Whether it is on the water or in the gym, rowing is undoubtedly one of the best ways to give your body a full workout. It is one of the few cardio exercises you can do that uses both upper and lower body muscle groups and research has shown that rowers also develop good upper body bone density which helps fight osteoporosis.
Although there are a number of amateur rowing clubs in and around the UK, getting some practice on a rowing machine in the gym will always be beneficial. Rowing machines can be relatively inexpensive to buy so if you think you`re likely to get your money`s worth, you could always invest in your own.
Though there is a large variety of boats to choose from, beginners would probably be urged to start off in a Coxed Mondego or Alden Shells – unsinkable, stable and lightweight for easy manoeuvring. More experienced rowers are likely to be placed in Senior Quad boats such as a `Robson` or a `Wynn`.
Oars come in a variety of lengths depending on your size and experience though traditionally they are 250-300cm long poles with a flat end about 50cm long and 25cm wide – the flat end is known as the blade.
There area two main forms of rowing: Sweep or `Sweep-oar` rowing, where each rower has one oar that is held with both hands and there are an even number of oars on both the `port` or `starboard` side so each rower must manoeuvre symmetrically to allow the boat to cut through the water evenly and quickly. The other type of rowing is called `Sculling` and this is where each rower has two oars (or sculls).
The two main strokes any rower will have to master are the `catch` and the `extraction`. The Catch is where the oar blade is placed in the water and `extraction` is where it is lifted out. The rower must lean forward, bend the legs so that they slide forward in their seat and after the catch has been applied, the rower must then add pressure to the oar whilst sliding back in the seat so their legs are extended – this motion will effectively `drive` the oar blade through the water to propel them across the surface.
Scullers are used to steer the boat, usually by pulling harder on one side than the other to make one side of the boat begin to turn. In other boats there may be a rudder which is controlled by the cox or one of the crew.
The most common rowing injuries are to the lower back because of the excessive twisting and hyperflexion. Warming up well by stretching before getting in the boat should help, giving equal focus to the arms which are also vulnerable to pulled or strained muscles. Amateur rowers should take as much guidance as possible in order to get their rowing stroke and techniques right.
Beginners need to be aware of a number of safety aspects in rowing, it is not just vital that you can swim at least 50 meters but also that you are aware of how currents can be dangerous, dangers within the boat house such as slippery floors etc. A life jacket should be worn for practise, particularly children and weaker swimmers – and many rowing clubs will insist that beginners wear safety helmets too. For more information on essential equipment, see what backpacks.