Whether you use a rowing machine for fat loss and fitness or are are a member of a coxed eight rowing squad chasing Olympic gold, you'll get more out of your rowing if you warm up properly and stretch regularly. As rowing uses just about every muscle in your body, it can be a very strenuous activity and according to the University of Birmingham in England, warming up will ensure you can perform well and also minimize your risk of injury.
Incremental Pulse Raiser
To avoid the rapid build up of lactic acid in your muscles when you begin rowing, you should increase your pulse rate gradually. This simply means that you should start off slowly and build up your pace gradually over five to 10 minutes. This is the part of a warm up that makes makes you feel warm and increases the flow of oxygenated blood around your body.
Once you have warmed up with some light but progressively more challenging rowing, it's time to ensure your muscles are stretched and your joints are mobilized. This is the element of the warm up that may help reduce the likelihood of suffering an injury.
Dynamic stretches involve taking your muscles through a wide range of movement which should replicate the activity to follow. For rowing, performing dynamic stretches such as a squat to overhead reach, lunges with a twist and standing chest presses and rows will ensure your major joints are ready for the workout to come. Perform 10 to 20 of each exercise for best results.
Once your workout is complete, it is important to spend a few minutes cooling down. This helps return your body to it's pre-exercise state and means you should recover more quickly and with less muscle soreness. This is best achieved by performing an incremental pulse lowerer and followed by static stretches. The pulse lowerer is simply the reverse of the pulse raiser and is achieved by gradually reducing your rowing pace over the final five to 10 minutes of your workout. On completion, your heart and breathing rate should have returned to normal and you will be ready to stretch your hard-worked muscles.
Stretching After Rowing
After a workout, your muscles may feel tight and lose some of their elasticity. This phenomenon is called adaptive shortening. The repetitive and restrictive action of rowing can mean that many of your muscles will shorten. Short, tight muscles are more prone to injury so stretching after your workout is important.
As rowing is a whole body activity, you should stretch all of your major muscles after a rowing workout. However, there are some muscles that are especially likely to become short and tight as a result of rowing. The muscles most prone to tightness are your quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, abdominals and wrist muscles.
The Best Stretches for Rowers
To stretch your quadriceps, lie on your front with your legs together. Bend one leg and pull your foot into your butt. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then switch legs. For your hamstrings, sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Hinge forward from your hips and push your stomach down towards your thighs. Try not to round your back too much.
To stretch your hip flexors, lunge forwards and rest your rear knee on the floor. Let your hips sink down toward the floor and hold. For your abdominals, lie on your front and rest on your elbows while keeping your hips pressed into the floor. To stretch your wrist flexors, place the palms of your hands flat on a table with your fingers pointing towards you. Keep your arms straight and lean back slightly to feel a stretch in the muscles of your forearms.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Specific respiratory warm-up improves rowing performance and exertional dyspnea; S Volianitis et al.
- British Rowing: Warm Up
- The Complete Guide to Indoor Rowing; Jim Flood and Charles Simpson
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.