous alternative for those who are overweight or suffer from joint pain. Rowing has a very natural and low-impact motion, and rowing machines are even a great tool to strengthen the knees following surgery. While many fear potential back strain with rowing, when performed with proper posture and execution, rowing has the opposite effect and can prevent back strain. The correct rowing posture engages the legs, taking pressure off the back. With all exercise, it is important to learn and implement proper technique.

And, it’s Fun!

Ensuring your exercise routine incorporates a variety of exercises and activities is crucial to your fitness success. When you are having fun and enjoying what you do, you are more likely to stay motivated and continue to stay active and in a healthy routine. Mix up all sorts of cardiovascular activities both indoor, and outdoor, to keep you excited and release endorphins; a feel good hormone that is released into the blood stream with exercise.

Rowing stimulates a full body workout that is taxing, rewarding, and beneficial on all scales. Regardless of your current physical level and your fitness goals, rowing can be implemented into your routine to help you push past limitations and weaknesses and focus on your goals. Plus, it translates perfectly to outdoor rowing, a recreational activity that offers physical and mental conditioning. Join us at Encompass Fitness this week for a free rowing lesson and to help us row 150 km before Canada Day!