Improve your rowing machine with these exercises

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Heading off on your very first rowing adventure? It is an exciting and intense activity that is much more difficult than it seems. Rowing through lakes or calm bodies of water is easy enough, but heading into fast, gushing waters offers a whole different kind of thrill.

Whether you take a canoe, kayak, or just a paddle boat, there are exercises you can do to train your body and prepare for the sport.


The best exercises to prepare for rowing

Here are some of the best exercises you can do to train your muscles and prepare them for your rowing journey.

1) Seated rows

It’s in the name! Seated rows are great for training your upper back and arm muscles, the same ones that are needed to generate the power to keep rowing through the water. Most fitness centers are equipped with a machine for its exercise. Alternatively, you can wrap a resistance band around your feet.

Here’s how to do this exercise:

  • Sit on the seat of the machine and grab the handle with both hands. Lean back slightly and stretch your arms outward.
  • Pull the handle towards you, up to your diaphragm. Bring your elbows to the midline of the body.
  • Release the tension and allow your arms to fully straighten.
  • Repeat the movement for 12 to 15 repetitions.
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2) Tricep dips

This is a simple exercise to strengthen the triceps and chest. Most of the power you generate comes from these muscles when you row. Use a bench or chair.

Here’s how to do this exercise:

  • Sit on the edge of the bench and place your palms on either side of your thighs with your fingers pointing forward.
  • Take a step forward and lift your hips off the seat, shifting your weight onto your arms, which straighten to hold you upright. You can bend your legs at the knees.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your hips toward the floor until your arms are bent at a 90 degree angle.
  • Push yourself back to the starting position, fully extending your arms.
  • Repeat the movement for 12 to 15 repetitions.
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3) Dumbbell Sweaters

This exercise strengthens your upper body, including your chest and back. This will help to row better. You will need a dumbbell and a bench.

Here’s how to do this exercise:

  • Lie on the bench and hold the dumbbell between your palms above your chest.
  • Drop your arms overhead, lowering the dumbbell toward the floor.
  • Push the dumbbell up and bring your hands back to the starting position on your chest.
  • Repeat the movement for 12 to 15 repetitions.
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4) Bird-dog

This drill helps build core control and will keep you stable as you move your limbs while rowing.

Here’s how to do this exercise:

  • Get down on your hands and knees. Brace your core and make sure your arms and legs are at a 90 degree angle to your body.
  • Raise your right arm and stretch it out in front of you. Straighten your left leg behind you simultaneously. Point your fingers and toes in opposite directions.
  • Bring both limbs toward your body and contract your abs before bringing them back to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement with your left arm and your right leg.
  • Repeat the movement, alternating sides, for 12 to 15 repetitions on each side.
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5) Russian Twists

This is another exercise that will train your core for stability even while moving from side to side.

Here’s how to do this exercise:

  • Sit on the floor and bend your legs in front of you. Lean back slightly and prepare your core. Lift your feet off the floor to balance yourself on your pelvic muscles.
  • Join your hands in front of your chest. Twist your upper body to the left while keeping your balance, then twist to the other side.
  • Repeat the movement, alternating sides, for 12 to 15 repetitions on each side.
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6) Drinking Bird

The contra-lateral movement of the limbs during this exercise will help build strength and stability on opposite sides of the body, helping to maintain core stability while rowing.

Here’s how to do this exercise:

  • Stand straight with your feet together. Slightly bend your right leg and raise your right foot.
  • Lean forward at your hip, balancing on your left leg, and extend your arms out in front of you while bringing your upper body parallel to the floor. Simultaneously, extend your right leg behind you.
  • Straighten up and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement for 10 to 12 reps on each leg.
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Don’t be nervous about your rowing trip. Instead, add these exercises to your routine a few weeks before and practice them regularly. Soon you should be prepared and ready for your journey! Remember to rest during this training period and eat well. You will have a lot of fun.


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