Fit For Sailing: Using the rower

Called by several names; rowing machine, indoor rower, ergs or generically as Concept 2’s (manufacturer of the most popular models), the rower is often the least used machine in any gym setting but in my view one if the best; and most useful.

For sailors, sailboarders or kite-boarders, I think they are very beneficial and are my first choice as an option for cardio exercise. The pulling motion is similar to sheeting or pumping on the water and a good stroke mimics good biomechanics for sailing. The involvement of the trunk is a good addition to most fitness programs for sailors.

Despite increasing in popularity in the last few years (due in part to the explosion of cross fit based training and small functional exercise styled gyms and studios) the rower is still not as popular as other machines in most gyms.

This has several reasons, one being it is a technical movement and not as simple as walking on a treadmill or pedalling a bike. Another factor is that it is (incorrectly) perceived to be an upper body exercise and the domain of strong bulky males, based on how hard you can pull the handle.

The rower has the benefit of being non-weight bearing, you sit on the machine and it has almost no impact in the movement. The load is adjustable so you can graduate the resistance, from light a load to a heavy load (done on the side of the unit via a lever)

The rower is an aerobic form of exercise using the whole body. There are nine major muscle groups used in the rowing stroke. A good stroke relies and promotes good posture and core strength. The benefit here is that it uses more muscles than other forms of exercise such as running, walking, skipping, cycling, stepper, x-trainer etc. An average size adult will burn 270 calories in a 30 minute session. A low intensity workout on an exercise bike can take double the time to burn that approximate level of energy.

Rowing tips

  • Adjust the foot platform for your shoe size. Tighten the foot straps

  • Raise the screen to eye level to encourage good posture and sit tall on the sliding seat

  • Set the resistance for around the middle range or 3-6 on the scale of 0-9

  • Aim for a minimum wattage of 100 watts and a stroke rate of 20-24 strokes. Once your technique improves this can build to 26-30 stokes per minute.

  • My preference is the Concept 2 over the water rowers. I feel the stroke is smoother and longer.

Perfect the rowing stroke:

  • A good stroke has a flowing motion with the legs doing the predominant amount
    of the work

  • Sit tall. Drive from the legs. Finish with the arms

  • Use one breath per stroke

  • Don’t pull too hard


A good stroke has four parts seen in this diagram:

  1. The Catch. The starting position that begins the stoke

  2. The Drive. The work portion of the stroke

  3. Finish. The end of the stroke

  4. Recovery. The return to the starting position

– Andrew Verdon

Jeanneau JY55
M.O.S.S Australia
NAV at Home
M.O.S.S Australia
NAV at Home