Rowing – Is it as good as people say? Should I invest in an indoor rower?

Rowing – Is it as good as people say? Should I invest in an indoor rower?

Rowing is one of the best ways to build amazing conditioning. I will outline the reasoning behind that but first for a bit of context.

I was on a defence course many years ago in country Victoria. The course was predominantly in the field, carrying heavy packs and equipment. Most of the guys on this course were well above an average level of fitness. We had almost every sport being represented, with state and national level athletes on the course. One individual was an ex AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) rower.

I remember at the time being amazed at how every exercise we tackled he just had this amazing cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength that made the rest of us look like couch potatoes! He was not superhuman, he was just a little taller than me and was relatively lean. But nothing seemed to phase him. At the end of the course, we chatted about his history as an athlete and specifically as a rower and how rowing is great for overall conditioning. Rowing uses 86% of the body’s muscles!

As a chiropractor I meet people all the time who inspire me to be healthier and better physically. We only have one body and want to get it working at its best. Rowing has always stood out as an exercise of choice due to some key factors:

Rowing is a whole-body workout.

It is a common misconception that rowing only works the arms. Rowing is a full-body workout that uses 86% of the muscles. The rowing stroke is comprised of 70% percent leg work and 30% percent upper body work. The major muscle groups it targets are the upper back, pecs, arms, abdominal muscles, and obliques. The lower body muscles include the quadriceps, calves, and glutes.

So bang for buck, or time spent actually doing exercise you are hitting quite a few different areas all at once. This will be more efficient for building general conditioning than breaking up muscle groups into different exercises.

You do not have to be an elite athlete to do it!

All you need is access to a rowing machine (called an ergometer) Rowing is safe for most people to do if you have been checked by a chiropractor or physiotherapist at Perth Allied Health Clinic. A study done in 2015 showed that 24 people found that rowing 5 days a week for 6 weeks led to a significant decrease in fat mass and total body fat percent. Additionally, the participants lowered their cholesterol levels, and their back strength and trunk flexion increased significantly.

It is low-impact – unlike running.

Rowing burns serious calories without putting added stress on your joints. It allows you to control the movement and pace and is a great exercise to turn to for active recovery.

Unlike running or plyometric training rowing involves no pounding impact but is a fluid motion. When technique is done correctly you will find that it doesn’t involve excessive loading of the joints or torsional or twisting movements.

It is amazing for cardiovascular conditioning.

Your hearts ability to transport blood to the bodies tissues is vital for conditioning and your bodies overall function.  If correctly done a rowing workout will work the heart and lungs. You can do interval training to get a boost in VO2 max or work on your aerobic fitness at a slower rate for a longer period. This will help the different energy systems and therefore your ability to tackle different work.

Key take home messages!!

Rowing is a great way to burn calories, you burn more on a rowing machine than walking or cycling. Good technique is important so make sure you get coached on how to use an erg properly. This will help you avoid injury and get the most out of your training. As with any exercise program gradually build up your intensity.

Having worked along side an ex AIS rower, I can say consistent and diligent rowing certainly is great for the body. But so are a wide range of different machines and training programs. The best program is the one you will do regularly and consistently.

Our team of Chiropractors and Physiotherapists at Perth Allied Health Clinic constantly talk about conditioning and its importance. Rowing is a great way to do that. If you have any questions, contact us or book an appointment online.

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