Budget time is coming and this is a great opportunity to consider upgrading your workout equipment. The problem most of us have however is deciding what to buy with the small amount of money we have available for anything fitness-related. Because money and space are usually the limiting factors in choosing a piece of equipment the last thing you want to do is buy something that’s large and inefficient.
Budget time is coming, and this is a great opportunity to consider upgrading your workout equipment. The problem most of us have, however, is deciding what to buy with the small amount of money we have available for anything fitness-related. Because money and space are usually the limiting factors in choosing a piece of equipment, the last thing you want to do is buy something that’s large and inefficient.
One of the most useful, yet underrated pieces of equipment available is the rowing ergometer. There are several options for purchasing a rowing machine, but the one brand that’s utilized by most, if not all, competitive rowing clubs and colleges is Concept2 (www.concept2.com). The Concept2 rowing machine closely simulates the force requirements and the general feeling of rowing a real boat. Short of being able to tip it over and land in the drink, these machines are as close as it gets.
For all of you money-conscious types, it’s hard to beat the quality and usefulness offered by the various Concept2 rowing machines for the price. The model D with the PM 3 monitor has many great features, is easily stored and costs $890, including delivery in the lower 48 states. If you want a few more bells and whistles, you can go for the Model E with the PM4 monitor for $1,255. Note: Concept2 also has special offers for firefighters and police.
Because rowing is a highly aerobic sport that works nearly every muscle in your body, it’s an ideal cross-training tool for firefighters. Additionally, the gentle gliding action allows you to work your legs, butt, back, abdominals, chest and arms without shocking your joints.
How to Use a Rowing Machine
For any piece of equipment to be truly useful, you must know how to use it. Rowing is a unique sport that requires some effort to master, but the rewards can be amazing. Most people have never had the opportunity to row an actual skull (two-oar boat) or sweep (single-oar boat), and rowing machine experiences can be fleeting and unsatisfying if you don’t know how to row properly.
When you first sit down on a rowing machine, make sure the foot stretcher is adjusted for your feet. You want the strap to go across your foot where your toes bend.
The Concept2 ergometer is unique in that it doesn’t have a resistance adjustment; it’s considered a variable-resistance machine. Just like moving an oar through water, the harder you pull, the harder it is to pull. Because of the flywheel design, each pull builds on the previous pull.
There are four phases of the rowing stroke: the catch, the drive, the finish and the recovery.
Catch: The catch is equivalent to when your oar would enter the water. Your arms are extended forward, your legs are bent with your knees close to your chest, and your lower back is flat. (See photo labeled Catch) This is the time when you first “catch” the resistance of the stroke. You want to have as long a stroke as possible without compromising body position or efficiency.
Drive: As soon as you’ve engaged the resistance of the machine in the catch, you initiate the drive phase. The early phase of the drive is primarily carried by the legs and back. As your legs drive, your hips begin to open, simultaneously extending with your upper back. (See photo labeled Drive) They must work together to generate the optimum thrust without putting undue stress on your lower back. Too much leg extension early in the drive will leave your lower back vulnerable and contribute little to advancing the handle.
As you drive with your legs and back, keep your arms straight in the early part of the drive. To really increase the power of your stroke, try slightly off-weighting your butt–not to the point of coming off the seat, but just enough to utilize your body mass to advance the handle.
As your legs straighten, the handle crosses over your knees and your arms begin to take over the effort. The transition between the upper and lower body effort should be seamless. The opening of your hips is continual throughout the entire drive with the handle accelerating throughout the drive.
Finish: As you draw the handle in, you move into the finish phase of the stroke. Leaning back slightly, bring the handle just below your chest and finish the stroke by dropping the handle down slightly toward you lap, as if raising the oar blade out of the water. (See photo labeled Finish.)
Recovery: During the recovery, focus on relaxing muscles not being used to move you back to the catch position. Start by extending your arms and gradually leaning forward. Avoid bending your knees before the handle has a chance to cross over them. If you think about rowing in water, raising the handle during the recovery would drop the oar blade back into the water. As your hands travel over your knees, they’ll bend, allowing you to reach forward for the catch.
As a general rule of thumb, always think about being in a real boat; this will help you develop better form on a rowing machine.
Rowing has been around for a long time. Unfortunately, many haven’t embraced the sport because they don’t live near waterways or haven’t had the opportunity or desire to pursue it. With a rowing machine, however, even those of us who are landlocked can enjoy all the benefits of this great cardiovascular exercise. Practice getting your form down, and we’ll discuss designing workouts for rowing machines in the next issue.