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If you enjoy watching sports on TV, or if you’ve seen people at the gym using spin bikes and rowing machines, you might wonder why professional rowers tend to also use bicycles.
Hi friends, it’s Petra, and today, I want to explain why these cross-training methods go together like peanut butter and jelly.
If you are interested in upping your rowing workouts, or you want better cycling performance, this article is for you.
It really doesn’t matter whether you are talking about rowers who train using bikes or cyclists who do rowing training workouts, the fact remains that there’s a big secret going on behind all this.
Cycling and indoor rowing together are better than sport-specific conditioning.
Why Do Rowers Make Good Cyclists?
It’s all about cross-training, friends.
One famous Olympic cyclist, Cameron Wurf, began his career in rowing. In 2004, he took some time off due to injuries and returned as a cyclist, coming in 5th place in his first Tour of Turkey event.
- First, this is because rowing workouts help people build large, well-functioning cardiovascular systems.
- Second, a rowing machine helps you develop massive muscle groups in the legs, hips, and arms, all of which contribute to a successful transition to cycling.
- Last, but not least, rowers train to go all out for a short period of time (maybe 6-10 minutes). Cycling trains you to work at more of a steady-state for a longer period of time. Once rowers gain strength-endurance sports, such as cycling, they end up going at it like a Clydesdale horse, rather than a zippy little quarter horse.
Max Secunda presents a video where he discusses the advantages of rowing in comparison to cycling:
So Does Using a Rowing Machine Make You a Better Cyclist?
Yes, it can.
Cross-training is vital if you want to prevent injury. An indoor rowing machine will train cyclists to use muscles they don’t usually use when biking.
A rowing machine, when the correct rowing technique is used, will work 86 percent of the muscles in the body. Cycling uses very few upper body muscles, with most cyclists using mainly the lower body to work out.
This is where cross-training using a rowing machine can make you more fit. Rowing is also a low-impact workout, so you don’t have to worry about injuring yourself like you can doing strength training. (Learn more about weight training for rowers in this article)
If you are experiencing knee pain due to cycling, you will be happy to know that you can give your knees a rest by adding rowing as a part of your cross-training workout routine.
However, it’s important that cyclists learn the correct technique when using an indoor rowing machine. In the beginning, most cyclists will have trouble maintaining good posture since they have minimal upper body strength. A cyclist’s strength is all in their legs, which will make rowing a pleasure once you learn how to do the strokes properly.
The good thing about it is that adding rowing to cycling, especially during the winter months when road cycling is impossible, will give cyclists a whole-body workout to compliment their cycling goals.
Will Cycling Give Me Better Rowing Workouts?
Yes, it will.
While cycling won’t help your upper body strength, it will strengthen your leg and glute muscles.
Everyone knows that cycling can provide insane aerobic workouts, just like rowing, but you can reap the benefits of bike riding that will pay off when you do your indoor rowing workout.
If you want to do outdoor cycling or spin classes, you can develop a stronger cardiovascular system when you’ve become really accustomed to your rowing workouts. Many rowers find that they gain a great deal of strength in the glutes, which makes rowing easier.
Why Are Rowers So Strong?
Indoor rowing is the perfect workout and an ideal way for any sports enthusiast to get some low-impact cross-training.
As I mentioned earlier, indoor rowing uses 86 percent of the muscles in your body with every stroke. That’s a whole lot of exercise for one little machine!
Rowers often have very low body fat levels because rowing burns more calories than any other exercise machine ( read more on ideal rowers body type here ). Depending on your age, weight, and sex, you can expect to burn between 600 and 900 calories an hour, or more.
Rowers have massive cardiovascular systems since just 30 minutes of rowing enhances the ability of their lungs to provide oxygen to their heart and muscles. That makes rowing the best strength endurance sport on the planet!
You don’t often see rowers with injuries, either. This is because while you’re using your legs and arms, rowing offers a low-impact exercise that you do sitting down.
While you can injure yourself, it’s usually because of over-training.
