HomeFitnessFitness trends › Discover The Best Steps To Get Better At Rowing

Winter is coming, and sometimes continuing to exercise outdoors simply won't work, particularly in the case of everyone out there who enjoys kayaking, canoeing, or rowing. Once the lakes freeze over, there needs to be something indoors that can be done. Enter the rowing machine!

Of course, the reason I'm spreading the word on rowing for cardio is because, like many folks, I had started to grow tired of logging large amounts of time on treadmills, ellipticals, and exercise bikes. Now that my gym finally placed a rower amongst those other machines, I simply can't get enough. The movements on a rowing machine very closely mimic the movements you'd perform on the water, which is part of the other growing trend in fitness -- triathlons that include rowing instead of swimming.

One of our employees at Wellki participated in one of these events just this past summer, and thought it was an absolute blast. However, one question he had asked me, and I'm sure he's not alone on this, is how do you get better at rowing? The interesting thing about getting better at rowing is, you have to start moving away from the machine!

The rowing motion engages muscles of the whole body during every movement. Take a look at the video below, a demonstration of proper rowing form on a Concept 2 rowing model.


As you can see, the motion involves so much more than your typical 'rowing' exercises in the gym, in which you're highlighting the back muscles. Let's move away from those exercises, and focus on what you can be doing throughout the body to get better at rowing.


This is the beginning of the motion, and provides most of the power to your rowing stroke. Once you push off from the pedals, the force of the rest of the motion is all thanks to the momentum created by your leg muscles. Because this is so important, you'll want to start incorporating barbell squats and deadlifts to your exercise routine away from the rower, in order to build brute strength. There are many different workouts you can do here, but I recommend either three or five sets of five repetitions -- using heavy weights. This is the best way to build the strength you need to get better.


The middle part of your rowing motion is predicated upon keeping your entire body in a straight line, and not moving in any other direction. This is all held together by the muscles of your abdominal core. You may not notice your abs or obliques working hard during a rowing session, but strengthening those muscles will go a long way to getting you faster and more efficient. The best exercise you can be doing here is planks. Don't waste your time with worthless ab crunches, because a series of plank holds will strengthen the ENTIRE core. Try to do one to two minutes of a prone plank hold, followed by 30 seconds to one minute on either side. This will help to create dense muscle, which is perfect for streamlined rowing.


The top portion of the rowing movement incorporates a lot of your back muscles, but the tip top of the motion involves your shoulder muscles -- the deltoids. A strong set of shoulder muscles will help to balance the upper body and head during a row, but also serves to improve the stabilizing muscles of your arms (biceps/triceps). The trio of exercises that works best for building shoulder strength is the front raise, the lateral raise, and the reverse fly. Since you should muscles aren't as large as something like your legs, you'll want to do three to four sets of 12-15 repetitions. The last thing you want during rowing training is an injury to your shoulders, which would render you nearly immobile!

Now that you've got a handle on how to gain the strength you need to become a better rower, your next step is to build up your cardiovascular and muscle endurance. But you've got to do it the proper way, by starting out slow, and building up proper technique. Study the movement featured in the above video, and make sure you're got a good feel for the rowing stroke. From there, you can begin to experiment with your rowing workouts on an indoor machine.

I'd highly recommend taking a stroll over to Concept 2's incredible site, where you have the option of checking out an entire vault of great workouts. That, or you can certainly request to have different workouts emailed to you -- daily! Check out the website by clicking on the link below.

Concept 2 Homepage

You have the best tools to become the greatest rower you possibly can be. So don't let the winter months discourage you, because now you have all the time in the world to focus on technique and strength! The ice will eventually melt, and you'll be prepared to hit the water at full speed for your next outdoor rowing session!


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