What Exercises are Beneficial for Competitive Rowing Athletes?


question-icon-newWhat type of exercise program would you recommend for a competitive rowing athlete? I’m interesting in learning about the best exercises that will help me improve as a rower so I can be more competitive in my sport.

answer-icon-newCompetitive rowing is a serious sport that requires athletes to have the right amount of muscle, functional strength and endurance to get the edge over other competitors. This requires specific muscles that are needed to perform the rowing motion which results in consistent momentum with the perfect speed required for rowing faster while also being able to synchronize movements with their teammates.

Competitive rowers will usually work on building up muscle mass in their back and legs rather than the arms since these two areas are the largest muscles groups involved with the sport. Secondary muscles involved in the rowing motion consist of the biceps, triceps and shoulders which all come into play. As you can see, rowing is one of the best overall body exercises you can do since it incorporates so many different muscles groups with each repetition and it’s an excellent exercise for burning lots of calories and fat.

Lets take a look at the different kinds of exercises that are perfect for a rowing athlete. These exercises can be used in a program that is exclusive for those who want to build up their speed and strength in rowing or for the regular gym-goer who is looking for some great exercises to include into their routine to build up their back and legs.


Barbell Rows
This is one of the key mass building back exercises to include in your routine for increasing strength and size in your lats. It also hits your biceps very well which helps in all pulling motions. Grab a barbell and position your hands at about shoulder width length with an overhand grip. Slowly bend over while keeping your knees slightly bent and let the barbell hang down naturally below your chest. Row the barbell up to the top position and contract your lats, then slowly lower the weight down to the starting position.

Reverse Grip Pulldowns
This is a back exercise that requires positioning yourself by sitting on a pulldown machine. Hold the bar with an underhand grip with your hands at about shoulder width. Pull the bar down in front of you, making sure that the bar ends up around the middle part of your chest, then slowly return the bar to the top.

Straight Arm Pulldowns
This back exercise is performed by using a pulldown machine as well. Stand up and grab the pulldown bar with your arms stretched out and then pull it down to about thigh level. Make sure that your arms are straight throughout the complete range of the movement. Slowly return the bar back to the top.

Wide Grip Pulldowns
This movement is performed through the use of a pulldown machine with a wide bar. Sit down, grab the bar with an overhand grip and pull the bar down to your upper chest while contracting your lats at the bottom. Slowly return the bar to its original position.

Barbell Squats
This is one of the best leg exercises you can use to build size and strength in your lower body. Place a barbell behind your head across your trapezius muscles (upper shoulders). Your feet should be shoulder width apart. Begin squatting just like you are about to sit down, keeping your chest out, shoulders back and butt down. Go down as far as you can comfortably go and then push back up while concentrating on your quadriceps and glutes.

Hack Squats
This is a leg exercise you can do with a hack squat machine. Position yourself in the machine and make sure that your back is pressed flat against the machine. Perform the same squatting motion as the barbell squats by lowering your body down and then back up with emphasis placed on your quads and glutes.

Barbell Lunges
Lunges are excellent for targeting the glutes (butt muscles), quadriceps and hamstrings. This is a perfect exercise for getting a good stretch in your legs. Make sure to avoid letting your knee pass over your foot on the downward position when performing this movement. Try 50 yard walking lunges with a pair of dumbbells or barbells for a killer leg workout that will help greatly with your competitive rowing!

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this article. The Texas State Troopers have a rowing test for fitness. I don’t have access to a rowing machine, so this information helps me prepare!

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