Category Archives: Fitness

Rowing Machines and Fitness

Why Leaving Rowing Out of Your Workout is a Big Mistake

In terms of training value for time spent, there is little that comes close to rowing. It is a cardio, it is anaerobic and it is strengthening. By building rowing in to your CrossFit workout instead of running, you will be increasing the intensity and effectiveness of your training session several fold.

To understand why this is the case, it would be helpful to take a bit of a look at the body’s energy pathways and how they are used in a CrossFit training session.

An energy pathway, is the means by which the body delivers energy to the muscles, which can be converted into work by their contraction. Energy is released into the muscle fiber when a phosphate molecule is released from Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) to form Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP). There is not a lot of ATP in the body (only about 250g), so it constantly needs to be recycled. An ATP molecule can be recycled between 500-750 times a day and it is estimated that one’s own body weight of the stuff will be broken down and recreated in a single day.

So, the processes by which ATP is recycled are what we are talking about when we refer to energy pathways.

Regeneration of ATP Energy from Food!!

In order for the body to be able to reuse this chemical reaction, the phosphate molecule that was released to produce energy needs to be reattached to the ADP to form ATP again. This chemical process is done in two basic ways, with a third concerned only with energy release.

Anaerobic Respiration Pathway1) The Anaerobic System: As the name suggests, this is the chemical process that takes place in the absence of oxygen. “An” meaning without and “aero” meaning air. Most of us have hear of aerobic because of the type of training often offered in gyms. Many of us will also have heard of anaerobic training, particularly body builders and athletes.

Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple! We still have to split anaerobic respiration into two separate types: The ATP-PC System and the Glycolytic System.


1a) The Anaerobic ATP-PC System is at the opposite end of the scale to Aerobic respiration. It is responsible for short burst activity such as jumping up onto a box or swinging a kettle bell up to vertical. During the first few seconds of an activity, ATP supplies the energy. It is immediate and can last approximately 12 seconds. For a few seconds after that, the rapid decline of ATP is cushioned by phosphocreatine (PC) before the cell turns to another energy pathway, namely the glycolytic system.

1b) The Anaerobic Glycolytic System fills the gap between the ATP-PC and oxidative (aerobic) systems. The sugar glucose, which is obtained from dietary carbohydrates and is stored in the blood and liver, is broken down into ATP by the process of glycolysis. The by-product of glycolysis is pyruvic acid, which is converted into something most of us have heard of, namely lactic acid.

The process of glycolysis comes in two flavors – fast and slow. Essentially, the fast version can run for up to 30 seconds resulting in acid lactic acid accumulation, a drop in power and subsequent fatigue. Slow glycolysis doesn’t produce as much power, but extreme fatigue is avoided for longer. Here, the pyruvic acid is converted to acetyl coenzyme A, run through the oxidative Krebs cycle (see below), which produces more ATP, which delays fatigue.

For example, a 400m sprinter would come out of the blocks using the ATP-PC system and run most of the first bend on it. After that, ATP stored in the cells would run out and the fast glycolysis system would kick in. As the lactic acid starts to build up half way round the second bend, the runner grits his teeth whilst the cells desperately start reproducing ATP through slow glycolysis.

Aerobic Respiration Pathway2) Aerobic (Oxidative) System is the lowest intensity and slowest process. Without getting too technical, it basically requires oxygen to break down glucose, fat or protein in the blood to form ATP. At its very core level, this is the system which operates when you sleep. As long as you have glucose, fat or protein available, it is virtually unlimited.

In terms of sport, the aerobic system will first use carbohydrates (glucose), which in a healthy adult is around 2500 KCal. Once this is depleted, which will happen during a marathon for example, the system will turn to fatty acids and then to eventually as a last resort to proteins.

One important technical term to note is the Krebs cycle, which is the chain of chemical reactions that continues to oxidize the glucose that was started during glycolysis. This process ends up by recreating ATP with a by-product of hydrogen, which is then converted to water by more chemical reactions and the electron transport chain. Phew!! So, bio-chemistry lesson over!

So what does this all mean in terms of CrossFit training?

