How to train like a rower

How to train like a rower

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With origins dating back to the Ancient Egyptian times, rowing could be just the ‘splash’ you need to take your fitness to the next level. 

WORDS Hamish Playfair and Kit Cunningham-Reed, IsoWhey® Sports Athletes Photo credit: Erik Dresser,

FACT: The most common distance to race as a rower is 2000m, and the time it takes a crew to go the distance can vary from five minutes 30 seconds through to seven minutes, depending on the boat classification. That’s a long time to be expending energy without rest!

Rowing is one of the oldest Olympic sports and can be done recreationally or competitively. It has been identified that the best training regime for someone looking to participate in a rowing event includes both anaerobic and aerobic training.

The key to training like a rower is consistency, knowing your limits and going in with the mindset that you get out what you put in. Like with any sport, don’t expect to see results on race day if you haven’t put the work in. You need to be training smart, fueling your body correctly and being consistent with your rest and recovery practices.

Even if you are not looking to participate in a rowing event, training like a rower, such as on a rowing machine or ‘erg’ in the gym, or in a boat on the water, is a great all-over body workout that targets your shoulders, core, glutes, postures and stabilisers. As well as the rowing movement exercises, the following exercises are great to include in your workouts to help you achieve all-over body fitness.



-          Squats are a great way to build leg strength as well as build your stability. It is important to get the right technique before increasing the weight, because injury can occur if too much stress is placed on your body.

-          Chin-ups are useful in your general strength, as well as strength for rowing, as you use your shoulders and ‘lats’ (as your arms are the levers attached to the handle of the oar/rowing machine).

-          Core: When racing, the force applied from your legs and back can put a lot of pressure on your body. It is essential for those who want to do a bit of rowing to make sure that they do plenty of core work. This will both improve performance as well as minimise the risk of injuries.

-          Push-ups are another great exercise to work your upper body and reinforce that element of stability in your core.

-          Stretching: Spending time in a boat or on the rowing machine hunched over can cause places such as your hip-flexors to tighten up. It is important to stretch before and after a session to allow your body time to recover and stretch all the muscles and tendons out. 


  1.       For the physical benefits! Benefits associated with rowing include strength, increased aerobic capacity, lowering your risk of heart problems, you will get fit quick, and you will learn to be able to work with lactic acid buildup due to your anaerobic energy system.
  2.       It’s good for your mind! The rowing stroke is a simple task to learn, however a difficult task to master. The opportunity to set goals and focus on finding what it is to be the ‘perfect stroke’ is a task that may take a while; however, it is one that shows traits of determination and commitment. Rowing is extremely relaxing once you get it down pat!

3.  To be social: Rowing is a crew sport — the ability to experience a training session or a race with other people gives you the spirit of camaraderie and a combined effort to achieve a particular goal. Rowing is a great sport that has a fantastic community behind it, encouraging social interaction and getting people together who, outside of the boat sheds, may not have met!

4.  Unmatched experiences: Rowers are renowned for having an early-rise schedule to get on the water and train before work, school or university. There is something magical about rowing and watching the sunrise and enjoying the whole experience.   


Hamish is an incredibly tenacious rower, boating out of Sydney University Boat Club. He began his rowing career at the hotbed of talent known as the Shore School, before eventually ending up at Sydney Uni. He has become something of a lynchpin in Sydney Uni’s under-23 eight, having helped them to several gold medals at the National Championships in recent years. Possibly his biggest achievement to date was his bronze medal in the Men’s Open Quadruple Sculls at the 2014 World Rowing Cup, which was held in Sydney. Hamish is currently training for a spot in the Australian Olympic team for Rio 2016. 


Kit has recently been at the World Cup 3, in Lucerne, Switzerland, and the World Championships in Aiguebelette, France. Christopher ‘Kit’ Cunningham-Reid won a bronze medal in his first international competition, rowing with the men’s eight at World Cup 1 in 2013, and in 2014 he won silver at World Cup 2 in Aiguebelette, France. Kit is also training for a spot in the Australian Olympic team for Rio 2016.

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