All you need to know about indoor rowing exercise

A great home exercise alternative. Indoor rowing carries a range of perks. From better body posture and improved cardiac function making it the perfect choice of all

When the pandemic first hit in early 2020, we saw businesses and public places closing down, including gyms, and consequently, home exercising gained greater popularity than ever. Although the situation has improved, home exercise is still a favorite thanks to its practicality and the endless videos and tips widely available online. The search for good, effective workouts is always ongoing and fads come and go. But with so much advancement in exercise equipment technology, the traditional sport of rowing is now available to us indoors.

Gone are the days of needing to join a rowing team and take a boat out on a lake. Now all you need is rowing machine or ergometer which simulates the mechanism of boat-rowing. The exercise itself might not be as popular as running on a treadmill or weigh-lifting but the benefits it carries are as great. Indoor rowing might seem daunting at first but little did we know that it’s more beginner friendly than expected. But before getting into it, you will need to learn more about the technique first to get the most out of the exercise.

Indoor rowing is not a new workout. This exercise has been around surprisingly, for centuries. Tracing back to the 4th Century BC when an Athenian admiral named Chabrias introduced a new device–a rowing machine to supplement military training, by which beginner oarsmen learnt the timing and techniques needed before going onboard ships. The mid-1800s saw the development of rowing machines, featured a hydraulic-based damper design and linear pneumatic resistance. The exercise device was also installed in the gymnasium onboard the famous RMS Titanic.
Nowadays rowing machines come with better, more advanced features to accommodate different needs. In terms of dimension, modern devices have a more compact design compared, with the monstrosity of the ancient Titanic’s rowing machine. These developments have allowed us to make the most of the equipment, gaining maximum benefits from the exercise.

If you have never indoor-rowed before, you might not have an idea of how to do it but the exercise is pretty straightforward. There are two main movements you need to familiarize with: drive and recovery.
Begin by sitting on the set, putting your feet on the footplate, and bending your knees. Adjust your position until you feel comfortable and extend your arms forward while making sure that your shoulders and back are straight, then hold the machine handle with a grip and pull the handle towards your body.
Now, it’s time to do the “drive”. Extend your legs until they are straight while pushing off the footplate using leg muscles. Push the upper body a little back by hinging at your waist, keeping your spine straight, then bend your elbow to pull the grip towards you, making sure your wrists are straight to avoid injury. Try to make your elbows angled behind you while keeping them close to the body. At this point, you have completed a drive.
After completing a drive, you next have to do a “recovery” movement. Start by extending your arms in front of you while straightening your elbows out. Return to a sitting-up position by hinging forward at the waist while keeping your core engaged. Do not curve your spine if possible during this phase. Slide back to the starting point by bending your knees to release the tension and that’s it! You have completed one stroke. Attempt to do this for five minutes first before you prolong the session to get your body used to the movements.

When it comes to benefits, indoor rowing is a superior exercise. According to the American Fitness Professional Association, one stroke of rowing uses about 75% leg work and 25% upper body work, making it a good option
for those looking for full-body exercise. It targets three major lower body muscle groups: quadriceps, calves, and the glutes. Upper-body muscles including pecs, arms, oblique and abdominals also benefit from the workout. In total, around 86% of our muscles are engaged when performing this exercise as indoor rowing “forces” our entire body to move, and not just the arms.
If you are worried about the impact of the exercise, rest assured that indoor rowing has lower risks as a low impact movement and doesn’t add too much stress on your joints while, at the same time, burning significant calories if done properly. The exercise enables you to set your movement and pace, making indoor rowing an effective choice, particularly for those in active recovery from an injury.

Indoor rowing (and rowing in general) is a cardio exercise in nature, meaning that it can strengthen your cardiovascular system which is responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. The system comprises blood vessels and the heart. High cardio rowing makes your heart work harder to transport more blood throughout your body and to your muscles, thanks to the workout’s intensity. As a result, your heart strength improves, which is especially great for those at risk for heart issues.
Rowing combines cardio and strengthening, so your endurance and power will eventually improve over time. In addition, rowing also helps engage the posterior chain of your body which is crucial in reducing the risk of spinal injury, balancing muscle strength, and correcting bad posture.
As a high-intensity interval training (HIIT), indoor rowing can improve cardiac function and burn more calories, even after the workout session is over. Researchers found that a quick HIIT session can improve glucose control, blood pressure, and cardiorespiratory fitness. So if you are short on time, indoor rowing makes an efficient workout option.
Indoor rowing is a perfect choice for beginners as well as vision-impaired people as it’s safe and stationary. It’s suitable for pregnant women as long their baby bump doesn’t get in the way of safe movements. Indoor rowing makes for a complete full-body workout to try at home. However, to reduce your risk of injury, make sure you learn the correct technique from a fitness professional or get advice from a health professional before starting any new fitness regime, especially if you have current health conditions. Happy rowing!