When I was working in a commercial gym, the most underutilised cardio machine was, the rower.
I personally, really enjoy the rower. So when commonly told by a client that they don’t enjoy using it, I always ask, “Why do the rower?” often the reply being “because it’s hard”!
Rowing is 70% lower body and 30% upper body. Isn’t that more than running? Now don’t get me wrong, I love to run too, but rowing is lower impact on the body and good for strength endurance, fitness and is a great challenge for anyone looking to step up their high-Intensity Interval or cardiovascular training.
There are 3 phases to a rowing ‘stroke’:
- The catch
- The drive
- The finish
As you can see below, the rower uses every muscle in the body. So now you understand why it’s hard!
One of the biggest mistakes people make is they ignore S/M (or strokes per minute) reading on the screen. You will see a lot of people go hell for leather on the rower and their SPM is up around 45-50- (this is far too high), and they fail around the 1-minute mark. A lot of energy can be wasted in high SPM, low power type stroke.
A good analogy I got when I started learning about rowing was:
“ There are two cyclists riding next to each other, one in a low gear so RPM (rotations per minute) is high, the other is in a medium to high gear and is holding a more steady RPM; both are travelling at the same speed”
To improve this, next time you row, try to slow the stroke rate and add a slight pause at the finish. It will allow for a much stronger ‘drive’, and help you to utilize the ‘back in’ as recovery.
Another common issue I lower back pain. This is commonly caused by:
- Too much flexion at the ‘catch’.
- Opening the body too early in the drive
- Slouching at the finish
- Possible flexibility and mobility issues
Your stroke should look much like a deadlift. If you were to be recorded and watched back on rewind, shouldn’t be able to tell the difference because the movement is the same. Knees bent till handles reach knees, open hips, pull hard, legs straight, hinge from hips till handle reaches knees, bend knees, repeat. This is what I think about the whole time I am on the rower. Slouching at the finish is also detrimental to form, don’t let knee’s come over toes at the finish and keep shoulders tight.
One last thing that can slow people down is the strap loosening on your feet. Two things:
o Set the foot holder so the strap sits right in the middle of your shoelaces.
o Point your toes on the drive. Majority of people end on their heels, with toes dorsiflexed (pointing towards shins), you want to plantar flex (point toes away) your feet and drive back hard, with heels lifted.
This is just a few points on rowing, I could write so much more, drag, distance & strength; but save that for next time.
Try your next HIIT session on the rower, and you never know, you may just find your new favourite cardio machine!