Enjoying Your Workout: Advantage Rowing

A lot of us start working out with a specific target and the right attitude, however, a week, a month or even six months into the regime we lose interest and either continue in a dispirited way or stop completely. The best way to combat this scenario is to choose a workout which interests and challenges us as an activity, apart from giving us the obvious health benefits. With this in mind, we bring you the following series on workout options that are simple, popular and effective, to help you make that critical choice.


Need a total body work out? Go Rowing. Rowing uses almost all the major muscle groups in the body with particular focus on the legs, back, abdomen and arms.

Competitive and recreational rowing are both unique, in comparison to most sports, in that they exercise all of your major muscle groups. When executed properly the rowing stroke is a fairly safe motion providing little room for the serious injury (that is often the case with contact and high-impact sports).

Prof. Fritz Hagerman, Ph.D, Professor, Biological Science Department, Ohio University, who studies exercise physiology (which includes aerobic and anaerobic capacities, metabolic response and effects of blood lactate levels on athletes), opines that slide seat rowing is the most magnificent sport there is.

How Rowing Works

In rowing, each stroke is made up of four parts that flow into one another. These are the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery. The following describes the bio-mechanics of rowing.

The Catch

This is the start of each stroke and it is the moment when the blade of your oar/s enters the water. The legs, hips and shoulders in use during the catch involve the following muscle groups:

  • quadriceps
  • gastrocenius
  • soleus
  • gluteus maximus
  • biceps brachii

The Drive

As you begin to push with your legs, you are entering the drive of the stroke. During the drive your legs, back and arms are working with the following muscle groups:

  • trapezius
  • posterio deltoid
  • quadriceps
  • pectorals major
  • biceps brachii

The Finish

Once the legs are fully extended, you begin to pull the oar in with your arms and swing your shoulders backward, bringing yourself to the finish position. The blade has come out of the water and you are now at ease with the boat. You have just used the rest of the entire body’s muscle groups as follows:

  • gluteus maximus
  • quadriceps
  • brachioradialis
  • abdominal


The recovery process begins soon after the finish, when the blade is out of the water and when you are at ease with the boat. The hands are still moving away from the body and once the arms are stretched the body moves forward and then the slide moves forward towards the hull to begin the stroke. This process gives time for the body to recover and be ready for the next stroke.

The entire process is repeated, each movement flowing into the next, forming another stroke.

The Benefits

Aside from full body conditioning, which builds lean muscle mass while burning six hundred calories per hour, rowing allows you to release stress, lose weight and reduce your blood pressure. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy movement and your connection with the water as you take each stroke. It can also be the opportunity to push yourself beyond limits you never thought possible.

Rowing provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to the social aspect. You can choose to train all by yourself or in a team. Rowing is unique in the sense that you need to move backwards from start to destination in a straight line, in the shortest possible time to win. If you are rowing single, you are blind to the destination. You build trust in yourself.  If you are in a team event you learn to trust the other members and work in tandem. You learn to listen, you learn to follow.

Rowing can be an effective stress buster with the calming effect of tranquil outdoor waters. In addition, you can go rowing at any age, as we discovered in this real life story centered on rowing.  Rowing is not a high impact sport, to be given up once wear and tear takes a toll. It therefore works well for rehabilitation. So if you are recovering from an injury, it is the perfect cardiovascular and muscle toning workout with minimal impact.

Rowing exercises muscles through a wider range of motion compared to other activities. Muscles are stretched and the joints move to a greater extent, thereby promoting flexibility and mobility.

The Options and Getting Started

Almost all clubs start you off on a training program on the Bank Tub, a large boat tethered to the banks in which you learn the basics. Then the graduation begins from here on, right up to the senior boats that are used in the World Championships and the Olympics.

Not many locations are blessed with water bodies and rowing clubs. Even if there is one you may not have access to the facilities of the rowing club for whatever reason. There is no cause for concern. You could head to the nearest gym and use the rowing machine or the ergo-meter.

Rowing machines are indoor exercise machines, which are also referred to as ergo-meters (ergs) and simulate the motion of rowing a boat in water. At its very minimum, it has a bar or a handle connected to a flywheel that one uses to grip and pull back to create the rowing motion, and a sliding seat or saddle to seat the person. Many indoor rowing machines also have resistance settings to suit individual exercise requirements.

While this is probably one of the most under-utilized workout equipment, it offers maximum health benefits as it provides a full body workout – including the upper and lower body muscle groups – and it also doubles up as a cardio-workout machine. The rowing machine is beneficial for heart health, lung capacity and stamina, upper body workout, lower body workout and weight loss.

Now that you have the low-down on rowing, go see if this is the right match for you.


  • Always consult your doctor before you start a new workout regime. If you have weak knees or a back problem specifically check with your physician before you start a rowing program.
  • Please do not use the equipment without the guidance of a trainer on correct posture and method.
  • Do your stretches before your rowing, whether on the water or on the rowing machine.

About the author:

Naresh is a fitness enthusiast who enjoys running, rowing and a multitude of outdoor sports. He also works in the healthcare industry and, at close to sixty years, is trying to create awareness of the concept of health through fitness.

Naresh is also an accomplished oarsman having won the GOLD in the Mens’ Open Coxed Fours category at the National Rowing Championships, Calcutta, 1980 and a recipient of the “Sportsman of the year” award from the Tamil Nadu Government (ROWING) in the year 1980. He has served as Captain of the Madras Boat Club (MBC), Honarary Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Amateur Rowing Association (TARA) and Chairman Marketing Council of the Rowing Federation of India (RFI) and National Rowing Umpire.

Photo Credit: Image 1, Image 2

Copyright 2012 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.


6 responses

  1. […] for your body and mind. As part of this series, we previously  covered: cycling, swimming, rowing, running, a guide to picking the right shoe, a three-week campaign to get you out on the road […]

  2. […] you to get your whole family in on it. As part of this series, we previously covered: swimming, rowing, running, a guide to picking the right shoe, a three-week campaign to get you out on the road […]

  3. […] you to get your whole family in on it. As part of this series, we previously covered: swimming, rowing, running, a guide to picking the right shoe, a three week campaign to get you out on the road […]

  4. […] series to help you figure the right fitness regime for your body and mind. We previously covered rowing and running, with guide to picking the right shoe and a three week campaign to get you out on the […]

  5. Though I’ve used the indoor machine, I’ve never experienced the actual sport outdoors. Sounds like a lot of fun.

  6. Fantastic. Happy to read about rowing. Been rowing for the last 9 months and its doing wonders. Thanks for the article.

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Demystifying health, healthcare and the secrets of a healthy lifestyle

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Demystifying health, healthcare and the secrets of a healthy lifestyle

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