For many of us, our first rowing exposure is watching the Olympics or a high-level regatta, and the experience is incomparable – the elegance, accuracy and athleticism on display at this level are almost super-human.
With the sustained growth of the fitness industry and an increasing number of rowing machines on the market, rowing isn’t just a sport for those looking for Olympic gold; it’s now truly accessible and allows you to develop your physical attributes but on a much deeper layer.
The overall layers of fitness are deep and are not just limited to your aerobic fitness, Flexibility, Strength, Coordination, Balance and Power. These can all be developed independently however, as you have heard us say, here at Dark Horse, we genuinely believe rowing gives you all of these abilities once you have mastered the basics of performing the rowing stroke.
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The question now becomes, what deeper attributes does rowing create that allow it to be seen as one of the best sports out there? Well, it comes down to three main areas:
Unlike other aerobic sports that require your body to work each side independently, rowing provides a movement that trains both sides of the body equally, i.e. symmetry, and a symmetrical body gives the perfect platform for your long-term health.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for some additional work to iron out a few imbalances; however, rowing is a bilateral, linear endurance sport (repeating the same action for sustained periods), where you place a load equally on the body and as a result;
Rowing develops strength equally on both the body’s front and back and the left and right sides. With time and consistency, its movement removes any muscular imbalances you may have.
In the real world, the rowing movement builds to activities such as going from a seated to a standing position or maintaining an upright posture. It becomes the right blend of developing strength that connects beautifully to real-world activity and underpins great human movement on all levels.
If you want the dictionary definition, then dynamic strength is the ability of the neuromuscular system to overcome resistance with a high speed of contraction. Let’s be honest, when you talk about dynamic strength, you mean – ROWING.
The change of direction during the drive and recovery phases and the sequencing of the body with your leg, torso, and arm movements are all dynamic strength movements that require you to balance the pressure and timing of the stroke equally so you don’t fatigue early or risk injury.
Rowing teaches you to control the force you produce and learn to maintain it for either longer, more sustained endurance work or repeated shorter sprint efforts. This is the textbook definition of dynamic strength control.
Imagine you are taking the grandkids to the park, and they want you to run around with them. You know that those bundles of joy will have energy for days, so with all that dynamic strength rowing has developed, you can now keep up and show them who’s really in charge!
If you’ve ever been diagnosed with asthma or had any respiratory issues, you know just how tough it can be to try and exercise without your lungs working at 100%.
This is where rowing comes into its own, as it has the ability to increase the strength of the respiratory system overall and how our body can take in, transport, and utilize gases around the body.
We know that having a high level of aerobic endurance is good but what’s amazing about rowing is that it provides your body with the ability to increase your endurance capacities far higher than most other training disciplines by improving your VO2 Max (The amount of O2 your body can deliver oxygen to working muscles and tolerate the fatiguing waste products effects). Physiological aspects of training in rowing (Steinacker, J. M. (1993). Physiological aspects of training in rowing. International journal of sports medicine, 14, S3-S3)
It would be selfish to say rowing is the only sport to do this, but when linked to your neural system and the brain, you realize that the rhythmic movement of rowing ties in with other functions controlled there.
Namely your rhythmicity area (rhythmic cycling of inhalation and exhalation), the pneumotoxic area (rate of breathing), and the apneustic area (depth of breath). Each one is responsible for more profound control of the respiratory system, and all are directly improved by a better VO2 Max that rowing provides.
“Right, John” you’re saying, “Thanks for all of that technical talk which makes no sense to me.”
Don’t worry; here are the tangible benefits.
When you improve your ability to control breathing, with it come a host of benefits. First? You calm down. That’s right, your parasympathetic nervous system, the one that helps you chill out when you’re worked up, requires that you slow down your breathing and have control of your breath.
It’s why meditation can be so beneficial, you learn to slow your breathing. And guess what you’re doing when you improve your “rhythmicity”? You’re learning to control your breathing…aka training yourself to trigger “chill-out” mode.
The second of these benefits is you get really good at moving oxygen to your body. That means in your day-to-day life, you feed higher levels of oxygen to your brain and muscles. You’ll get better at decision-making (”Should I have that second serving or not?”), clarity (”What do I want out of life?”), and speed (”how quick do I need to move my hand to catch that fly with my chopsticks?”)
All-in-all what you’ve done is improve your quality of life. We could define that a million little ways, but stacked together…that’s what you get.
Want to know your rowing VO2? Try this Concept 2 VO2 calculator and see how you line up
Significant return on investment, low barrier to entry, and the ability to up-skill as you find your feet; this is where the rowing movement is perfect, so what are you waiting for!? Head to The Crew and start your journey to being a better human using rowing. The CREW!