'As a rowing industry we’ve known for decades that we’re responsible for not communicating how to row well'
It might not have a glamorous reputation and it may not look like the easiest exercise to get to grips with. Still, the next time you’re queueing for the treadmill, there could be good reason to consider a stint on the rower instead.
That’s according to Dr Cameron Nichol, a doctor, former Olympic rower and two-time world silver medallist who says that rowing is the “most time efficient total body workout” out there.
Despite this, it’s taken a while for the sport to become part of the latest fitness boom. For many, the rowing machine is a piece of gym equipment that’s been collecting dust in their parent’s garage since the 80s.
“As a rowing industry we’ve known for decades that we’re responsible for not communicating how to row well,” Dr Nichol told Business Insider. “It’s a really valuable movement, but the problem is we don’t grow up with it, whereas we do running and cycling.”
Dr Nichol is on a mission to spread the word on rowing and has even founded Rowing WOD to help do so.
As a former Olympic rower and all-round rowing enthusiast, he may be slightly biased, but Dr Nichol said one of the reasons it’s such an effective workout is that it uses virtually every muscle in the body – and he proved this in a recent experiment.
Putting rowing to the test
On Channel 4’s How to get Fit Fast TV show, Dr Nichol conducted a small experiment at the University of Roehampton that compared the impact of running on a treadmill to rowing on a machine.
Athletes of a similar level of fitness performed 20 minutes of each exercise and a number of output measurements were taken using electrodes.
First was calorie expenditure, the way that many people measure their workouts – and in these terms, running won.
The subject on the treadmill burnt 350 calories, while the person on the rowing machine expended 300 – but Dr Nichol says you shouldn’t just think about calories.
He pointed to another measurement – muscle activation – to prove the effectiveness of the workout. The electrodes showed how much electricity was going through each muscle group during the workout, which means “how hard and how fast those muscles are working,” according to Dr Nichol.
The results showed that rowing activated more muscle groups than running.
Rowing activates nine muscle groups and 85 per cent of the body’s musculature, according to Dr Nichol. It will work your upper and lower body, tone your arms and strengthen your back.
He concludes that you’ll get more “bang for your buck” working out on the rowing machine than on the treadmill.
Plus, he added, there’s the additional bonus that the machine is usually free.