Who would benefit from rowing? I guess the better question is who wouldn’t? The whole-body, low-impact strength & cardio aspects of rowing are well documented and can be beneficial to the aging boomers or “zoomers” as well as elite athletes who are trying to take some of the impact (and monotony) out of their training routine on and off-season.
I’m by no means an expert on the topic but from what I’ve researched so far, triathletes (who can range in age from 8 to 80) are one such group who will especially benefit from rowing. A quick scan of the online literature on this topic provides a general consensus summarized in the following five reasons why triathletes should incorporate rowing into their training:
Whole Body: Rowing puts all the relevant major muscle groups for swimming, biking and running to work in a single workout. Other than maybe cross-country skiing, few workouts use more muscles than rowing. Talk about best bang for your cross-training buck!
Power: Rowing is deceptive in that most people see the arms and torso working (and they are) but fail to realize that up to 70% of the power in the slide seat rowing stroke comes from the legs. Yes, rowing will improve swim times (too), however it is one of the best cross-training activities for developing power for (especially) cycling, allowing you to maintain higher wattages over the long haul.
Three-in-One: Rowing is the trifecta of sports in that it develops strength, power, and cardio fitness. Simultaneously. Period.
Variety: Use rowing (and remember, it’s no-impact) to help avoid repetitive motion injuries common with the highly regimented traditional swim-bike-run training routines. As they say, variety is the spice, right? Consider incorporating some bike-row-bike or run-row-run brick workouts instead to really build power and, dare I say, have more fun in doing so.
Work the Mind: The rowing stroke, when done properly, is a beautifully orchestrated series of muscle movements and physical coordination. It’s not that difficult to learn, yet creates a sense of exhilaration when executed well…a nice physically and mentally stimulating departure from the oftentimes mind-numbing training sessions in the pool, on the bike, or running, especially when rowing out on the water vs. on the erg in the gym.