Add the rowing machine to your fitness plan
Crew Row Studio
For years the rowing machine has gathered dust in most gyms’ cardio rooms, with gymgoers favouring treadmills and bikes over cranking cable.
But as HIIT has become more popular,
so has the rowing machine – often called an “ergo”, for the uninitiated – with spin-style group fitness classes popping up around Australia and the
world, offering a low-impact way to burn calories without the monotony typically associated with rowers.
Mike Aldridge started Crew Row in Sydney 18 months ago after trying out some group rowing classes in the States and
“Rowing is a low impact total body workout that hits every muscle in the body with every stroke,” he tells Coach.
“There’s no stress placed on the body like there is in running and there’s no downward force being placed on the lower back, knees, or ankles, so you won’t
exacerbate pre-existing injuries.”
Crew Row classes combine high-intensity interval rowing, as well as toning exercises on the adjacent mat.
“We use beautiful hand-crafted timber WaterRowers, which are designed to sound and feel like you are rowing on water, so no loud fan noise,” Aldridge explains.
“On the mat we use dumbbells, medicine balls and resistance bands. The lights are dimmed, the tunes are up and the trainers motivate you – in just a short
amount of time you are able to torch serious calories.”
Ryan Jeffrey from TKO Fitness in Bendigo also runs rowing group classes that attract a lot of first-time rowers.
“I find that no one I do rowing with indoors has an interest in going out on the water,” he says.
“With spin classes you’re using primarily just legs but with rowing you’re using your full body, so upper and lower body, and it’s low impact as well.”
The rowing lingo
If you’re keen to dabble in rowing, then you’ll likely soon start talking about your 2k time — how fast you can complete 2000m.
“2k is the benchmark to how good you can row – people say, ‘What’s your 2k time?'” Jeffrey says.
“A fairly fit male could do a sub-seven-minute 2k and a female would be under eight minutes.”
Modern rowing machines are pretty good at simulating the water, and changing the intensity is like changing the size of oar you’re using.
“You don’t want the stroke rate [strokes per minute] being too high,” Jeffrey explains.
“If you’ve got it at a 10, you’ve got those really big oars, pulling slow through the water. Or if you go lower then you’ve got a smaller oar, where it’s
going faster through the water but you’re not getting as much power out of it.”
Technique is critical
One of the biggest mistakes rowing newbies make is using their upper body too much.
“A lot of people get on and just try and use their arms, but it’s majority legs – it’s about 70 percent legs, 20 percent hips and about 10 percent arms,”
“Most people just go hell for leather and just rip their arms. The idea is you’ve just got to think more legs, and the arms are just the secondary movement
that’s holding the handle and just giving you a little bit at the end. You’ve got to have the feeling of pushing with your legs away, instead of trying
to pull the oar.”
Getting a good hip hinge is also crucial.
“A lot of people have issues when they bend through their back instead of using their hips to hinge,” Jeffrey says.
“Rowing is actually really good for people with hip issues, because it strengthens those hips and lower back as well, but you’ve just got to get the back
DIY rowing class
If you can’t get to a group rowing class, Jeffrey says a 20-minute solo session on a machine will deliver serious body benefits.
“You could do interval training where you go flat-out for a minute then rest for two minutes,” he says.
“As you progress you could go to a minute on and a minute off, and you might get to two minutes on and then a one-minute rest once your fitness really
Keeping tabs on your 2k time is a good way to keep motivated to progress.
“Say you have an eight-minute pace for 2k, then you can say, ‘Right, I’m going to work on 7:30 minute for 2k in my interval times’. You just push a little
bit harder, because you know you’re going to get a rest at the end of each minute,” Jeffrey explains.
If you enjoy metrics, you can set up new model rowers to track everything too.
“You can track power, pace and stroke rate – that takes the boredom out a little bit,” Jeffrey says.
“You might test your 2k in another couple of months, and hopefully that would improve because you’ve been pushing that with that break in between.
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