How can you get the best workout on the rowing machine?
Well - it might not be exactly how you might think.
It’s typical for new rowers to assume that the faster that you move on the rowing machine, the better the workout you get.
I’m here to tell you that this isn’t necessarily true and in today’s post I want to give you some things to think about when you get on the rowing machine and are planning on getting a good one in!
Why rowing isn’t like any other machine
Take a look at the normal cardio machines. Treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes...all these machines are well known and used very often.
Let’s do a thought experiment here: imagine 2 people.
Bob and John.
Bob is walking on a treadmill at a pace of “3” while watching a TV that hangs above.
John is running hard at a pace of a “7” with a focused look.
Who would you say is working harder, and getting the better workout?
I think it is easy to see that John is getting a better workout because he’s putting in more effort. To be able to maintain a pace at a setting of a “7” means that he must keep his body moving quicker than if he was at a “3”, like Bob.
What if we used the Bike as another example?
If you saw Bob and John both on a bike with one moving the pedals slower, and one moving them faster...you would imagine that the person moving the pedals quicker is getting a better workout.
Visually, this makes sense and it’s very easy to point out those who are working hard, and those who are taking it easy.
However when you look at 2 people rowing - the picture isn’t so clear.
Rowing isn’t a machine that “does the work for you”. For example with the treadmill - the machine generates a speed of a 3 or a 7, forcing the person to match that pace. Someone who matches a 7 pace is generating more force, power, and speed than the person walking at a 3 pace.
Rowing is therefore more difficult to understand how to get a better workout because speed doesn’t actually mean you are working harder.
Let me explain..
Why your effort matters more in rowing
Hopefully if you are reading this - you’ve been on a rower before. I’m going to speak specifically from a “concept 2” rower perspective as it has a flywheel (fan) that you can audibly hear every stroke.
The cool thing about this fan is that the sound that it makes directly is impacted by the amount of force you are putting into the machine.
For example if you see someone who is on the rower yet you can barely hear the fan moving inside - they probably aren’t putting that much force into the machine, and therefore not getting a great workout.
On the other end, if the fan is loud - this person is putting a lot of force into the machine which causes that fan to spin hard rather than softly.
This is a quick and easy way to understand if you are putting in hard work or not comparatively.
Sliding back and forth quickly only increases rate, not power
So let’s assume that you can’t hear any noise from someone rowing. You are shut off and looking behind a glass wall.
How would you know who is working harder?
Would it be the person who is moving quickly from the first position (the catch) to the final position (the recovery)?
Someone who is sliding back and forth quickly you would think that this is someone who is putting in a lot of effort because,...hey in any cardio machine it’s usually the person who is moving quickly through the movement that is generating more work.
On the opposite end, someone who is moving very slowly on the rowing machine can be seen as not working as hard. Slow movement usually means slow, less powerful work.
However this is an important distinction to understand since the speed of movement on the machine only accounts into the “RATE” of how you row.
The more important part is the SPLIT or force you are putting into the machine.
So then think about this : by pushing harder with your legs but moving slowly back to “the catch” is going to reap you more benefits in your fitness and health then just pushing lightly through the feet but increasing your RATE of how quickly you get back to the start position.
Ultimately, it’s on you to put work into the machine
The beauty of the rower is found in this : you decide how to put work into the machine. You have complete control over how hard you work and how fast you work.
For some, this might be a turn off since it’s more form and skill based. Knowing how to properly PUSH with the legs will generate more power and ultimately, a better workout.
This takes time to practice and get used to but I promise you that you’ll feel amazing after thinking about force rather than speed.
Effort is the driving force, literally, for the row. Increase your effort in the correct way and you’ll increase your rowing ability, which will increase your overall fitness!