The first thing to note is that through appropriate training, the anaerobic systems can be improved by 20% and the aerobic system by a massive 50%! Top rowing athletes spend a lot of time on the ergo training at a low level to improve their base aerobic systems. One would think that given the intensity of a race and the inhuman levels to which they push themselves, it would be best to train at a high output all the time.

The problem with this approach is that, as we have seen above, the glycolytic energy pathway is only good for around a minute at a push. Improving the efficiency of the Krebs cycle at oxidizing glucose into ATP is therefore essential for intense sports such as rowing the 2000m.

Essentially, the rowing machine will cover all these bases. Throughout your circuit, you can add in short 30 second intense bursts, which will push your glycolytic system to its limit throughout most muscle groups. At the end of each circuit, you could do a 10 minute aerobic cruise giving your oxidative system a good half hour in a three circuit session. Alternatively, you could build a fartlek interval training sub-session on the rower into each round keeping all three systems on the alert. The possibilities are endless.

The major advantage of rowing over other types of training is the “whole body” nature of it. CrossFit endeavors to cover all major muscle groups in a multiple of strength related and aerobic manners. Bringing a rowing machine into the circuit will enhance the intensity of both the strengthening aspects as well as the aerobic aspects of the session for almost the entire body. Also, by varying the speed and load of the machine, it is possible to activate all the energy pathways described above, giving you a more complete workout.

The 30 Minute Rowing Machine Workout

The rowing machine is one of the most effective yet most neglected pieces of equipment in the gym. The reason for this probably that it takes a bit of practice to get the technique right, but it is essential that you do.

Have a look at this before you begin: and then spend a bit of time trying to break the stroke into its four components. The biggest mistake I see people make is using the arms too much. The stroke starts with the legs, then the back and finally the arms. The recovery, that’s the way back, goes in reverse – arms away from the body first, then lean forward and bend your knees until you are all the way forward to the beginning. Once you’ve cracked it, you will be training your whole body during a cardio session. There are very few machines that can offer that!

There are of course many different workouts that you can do on any cardio machine. In the boathouse, during the winter season, we often row at a low level for up to two hours to build a deep core aerobic fitness. This will be coupled with strength training on the other days. In the race season, much more time is spent on the water with a few short session on the ergo to work on strength endurance. The workout I am going to share with you is a pyramid session, which is where the intensity builds to a peak and then drops off again towards the end and is designed to build on strength endurance.

Before you do this workout first make sure that you have spent a few gentle sessions on the ergo making sure that your technique is up to scratch. Get the trainer in the gym to watch you and give you advice. You should set the monitor up so that you can read strokes per minute (SPM) and pace over 500 metres.

Set the resistance to somewhere in the middle range and then row for 15 minutes at a level which makes you breathe a bit harder but where you think you could keep going for an hour… the equivalent to a gentle jog. Try to keep the stroke rate down to less than 23 SPM at the same time a pushing enough with the legs to keep the pace up.

This is your staring level – take note of the pace over 500m and the SPM.

The 30 minute pyramid workout

Set the resistance to a middle range – 5 on a Concept2. You will begin at your starting level and row for ten minutes. At ten minutes, up the pace by 5 seconds per 500m. After two minutes, up the pace again by five seconds. Do the same four more times, to take you to the 20 minute mark. Keep this up for one minute and then start to slow down again, dropping the pace by five seconds every two minutes until 30.

Here is an example. Let’s say that your starting pace is 2 minutes 20 seconds for 500 metres (2’20” / 500m). You would warm up at this pace for 10 minutes then increase to 2’15” /500m until minute 12. Keep increasing by 5 seconds every 2 minutes until minute 20, where you will be rowing at 1’55”/500m. Keep that going for 1 minute and then drop the pace back down to 2’00”. Keep dropping by 5 seconds every two minutes until 30 minutes are up.























This is a cardio workout that is best done after a short session on the weights where you are working more on chest and shoulders than back, legs and arms. It will not only improve your stamina, but also give you the ability to workout harder for longer as it concentrates on strength endurance. I would build this into your usual routine twice a week for six weeks and then change your cardio to another machine for six weeks. Keep changing your plan every six weeks to encourage the body to develop muscle through different planes of movement and also to prevent cardio session becoming predictive and stale.

7 Ways to Spice Up Your Workout

Lacking motivation often causes people to not reach their weight loss goal. The following are some ways for you to make exercise more enjoyable and successful.

