Ever wondered how to use a rowing machine in the gym? World Champion and Team GB rower Matthew Tarrant shows us exactly how to use a rowing machine to get the most out of your workout – A Healthista TV exclusive
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For years it has been all about spin and group cycle classes, but now it’s time for spin classes to step aside and make room for the new trend of 2019 – indoor rowing.
In a bid to help British Rowing get 10,000 more women indoor rowing by 2021, they have created #SheRows, a national campaign targeting women who want to return to exercise after having had a break due to life or family commitments.
Indoor rowing is a highly effective and efficient workout
Indoor rowing has become increasingly popular, and is seen as a highly effective and efficient workout and over 100,000 British homes now own their own rowing machines.
What’s more, 2019 is the year that will see the rise of the dedicated – and super-glamourous – rowing studio. A wave of dedicated studios such as New York’s CITYROW and Sydney’s Club Row already exist outside Britain.
November 2018 saw the opening of the hotly anticipated Engine Room, Britain’s first dedicated rowing studio set up by personal trainer Chris Heron and backed by Olympic Rower Matthew Tarrant.
Set in a Grade II listed church, Matt’s new How To Row video (above) – exclusive to Healthista TV – has been shot at Engine Room’s incredible new rowing studio.
The world champion and Olympic hopeful Matthew Tarrant
Matthew Tarrant, 28, is a double World Champion rower who was named one of two reserves for the openweight men’s squad for Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Tarrant has also progressed through the ranks of the GB Rowing Team, winning a host of medals.
At just 15 years old Matthew was competing at his first world championships
In 2017, Tarrant won two golds and a silver in the World Cup series of regattas in the men’s four, before going on to win a bronze medal at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton behind Australia and Italy.
Tarrant has been rowing for 14 years, and 12 of those include rowing at an international level for the Great Britain Rowing Team (Team GB). At just 15, Matthew was competing at his first world championships.
Tarrant is also the founder of Row Elite, and indoor rowing specialist facility, offering individually-tailored expert coaching, for all experience levels and sporting backgrounds.
Rowing is seriously good for you
Rowing is seriously good for you. Not only an all over calorie-annihilating exercise, it’s also a low impact exercise that will have a positively huge impact on your health.
Not only does rowing promote weight loss and a healthy body composition (the proportion of fat and fat-free mass in your body) it also helps build healthy heart cardiorespiratory system.
Although it’s indeed seen as cardiovascular training, rowing is also great for building muscle strength. The primary muscles that rowing works are the quadriceps (the large muscles in front of your thighs). Other muscles worked during rowing include, the lower and middle back, glutes, hamstrings, calves, biceps and your core.
In fact rowing is one of the few non-weight bearing sports that exercises all the major muscle groups.
Rowing is an all over calorie-annihilating exercise and also a low impact exercise
Trouble is, most of us don’t know how to row correctly. For example, did you know that it’s really all about pushing on your legs rather than pulling on your handles with your hands (see video and below)? So, who better to show us how than a world champion Olympic rower.
Over to you, Matthew.
How to use a rowing machine: Step #1 Resistance
Hands up who usually puts the resistance up as high as it will go. That is usually the norm, because naturally we think that a higher resistance will mean a tougher workout, but according to Tarrant this will only increase chances of injury.
‘Never go into a gym, sit down on a rowing machine and put the resistance up as high as it will go. All this will do is greater your chances of injuring yourself. Around half resistance is a great place to start,’ says Tarrant.
How to use a rowing machine: Step #2 Foot Placement
Look at where you are placing your feet. You need to adjust your foot straps so they sit around the toe joint, Tarrant advises.
By having your feet too high you may be limiting your stroke length and your overall technique could be compromised.
Similarly, if your feet are too low then your leg drive wont be as powerful. Often when a person has their feet too low, they tend to bounce back and forth as the elasticity of their leg ligaments and tendons responds to the over-compression of their legs. As a result, you could also over-stretch you lower back, putting unwanted pressure on your lumbar spine and adding to your chances of possible injury.
How to use a rowing machine: Step #3 Push don’t pull
Instead of just pulling with your arms, Tarrant explains that pushing off with the legs instead is what gives the body power during rowing.
‘What you don’t want to be doing is starting the stroke by pulling on the handle,’ explains Tarrant. ‘Leave your arms long and loose and enjoy pushing through your legs at the start of every stroke’.
How to use a rowing machine: Step #4 Rowing within your range
Don’t get too caught up in leaning back as far as you can and thinking this means you are hitting the correct posture. Leaning too far back will only make you feel uncomfortable and again could add to your chances of possible injury.
‘You don’t want to be rowing so long that when you finish the stroke, you’re almost horizontal,’ says Tarrant. ‘You want to be thinking that you’re sat in an armchair at the end of the stroke’.
Tarrant continues, ‘Never sit back too far asthat will put pressure through your hip joints and potentially overuse the quad muscles’.
How to use a rowing machine: Step #5 Stroke rate
The stroke rate is how many strokes you take every minute, and usually this can be seen on the screen that is attached to your rower.
‘It’s common to walk into a gym, where you sit on a machine and go as fast as you can and in your head you’re getting a good workout. Moving faster doesn’t necessarily mean you are working harder,’ explains Tarrant.
What I would always suggest is 18-20 strokes per minute
‘What I would always suggest is 18-20 strokes per minute, this will feel very low, but it will give you more time to relax between strokes.
‘If you want a higher intensity workout gradually start building the stroke rates, but I wouldn’t go any higher than 35 strokes per minute’.
Matthew Tarrant is a double World Champion rower and Olympian for TeamGB. He also is the founder of Row Elite. They offer individually-tailored expert coaching by Matthew for all experience levels and sporting backgrounds.