Rowing for Every Body
Are there rowers in your gym or training facility?
If there are rowers (ergs) in your gym, how many are there? Who's using them, and how?¬†Whatever your training goals, rowing can be an integral part of every session. Rowing will¬†enhance a functional training program, helping to build general strength and cardio fitness. If you're cross-training for cycling or other sports, rowing will maximize core stability and activate¬†muscles needed to compete at your best.¬†For powerlifting, or hypertrophy and bodybuilding,¬†rowing for power will augment your weight training. Rowing is gaining popularity. Rowing is incorporated into CrossFit¬†WODs (In CrossFit¬†lingo, ""Workout Of The Day"").¬†But even if the indoor rower is used regularly, the erg is usually the most misunderstood equipment in training facilities. And many trainers are¬†untrained in rowing coaching, having no idea how to train an effective, efficient stroke.¬†
Gym members often use the erg to warm up, or sometimes as the cardio portion of a¬†training session, but it can be a much more integral part of your program.
Personal trainers may not have rowing experience or a coaching certification, so they may not¬†be prepared to help clients make the most of rowing. Gym members may be yanking the¬†handle, throwing the body back, reaching too far forward, back rounded, knees popping up, with¬†the chain going up and over the knees. Rowing with impaired mechanics isn't very effective, so¬†at the least it won't be very worthwhile in training, and at worst it may lead to injury. As a trainer you can learn the efficient, effective, safe, and fun way to maximize your time on the rowing¬†machine and provide coaching for your clients!
I've been told, ""Your arms look great. Rowing is a great arm workout!""
Arms are only about 20% of the stroke. The remaining 80% is mostly legs and hips, plus core¬†(anterior and posterior). Approximately 90% of the muscles in the body are utilized in every¬†stroke, and each stroke replicates the most essential human movements. The intensity (leg drive), plus speed (stroke rate, spm) of each stroke is controlled by the person on the erg, and¬†each stroke generates power. Remember the formula in physics class? Mass x Velocity =¬†POWER. Everyone, at any training level, at any age, and for cross training any sport from cyclists to powerlifters can benefit from effective rowing as a tool to gain strength, and build¬†cardiovascular fitness.
So how can you learn to row, and to train clients?
The Concept2¬†rower is the most popular in the world. The website offers training tips and¬†videos, and you can search for a certified coach in your area. You can learn on your own of¬†course, but coaching really helps!¬†Whatever type of rowing machine you find at your facility, all have the components in common:¬†a rail, seat, stretchers and straps (for feet), handle, chain, and some form of resistance.¬†It's easy to learn to row, but like learning to play the piano, you'll need to learn the basics first.¬†You learn the notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, then chords, and with practice you'll play¬†concertos. Your rowing will also improve continually with practice!¬†Anyone can learn to row.
The basics - learn a rowing stroke that's efficient and effective.
The rowing stroke is a deadlift, with a high pull, done again and again. Like learning to lift, use¬†the biggest, strongest muscles to do the work (hips and legs), not the back, and avoid doing too¬†much too soon. It's unlikely that you would be injured rowing, but best to build gradually, learn to¬†control the stroke rate, being intentional and consistent. Parts of the stroke: Catch, leg drive, finish, recovery - all flow together in a smooth, continuous movement.
- Focus on consistency in stroke rate, a steady pace (split and spm), and an effective leg drive.¬†Learn to keep a slow, steady stroke rate to develop strength (16-18 spm).
- Many untrained rowers shoot for a high stroke rate, rowing super fast, often in circuit programs¬†where members run to the rower to do their ""fastest"" time, without focusing on the intensity of¬†the leg drive at all. Rowing fast without intensity would be like riding a bike in the easiest gear,¬†spinning the legs but not really going anywhere. First, focus on the intensity of the leg drive, with¬†a steady stroke rate of between 16-18, then add velocity (spm, stroke rate).
- The rowing stroke is a deadlift. Like a deadlift, the chain should move in a straight line, so the¬†knees should be down as the handle passes them moving forward to the catch. Keep the back¬†straight, and hinge at the hips, using the simple mantra for the order of the parts of the stroke,¬†""hips, knees, knees, hips.""
- Allow the handle and chain to move in a clean line beginning with the catch, and back to the¬†finish with the handle at the sternum. With each stroke, drive through the feet, then legs, glutes,¬†and finally pull the handle, moving smoothly, then engage the core into the lay back at the finish,¬†moving smoothly forward through recovery, to the catch again.
- Breathe! Exhale on the leg drive. 2 exhales are ok too!
So what about that dial on the side of the fan?
""If I set it up higher up to 10, isn't a better workout""? Nope. You've gotten on the rower at the¬†gym and you've seen the damper setting at 10. That's the damper - which opens and closes¬†from 1-10, allowing air to flow into the fan. The higher the setting, the harder it will be to row. It would be like riding a bike in the hardest gear. Not efficient, and you'd tire out really soon. Pro¬†rowers, collegiate, and Olympians train most of the time between 3-5 on the damper. The higher¬†settings may be used in training for sprints, which you might need only about 10% of your own,¬†or you clients' training. Keep your damper at around 3-5 for you and everyone you train. It's the¬†""feel of water.""
Trainers - how you can utilize rowing in an effective strength and cardio program.
- Rowing is a full-body workout, engaging most of the muscles of the body with every stroke.¬†BUT- rowing is a bilateral motion, meaning that 2 legs are used together, so it's important to¬†include unilateral, single leg exercises in your own and your clients' programs. In addition, rowing is a linear (sagittal plane) movement, so in programing, add lateral (frontal plane)¬†exercises, as well as rotational (transverse plane), and stabilization exercises for a complete¬†and effective program.
- Rowing is great for high intensity interval training (HIIT), plus strength training.¬†A slow stroke rate (18 spm or even less), with a strong leg drive will develop strength, muscular¬†endurance, and cardio. Gradually include drills with faster stroke rates.
Get creative and have fun!