  1. Turn on the radio while you are working out. Music will get you moving. It is natural for people to respond to music. When you feel as though you’re dancing to a great song rather than exercising, your workouts will be much more entertaining. When you listen to music while you are working out, it will be fun, and you will be able to keep going. Incorporating music into your workout routine can make time fly by faster so you exercise for longer.
  2. Working out with a friend is ideal. Your attention will be diverted from the effort of the exercise to the conversation at hand, and your workout will go by much quicker. You will be pleased at how much you will enjoy exercising when you do it with a friend.
  3. Distract yourself, and your workout routine will fly by! One option to consider if you have a video gaming console is fitness-orientated games. There are many types of these games. In a game, you might enjoy a number of things like bowling or steering a boat while working out. Boxing with a virtual opponent will be a riot. Video games can make your workout almost effortless, no matter what type of exercise you prefer.
  4. One of the main things that puts someone off working out is the fact that they are doing it ‘in public’. When you have workout clothes that you feel comfortable wearing, it is a huge boost to your self-image. There are a lot of choices for people of all shapes and sizes. There are also tons of colors and styles. Be fun with your choices in exercise clothing, as it will help you feel great about exercising and yourself! Doing this will make you more likely to stick to your workout plan. Continue reading 7 Ways to Spice Up Your Workout

Poor Old Lactic Acid – the Pain is Not His Fault!!

Lactic acid gets some pretty bad press, but it doesn’t exist in the body for more than a few seconds. It is quickly converted into lactate and hydrogen ions and it is these little guys that drop the pH in the muscles making them acidic and painful. This article from World Rowing explains more..

Lactic acid has been cast in the role of nemesis, as the necessary evil to higher athletic performance; not just in rowing, but in many sports over the years. The scientific knowledge, however, has advanced in recent decades and lactic acid seems to play a more complex role than is often assumed.

“First of all,” explains Dr Trent Stellingwerff, lead of Innovation and Research at the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, “we should call what we are measuring lactate and not lactic acid. Within the muscle, 99 per cent of the lactic acid (LaH) separates immediately into lactate (La-) and hydrogen ions (H+). It is the H+ that is the problem.”

“Lactate is both fuel and metabolic waste product,” says Alex Hutchinson, author of the Sweat Science articles for “The body has different ways of mobilising its fuel stores and it all depends on when you need the fuel.”

“When you are performing over your V02 max (maximal aerobic capacity),” says Stellingwerff, “you have to draw on anaerobic metabolism to provide the required energy. A 2000m rowing race is done at 98 to 110 per cent of power at V02 max. This is why rowers produce so much lactate.”

“Professional marathoners, by comparison, run at 85-90% of V02 max and would probably never have a lactate measurement over 4 mmol (millimoles),” he says, “but in rowers it can be around 15-18 mmol and sometimes even a bit higher.”

Measuring lactate, however, is an indirect measure, since it is not the lactate itself that causes the acidosis (or drop in pH inside the muscles). The hydrogen ions (H+) produced with the lactate cause the drop in the muscle’s pH. Normal pH in the body is 7.2, but can drop as low as 6.6 if it were to be measured in rowers after a race, according to Stellingwerff. Continue reading Poor Old Lactic Acid – the Pain is Not His Fault!!

The ultimate guide to the rowing machine

These Olympian-approved workouts and techniques are guaranteed to get you in killer shape without killing your back.

YOU MAY HAVE noticed a rowing machine, otherwise known as an ergometer or “erg,” gathering dust in the corner of your neighborhood gym or as Frank and Claire Underwood’s workout of choice in House of Cards. If you’re a CrossFitter, there’s a good chance you’ve probably even used one in a workout before.

There’s also a good chance you’re using it all wrong.

While the rowing machine is an incredibly efficient, full-body workout that allows the athlete to build aerobic endurance and muscular strength at the same time, a lack of proper technique and training is common among gym-goers and can lead to injuries and misuse. So we asked experts from the number one collegiate men’s crew team in the country at the University of California – Berkeley—Head Coach Mike Teti and Associate Head Coach Scott Frandsen—to give you the lowdown on everything you need to know about the rowing machine. Both are Olympic medalists (Teti is both a medalist as an athlete and a coach) who know exactly what it takes, in the gym and on the water, to get in gold medal-winning shape.

