Gyms, training programs, and exercise routines are constantly changing in today’s fast-paced world. Exercise machines can only try to keep up. There are probably over 750 machines developed by hundreds of manufacturers vying to be in every gym.
One exercise machine that is seen in most gyms is the rowing ergometer (commonly known as the “erg”). The row machine engages all major muscle groups and a number of different energy systems. From the calves to the traps, and from aerobic to anaerobic energy, rowing can provide a litany of benefits that no other exercise can offer.
Rowing is commonly seen as a cardiovascular, endurance-based exercise and is incorrectly grouped with the likes of the treadmill, elliptical and stair climber. The erg offers a number of things that these other machines cannot. It works both the lower and upper body muscles, while helping to develop power.
The erg is a more efficient form of exercise. For a moderate intensity, rowing works at around 8 METs. To achieve this on the treadmill, you would have to run at six mph on a 3 percent incline.
Research has shown that rowing is more beneficial than most sports and common exercises at increasing heart function. Spirito et al. determined that rowing lead to the greatest increases in left ventricular wall thickness (directly related to cardiac output) compared with 27 other activities. That’s right, rowing causes more cardiac adaptations than water polo, boxing and wrestling.
Rowing leads to improvement to your cardiovascular fitness because of the metabolic demand it puts on your body. The increases in power are an even greater benefit. In elite rowers, form and cardiovascular fitness are both very high; however, it is the power that separates boats at the finish line. You can improve power with these training routines both on and off the erg.
Exercises to help rowing power should focus on the primary movers of activity: the quadriceps, back extensors, hip extensors and biceps. Plyometrics are a great way to increase power, for they are usually non-weight bearing explosive movements. Box jumps, plyo push-ups, and ball slams should be added to your routine.
A good exercise for the back extensors is the good morning (watch video above). This will improve your lower back strength to help maintain correct posture while rowing. A great way to improve power in the hip extensors and biceps is the cheat curl.
Incorporating these exercises into your routine will have you rowing with more power. While on the erg, try to mix it up; alternate rowing half the way back and all the way back to begin your routine. This will help to warm-up the muscles and hard-wire the movements.
Another thing to do is to alternate single-leg rowing. This will increase power of each leg individually; thus, providing a more forceful movement in the long run.
Using the ergometer to merely burn calories will waste its true potential. The ergometer can be used as an assessment device to see if your exercise program works. Engaging all the major muscle groups with a convenient display of power output, the erg provides an objective measure of strength increases.
Next time you are looking to switch up your routine, include the ergometer as both a cardiovascular and strength training exercise. You won’t be disappointed.