You will also find that rowers have an improved sense of balance. You do need to balance a bicycle, but rowing strengthens your stabilizer and neutralizer muscles, which will improve your sense of recovery in off-balance situations.
Since rowing is low-impact, you will also find that rowers have less joint pain as they age. The best preventative for age-related joint stiffness is to use those joints regularly. Rowing uses nearly every joint in the body, so it’s no surprise that the rowing movement is growing every year!
Why Does Rowing Feel So Good?
Rowers are often smiling afterward – how does rowing make you feel so good?
Like most aerobic exercises, rowing causes your body to release endorphins. These are often called the “feel good” hormones and are probably one of the main reasons that people get addicted to exercise.
Rowing has a meditative effect in many cases. Personally, I find the sound the water rowers make to be very soothing and very similar to the chanting you do during meditation.
Even with other types of rowing machines, the rhythmic nature of the sport makes rowing a great way to relieve stress and improve your mental outlook.
I also believe that rowing is not the usual boring routine that many people find so annoying about treadmills or stair climbers.
Outdoor road cycling can also be interesting, at least you have scenery to see, but indoor bikes can also be a huge bore.
If you tend to get bored easily, you might want to try one of the new smart rowers that are on the market.
Hydrow uses outdoor waters from around the world and former rowing champions to cheer you on. It’s hard to get bored looking at videos from across the globe (rowing in Thailand, anyone?), and the other rowers or instructors are easy on the eyes if you get my drift.
There’s also Ergatta, which is a water rower that is game-based. Just like a video game, you need to earn points to unlock new levels. You can also enjoy the beautiful scenery in their open row section.
Rowing is such a fun sport, but it is also the best workout you can get while sitting down!
- Click Here to Learn More About the Ergatta Fitness Water Rower!
Can You Get in Shape Just with Indoor Rowing?
Yes, you can.
While most professional rowers like to cross-train, for the average at-home user, you will find that 20-30 minutes of rowing each day is enough to get you fit, lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight.
This is because rowing is a full-body workout. Unlike many other types of exercise, including a spin bike, rowing works nearly every muscle in your body. At the same time, you are also improving your cardiovascular system.
It only takes about 5 minutes of moderate rowing exercise to get your heart rate up and your lungs screaming for more air!
One thing I really love about rowing is that everyone can do it, no matter their age, current weight, or current fitness level. You can row leisurely, or you can row like your tail is on fire! No matter what your speed, you will still reap the benefits that rowing has to offer.
This is why you will find many cyclists doing strength training or swimming or some other type of exercise to help improve their upper body fitness.
This isn’t necessary when you rely on a rowing machine. Rowing will activate almost twice the muscle mass that other exercise machines do, such as cycling or running on a treadmill.
Last, but not least, for anyone interested in losing belly fat and dropping weight fast while getting more toned muscles, nothing will get you there faster than a rowing workout.
When I said that rowing was the perfect workout, I wasn’t kidding! It’s amazing that more people aren’t using a rowing machine to get in shape when you consider everything it has to offer!
The Bottom Line
So, “Why are rowers such good cyclists?” The short answer is that rowing is a full-body workout that strengthens the legs and improves cardiovascular performance, making cycling easier.
Cyclists can get all the benefits of rowing by using an indoor rower as part of their cross-training or in the winter months when outdoor cycling isn’t possible.
Rowing has so many benefits and advantages that it’s no wonder that many professional athletes add rowing machines to their routines.
If you’ve ever done CrossFit, or if you’ve watched CrossFit classes, you know that rowing is an integral part of the overall routine.
If you’re considering owning your own rowing machine to do training or if you want a rowing machine for your home gym, you might find this article a good place to start.
Stay happy and healthy, friends! Keep on rocking and rowing!
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Written by Petra Amara – RowingCrazy.com
CEO & Founder of RowingCrazy, National Rower, Coxswain Womens Eight Team, Rowing Coach & Writer
Petra is a Mother of two and owner of Rowingcrazy.com. Petra lives and breathes rowing, she also has a passion for writing which lead her to start RowingCrazy.com to share her rowing experience and expertise with others.