In order to get the most out of your time on the rowing machine you should: Continue reading The ultimate guide to the rowing machine

Best Rowing Machine Training Tips

Rowing for Men

Man with OarMuscle formation and stamina increases with rowing – perfect for men!

Conventional fitness equipment primarily focuses on either the individual parts of the body or specific muscle groups; however, this is not the case with rowing. Rowing is a total body workout, where both cardio and strength are equally trained. Strong resistance at regular short periods will help grow your muscles. Especially the back, arm and leg muscles and the stamina are trained with the help of Rowing. However, training for longer periods improves endurance helping protect you from many diseases that often occur in untrained people of the same age.

Rowing for Women

Rowing workouts tone the individual body parts and burns calories – perfect for every women.

Rowing, not only offers an optimal training for men, but slowly more and more women are also discovering the benefits of rowing for workouts for both muscle strength and aerobic fitness. In contrast to a treadmill or cross-trainer, the rowing machine stresses the whole body. In particular, legs, arms, shoulders, stomach, and the back are functionally trained. Such a strengthening full body workout boosts post training calorie consumption and therefore helps reduce weight.

Motivational Tips

Lose weight & get fit!

Continue reading Best Rowing Machine Training Tips

Rowing Is The New Spinning, Here’s Why

In previous years, spinning was the workout craze. Today, It’s been upgraded to rowing. You don’t want to miss out.

Rowing machines have long been poo-pooed as too much work. However, today, the lowly rowing machine has seen a new surge in popularity. With upgrades in their technology and upgrades in style, the lowly rowing machine has finally found its niche in the exercise world. With water tanks added to give it a more realistic appearance when compared to the real true crewing conditions, the rowing machine is back with a mission. That mission, to give you the rock hard body of the Hollywood icons that you’ve long drooled over. Yes, you too can row your way to a great body all at an affordable cost. Today that lowly rowing machine is the new “spinning” and it’s working wonders on cardio and sculpting bodies. Continue reading Rowing Is The New Spinning, Here’s Why

Watch U.S. Olympians Teach Us Mortals How To Row

At first glance, rowing seems to belong to the well-heeled and faintly evil. In House of Cards the Underwoods stoically row their way into the right fitness level for world domination. The Winklevosses, those large adult twins, rowed big boats at the real Harvard and at the thinly fictionalized Harvard of the The Social Network. Before their time, way back in 1852, Harvard raced Yale in the U.S. first-ever intercollegiate sporting event. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie built a 262-acre manmade lake in Princeton, New Jersey just so the university’s varsity crew team could have a less crowded place to train.
Continue reading Watch U.S. Olympians Teach Us Mortals How To Row

Why is a Rowing Machine the Best Training You Can Do?

A Workout using a Rowing Machine is versatile and extremely important for the body. Rowing offers an optimal total body workout. No matter you are old or young, male or female, trained or untrained; every individual who wishes to be athletic fit is in good hands with a rowing machine. Discover here the benefits of rowing and the important tips and tricks to be kept in mind for the right training!

 Why is rowing so important?

Rowing offers an optimal total body workout. Indoor rowing is pretty popular and is not only just meant for the top athletes. No matter you are old or young, male or female, trained or untrained; everyone who wishes to be athletic fit is in good hands with a rowing machine.

Discover the positive effects that come along with rowing and why you should also consider investing in a rowing machine! Continue reading Why is a Rowing Machine the Best Training You Can Do?

10 ways to get better on the indoor rower

This is a great article written by the British newspaper The Telegraph just before this year’s Oxford vs Cambridge University boat race. There are a number of ways you can improve your performance on the Rowing Machine  and they’re not just about fitness… although that certainly helps!!

Man using rowing machine in gym

Working out in the gym can help develop your self esteem Photo: © Alamy

The Oxford and Cambridge crews will have to contend with currents, winds and the capricious British weather when they compete in the 161st edition of the Boat Race on the River Thames this weekend, but most people’s personal experience of rowing comes only from the whizz and creak of the humble indoor rowing machine.
Continue reading 10 ways to get better on the indoor rower