Rowing: A Superhuman Workout

While treadmills and stationary bikes have long been the centerpiece of the gym, the previously overlooked rowing machine is rapidly gaining attention in the fitness industry.

 With a myriad of vogue boutiques popping up in London, New York and other cities, some even predict that rowing classes may soon rival as the quintessential new group activity.

The reason for the newfound popularity of rowing? Simple. If you want to be fitter, stronger, or burn calories fast, there are few better exercises than this you can do.


Rowing, a superhuman workout

When the best athletes in the world come to Tokyo in 2020 for the Olympic Games , the most suitable will not be marathon runners, cyclists, swimmers or triathletes. It will be the rowers.

When it comes to maximum aerobic capacity – a measure of an athlete’s efficiency in delivering oxygen to working muscles – elite rowers record some of the highest scores ever.

 British rower and three-time Olympic gold medalist Pete Reed , with 11.68 liters of lung capacity, is the largest on record. The average male’s lungs are only six liters, or about half the size.


What are the benefits of rowing?

According to Dr. Cameron Nichol – physician and former international rower – it is precisely the way rowing uses virtually every muscle in the body that makes it so effective as exercise.

Dr. Nichol recently conducted an experiment to compare the effects of running on a treadmill versus training on a rowing machine. By asking athletes with the same training levels to perform 20 minutes of each exercise, Dr. Nichol was able to measure “muscle activation” and at what intensity and speed the muscles work. For the experiment, electrodes connected to the athletes were used and the results showed that rowing activated many more muscles than running.

It is a common mistake to consider rowing primarily an upper body exercise. In fact, Dr. Nichol states that 85% of the body’s total muscle mass is used , so much more than running or cycling.

The rowing race begins at the “catch” with an explosive push of the legs, using the quadriceps, calves and glutes to extend the knees and hips. Once these major muscle groups have “exploded”, the back, obliques and abdomen hook around the core to stabilize the torso before the arm and lats complete the movement, drawing the handle towards the body. . The entire sequence, which uses nine major muscle groups, is repeated 20-30 times per minute at normal rowing pace, burning calories two to three times faster than cycling.


Forced adaptation

Whole-body effort with rowing relies on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems of the body. The greater the stress on the body, the more it needs to adapt. Over time, the body creates more capillaries to carry blood and oxygen to the working muscles, the muscles around the heart strengthen and grow, and the lungs become more efficient at taking in oxygen from the air.

It is therefore no wonder that with a good amount of rowing training, elite rowers reach such impressive levels of VO2 max, the maximum rate at which the heart, lungs and muscles can effectively use oxygen during training. exercise.

Another example to demonstrate the positive effects of rowing training, five-time Olympic gold medalist Sir Steve Redgrave had trained his heart to be efficient enough to have a resting heart rate of 36 beats per minute. that of an average male at rest is between 60 and 70 beats per minute. So if there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that it is possible to be fit with rowing.

Great for everyone

The good news is that you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete or spend a lot of time rowing to reap the huge benefits. Being so heavy on the whole body, rowing can be a very efficient way to improve fitness : in just 20 minutes on a rowing machine, doing an intense cardio workout, you can burn up to 300 calories.

Another advantage is the low impact that rowing has on the body and joints compared to the “pounding” act of running and can therefore provide a perfect alternative for those with joint pain. If all this has intrigued you and you would like to start rowing, here are some essential tips to start training with a rowing machine.


How to use a rowing machine?

  • From the “catch” position, or forward, push your legs down, keeping your arms straight, your core strong and your head and chest up.
  • Once the legs have been pushed all the way down, open the torso, rotating from the hips and pushing the shoulders back.
  • Finally, the arms complete the stroke by drawing the handle up to the body.

Tips for a correct row

  • Think about maintaining good posture at all times – keep your head up and chest up.
  • Find a good pace. Be explosive and then relax and breathe as you slide forward for the next row.
  • Aim for a 2: 1 ratio – take twice as much recovery time between stretches as you get on running.
  • Long, powerful hits are better than short, fast ones. Try to keep your score or cadence between 20 and 30 strokes per minute.

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