If you are looking for a cardio workout to give you the best bang for your buck and want to increase your cardiovascular fitness and develop full-body muscle tone at the same time, then the humble rowing ergometer may just be the piece of gym equipment you need to become acquainted with.
Sessions on the rowing ergometer can be manipulated to suit training goals, fitness level, and time availability.
Unlike many other modes of exercise, rowing is a true full-body activity – the more muscles your body uses, the greater the benefits. Rowing uses virtually every major muscle group in your body. With little pressure on the joints, due to the activity’s low-impact nature, rowing works the legs, hips and buttocks with each stroke.
Rowing also engages the core and upper-body muscles, strengthening the back, shoulders and arms. Because rowing is low-impact, it may also be suitable for some individuals who are unable to weight bear due to injury or surgery and users can decrease leg compression and speed depending on their injury.
While steady-state rowing sessions will still lead to fitness gains, combining interval training on the rowing ergometer has been shown to be an effective way to improve rowing performance, decrease body fat percentage and enhance cardiovascular fitness in athletes.1,2 Studies have also shown that interval training may reduce risk factors for metabolic syndrome, and improve bone mineral density in sedentary older women.3
A study by Driller and colleagues showed that four weeks (seven sessions) of high-intensity interval training (HIT) on a rowing ergometer was able to improve 2000m rowing time by 8.2 seconds, improve VO2max/aerobic capacity, and decrease body fat percentage when compared with a more traditional type of rowing session.1
Try the specific interval training session as used in this study to refresh your cardio sessions and to take a break from the treadmill, cross trainer or stationary bike (see HIT protocol below).
If you are new to rowing, it might be difficult to complete all eight intervals, so you could start by aiming to complete two or three and work your way up.
Before embarking on the interval sessions outlined, perform a maximal four minute rowing test on an appropriate rowing ergometer and record your average power for the four minutes (watts). This is the value that you will use to determine how hard you will work during your intervals and active recovery between intervals.
It is important to note that rowing is an excellent form of exercise, but it’s not without risks. Poor form can result in injury, particularly to the lower back. If you’ve never used a rowing machine before, ask for tips from a trainer to ensure you’re using correct technique.
A specialist in exercise rehabilitation and chronic disease management, Kristina Jessup, Sport and Rehab consultant at UniRec, uses “exercise as medicine”.
Trained to provide carefully tailored exercise programmes for people from all walks of life and particularly those who may have struggled with exercise in the past; have particular limitations which prevent them from exercising, or those that simply don’t know where to start, Kristina has a wealth of experience spanning eight years and provides expert advice in chronic disease management and musculoskeletal rehabilitation.
A specialist in exercise rehabilitation and chronic disease management, Kristina Jessup is a sport and rehab consultant at UniRec and uses “exercise as medicine”. Trained to provide carefully tailored exercise programmes for people from all walks of life and particularly those who may have struggled with exercise in the past; have particular limitations which prevent them from exercising, or those who simply don’t know where to start, Kristina has a wealth of experience spanning eight years and provides expert advice in chronic disease management and musculoskeletal rehabilitation.
1 Driller, M., Fell, J., Gregory, J., Shing, C., & Williams, A. (2009). The effects of high-intensity interval training in well-trained rowers. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 4(1), 110-121.
2 Shing, C. M., Webb, J. J., Driller, M. W., Williams, A. D., & Fell, J. W. (2013). Circulating adiponectin concentration and body composition are altered in response to high-intensity interval training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(8), 2213-2218.
3 Kohrt, W. M., Ehsani, A. A., & Birge, S. J. (1997). Effects of Exercise Involving Predominantly Either Joint‐Reaction or Ground‐Reaction Forces on Bone Mineral Density in Older Women. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 12(8), 1253-1261.