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Row Row Row Your Boat

The Benefits of Rowing


There was a time where rowing was my life. It was the headspace on the water early in the morning that got my day started and allowed me to place the weight of my mind into my body. It takes focus, dedication, and form to find strength in every stroke. It gave me a community, a team, and friends that stuck by me during High School. Here at Heron Creek we may not have an actual creek in the gym to row on, but we have rowing machines that can create a perfect full-body workout. 

Daelyn at Head of Trent 2016


There are many benefits to using a rowing machine as an alternative to running or other forms of cardio. This full-body exercise is accessible to everyone and is considered low-impact. This can be really helpful for people with joint pain (like myself!) who find it hard to use fitness bikes or treadmills. Rowing is also great for improving posture and creates space for heart and lung health as a cardiovascular exercise. 

As someone who really enjoys rowing, I prefer it outdoors and on the water rather than on a rowing machine. But rowing machines are still a great way to get your cardio in or for a war-up before weight lifting. Rowing clubs provide a community that keeps you committed to showing up early in the morning even when it's hard to get out of bed. It’s a great way for you to connect with nature and get some sun while your body works out. Rowing clubs and teams are also good for competition, as there is nothing like race day. The anticipation and the drive to push yourself, beat your times, and push your team is unmatched. Rowing is just an overall fun sport that I highly recommend for us fitness enthusiasts as an alternative to other forms of cardio. 

Things to Avoid on a Rowing Machine:

  1. Not engaging your core - during the pull, engaging your core is crucial to the strength or power in a stroke. Without the core engagement pressure can transfer into your back and hips.

  2. Bending knees during recovery - In the recovery position (legs flat, back backwards, arms pulled into body), if your knees are bent, it can change the tempo of the stroke throwing off some of the power you could have had. The important part of rowing is keeping a steady and strong stroke. 

  3. Over extending knees over feet - There is such a thing as reaching too far in your stroke. Your legs should be just over 90 degrees. Going too far can cause injury - take it from me, I got a horrible knee injury in 10th grade during a race because of this. Going too deep can over extend the muscle and have serious consequences. I was off of training for several months due to this.

  4. Rounding your back - Rounding your back can place pressure onto your shoulders and upper back that can lead to injury - KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT

  5. Back moving before legs during the pull - Rowing is very sequential! Check the video below for proper form! By moving your back before your legs have flattened, you lose significant power your back has. Doing the full sequence guarantees all the power your body can give you for each stroke.

  6. Don’t rush the slide - Setting a good pace is important for endurance and distance!

Rowing Form Video

Fun Rowing Terms:

Coxswain: A person who sits at the Bow of the row boat to help control the steering, and pace of the stroke. They are the spokesperson for the crew, letting them know distance left in the race, possible obstacles, and other important information during a race.

Crab: When the oar gets caught in the water and drags (Trust me, they hurt).

Let it Run: A phrase used to halt rowing and let momentum carry the boat.

Feathering: When the rower twists the oar parallel with the water during a stroke.

Port: Left side of the boat when facing forward.

Starboard: Right side of the boat face forward.

Regatta: Name of a rowing competition

Rudder: A small fin on the bottom of the boat that the coxswain uses to steer the boat.

Stroke: Term for both the person who sits at the front of the bow near the coxie who sets the pace of the boat and the complete rowing motion, consisting of the release, recovery, catch, drive and finish

Squaring: Oar blades are perpendicular with the water ready to plung in. Square up is a term that can be heard right before the whistle blows at the beginning of a race.

Sweeping: Type of rowing style where each rower has one oar evenly spaced either on port or starboard side. These can be seen in Quads (Four seater boats) and Octuples (Eight seater boats).

Sculling: Type of rowing style where each rower has two oars. These are seen inside singles and pairs (2 person boat)

Sprint: The last 500 meters of a race. Also refers to a race substantially shorter than 2,000 meters, or shorter than 1,500 meters in high school competition.

Stern: The rear of the boat; the direction the rowers are facing.

Bow : The forward section of the boat; the end that crosses the finish line first. Also refers to the first seat rower, who occupies the seat farthest forward.

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