Did you catch any of the rowing during the Olympics this summer and wondered how it would feel to move so smoothly over the water with perfect coordination? While rowing in the water with a team is typically limited to organized and exclusive groups, you can get the same exercise in the gym. Rowing machines are a great aerobic workout. While often thought to mainly focus on the upper body, in reality, it is a full-body, low-intensity workout with many lower body benefits if you know what you are doing. Here’s everything you need to know to get started with rowing. 

How to Get Started With Rowing

Getting into rowing can be as easy as going to the gym and checking out the rowing machines you’ve been eyeing. If your rowing appeal includes the water, there are rowing clubs that often have classes for beginners and recreational teams. 

While it may be easy to assume that upper body strength is the key to rowing, when you try out the rowing machine at the gym your legs will be put to the test!

As with many types of exercise, good form on the rowing machine is the first step towards getting a good workout. You can go in-depth into the intricacies of proper rowing form, but we will give you a broad overview to get you started. 

Starting slow, you want to sit in the rowing machine with your legs bent and arms straight in the starting position called the “catch”. In this position your shins should be perpendicular to the ground, your seat should come near your heels and your arms should be reaching forward. 

You may want to practice rowing with just your legs while keeping your arms and back straight to get the feeling of activating your legs for most of your strength.

Push all the way back until your legs are straight, then hinge slightly back at the hips while using your arms to pull the handle straight into the center of your stomach. When pulling with your arms, keep your shoulders down and pull directly back. Imagine you are pulling your shoulder blades back and together. Make sure to engage your core.

Then reverse your motions, extend your arms as you bend your knees, moving back towards your starting position. Remember to keep your core engaged throughout so that you’re not pulling or pushing from your lower back. Don’t forget the proper cadence is legs, back arms on the drive and the reverse order coming back to the catch position.

While it may seem choppy at first, soon you will get into a rhythm and be as smooth as the rowers you see in the Olympics. At the very least, you’ll get to try an effective, low-impact cardio workout. Also, blisters are a normal part of trying a new activity that your hands may not be used to. In the beginning of your rowing journey you may get sore spots or small blisters on your hands where you hold the handle. The more regularly you row, the more quickly you will develop calluses, so keep practicing!

Mental and Physical Health Benefits

There are a number of reasons to try out rowing in your workout routine. Maybe you have knee pain and need a low-intensity workout or maybe you are just looking to diversify your fitness routine. Rowing is one of many different cardio fitness options that can elevate your mental and physical health. 

Rowing uses 85% percent of your muscles for a full-body workout that isn’t too hard on the joints. Additionally, rowing can improve your mental health, as well. Like many repetitive cardio activities, the more you get comfortable rowing the more likely you are to enjoy the meditative benefits of the activity.

Rowing also makes it easier to focus on other aspects of life when not rowing. Cardio activities focus your mind and train your body at the same time by demanding endurance, strength, balance, and mental discipline all at once. Rowing is a full body aerobic workout and is an under-utilized cardio activity that can work for any fitness level. Add rowing into your fitness routine and see how low-impact cardio helps build endurance and strength.

Want to get more out of your workouts? Check out our other blogs about fitness, mental health, and creating a lasting healthy lifestyle.