I know how to row. I actually remember being on a rowing team in primary school but I never got to compete as I was away for a wedding (one of the random things I remember). I never shied away from the rower in the gym either but it only really got the time of day if something else, maybe everything else, was unavailable. I do however remember doing a workout with a friend once where we ran 500m and then rowed 500m for 5 sets. And it was killer. In more recent years, I’ve used the rower with my Personal Training client, so I definitely knew the basics, right?
Well a few weeks ago, I went along to an indoor rowing session with British Rowing and Olympic athlete Alex Gregory and I came away feeling like I wanted my very own rowing machine in my living room (it’s too cold for me to desire being outdoors on the water!). I learnt a lot, and to be honest, being paced by an Olympic athlete on the rower next to you is enough to make anyone work hard enough to get a decent workout.
We started the session by going over some basic technique covering the two phases of the rowing stroke:
1. The Drive where you’re pushing with your legs.
2. The Recovery where you move back to the start.
For the Drive phase, the body movement sequence is – legs, body, arms. Then for the Recovery, it’s the direct opposite – arms, body, legs …60% of the power should come from your legs, 30% body and 10% arms.
One of the biggest takeaways I got from the session was in regards to the ratio between drive:recovery in that they don’t need to be even. The clue is kinda in the name of each phase – drive for the drive and recover on the recovery. This helps you to control the SPM (strokes per minute) by focusing on the power in your drive rather than just sliding up and down the rail! Learning how to do this will help you to row more efficiently and improve your overall pace.
Another major takeaway was about the resistance setting. I’m sure most people think that popping it up to 10 will give you the best workout but I learnt this really wasn’t the case. We were advised that really and truly, you should and can get a decent workout on 5. Yes, just 5.
Last but not least, I realised all the reasons why we should choose the rower over other cardio based pieces of equipment in the gym. The thing with cardio is that most of the time it involves high impact like running which can be tough on your body. Cycling is another great option that I’ve enjoyed especially over the past year but I failed when I tried to keep going outdoors as the weather got colder (mostly down to not having the kit I needed) and cycling on a bike indoors is not for me. You won’t ever find me on a cross-trainer either so that just leaves the humble rowing machine. And it really doesn’t take much time to get a good workout – hence the post title – work smarter. The fact of the matter also is that you get out what you put in; the intensity is determined by the person doing the workout… which also means it’s a suitable piece of equipment for pretty much anyone and everyone!
British Rowing devised a workout personally for me which you can see below. I gave it a try at the gym (slightly modified so I could train with Sophie) but absolutely loved it. I did about 40-50 seconds of each exercise plus the rowing intervals for the circuit having followed the warmup and tabata parts of the programme.
Look out for indoor rowing classes at your local gym or just jump on a rower and get creative (if you’re unsure how to use it ask a member of gym staff to show you the basics).
So who’s gonna give the indoor rower a second chance?!