There is one thing about indoor rowing that I really like. It is as close to a complete, non-impact body workout as you can get. Today's 30 minute workout has me sore in places that I forgot I had. Rowing is also great for the legs. Most people think that rowing is all about pulling oars (or the handle on a rowing machine). Actually, rowing is all about pushing with legs. My son, who is training for the upcoming racing season, is required to do literally hundreds of jump squats every week. There is not a person around a boat house with quadriceps smaller than a small oak tree.
In fact, the rowing stroke can be broken into four major steps:
- The Drive: The Drive begins by pressing down your legs. The legs provide force. In a boat, the drive with the legs translates into movement of the boat. Press to the rear and the boat moves forward. On an ergometer, the leg press starts the flywheel moving and translates into flywheel momentum. During the drive, the arms remain straight and back firm to transfer your leg power up to the handle. Anyone who bends their back or arms during the drive is not transferring all the force of the legs into movement or momentum. The last part of the drive is to gradually bend the arms and swing back with your upper body, prying against the legs until you reach a slight backward lean at the finish.
- The Finish: The Finish involves puling the handle all the way into your abdomen. Tforce to either the boat or the flywheel, translating into speed.
- The Recovery: The Recovery involves a number of motions. First, the arms are extended toward the flywheel on an ergometer or toward your feet on a boat. This is a critical step in a stroke. You'll often hear rowing coaches telling their students to "swing the arms". It is critical that the arms move quickly to the front. Any hesitation in a boat results in oars dragging in the water and loss of speed. On an ergometer, hestiation results in slowing the flywheel down. Once the arms are extended (elbows literally locked), lean your upper body forward at the hips to follow the arms and gradually bend legs to slide forward on the seat. These last two steps should take place much slower than the rest of the stroke, as this is the time to "rest" (okay - at least to breathe in) during the stroke. For an experienced rower, this step provides just the little rest that allows them to explode into the next stroke.
- The Catch: This is the final step of the rowing stroke. It really describes the result of proper recovery. At the Catch, the shins are vertical, the upper body should be leaning forward at the hips, arms fully extended. You are ready to take the next stroke.
When you think about this motion, you can see that the rowing stroke provides a workout for the quads, lower back and abs (Drive), arms, shoulders and obliques (Finish), calves and abs (Recovery). Rowing for 30 minutes provides about 600 repetitions - all with no impact on the joints. Talk about working up a sweat. Whew. For me, an hour of rowing is about a 1200 calorie workout. Of course, that's becuase I am the Running Fat Guy......