CrossFit athletes are often described as some of the world’s fittest individuals. Boasting great strength and endurance, these athletes endure challenging workouts that push to the limit, wherever your limit may be.
So where does rowing fit in the world of CrossFit, and how can it support CrossFit athletes’ fitness goals?
Why is rowing a part of CrossFit training?
CrossFit workouts include a combination of cardio and strength training. Cardio can be running, biking, or rowing, depending on the workout you’re following. Because rowing is a total-body workout that gets your heart pumping and brings the sweat quickly, it’s a great addition to your training regimen.
While rowing is not involved in every CrossFit program, it is becoming involved in more as the years go on. Rowing is a complete exercise that is super efficient and challenging to everyone, regardless of their level of fitness. It’s an intentional way to challenge your body, just like the rest of the CrossFit workout.
Benefits of rowing specific to CrossFit athletes
When it comes to the benefits that rowing brings to CrossFit athletes, the list is long.
Looking for a good cardio workout but don’t have the time for a 30 minute run or bike? You can get the same outcome in a 10 or 15 minute rowing workout. The intensity that a rowing workout brings to the table is a huge benefit for all athletes.
Rowing is also a way to improve and maintain your metabolic conditioning while you’re away from your gym. If you’re traveling and unable to get to your gym, using a rowing machine at your hotel or a local gym will allow you to come back to your CrossFit gym after a hiatus feeling strong.
CrossFit athletes who are looking for ways to condition their bodies beyond the demands of their daily WOD need to look outside of CrossFit to find the results they’re looking for.
How rowing challenges CrossFit athletes
Because rowing isn’t involved in every workout, CrossFit athletes can sometimes face challenges when it comes to rowing. Namely, the largest battle is proper form.
This battle is not because CrossFit athletes aren’t committed to using proper form, it’s because they’re often not taught how to use proper form. CrossFit trainers aren’t trained to teach proper rowing form – they’re taught how to lift and how to move their bodies while lifting. They’re not taught how to row.
Because lifting heavy weights comes with a higher risk of injury, this is where training and form is typically focused – and that’s understandable. But the proper form for rowing matters just as much if rowing is a part of your workout.
Using improper rowing form not only increases your risk of injury and the amount of energy required, but it can also decrease the effectiveness of each stroke. This means that it could be affecting how athletes rank in their workouts, especially during competitions when each and every stroke counts.
When you’re rowing 2,000 meters as quickly as possible, form can be the first thing that suffers. When form suffers, you’re less efficient and increase your risk of injury. Proper form can actually help improve your 2,000 meter split, making you a more competitive athlete in the process. Technique and efficiency will take you far.
All this to say, CrossFit athletes need to take time to learn proper rowing form if it’s not taught at their gym. Even if it is taught, it’s a good idea to take the time to sharpen your skills and either work with an experienced rower in a coaching session, subscribe to a training program, or to watch a video tutorial or two to refresh your knowledge.
How CrossFit athletes can use rowing workouts to train
Integrating regular, consistent rowing workouts into your CrossFit training schedule is an incredible way to build endurance, core strength, and improve your mobility. Beyond these benefits, consistency with rowing will reinforce good rowing technique and efficiency.
Elite marathon runners don’t become great by only running marathons.
They cross-train. They do mobility exercises. They strength train. They do HIIT workouts. They mix up their training stimulus to build a more rounded training system that improves performance.
CrossFit athletes should do the same. The athletes competing in the CrossFit games did not get there by only doing CrossFit every day as their training program. They worked with a coach to put together a systematic training protocol that increases their strength, mobility, and endurance.
By integrating training outside of CrossFit workouts, you’ll train your body to be stronger and more agile. You’ll have better endurance. You’ll see the improvements you’ve been looking for in your CrossFit workouts.
It can be as simple as integrating a rowing workout one or two days a week into your current CrossFit workout schedule. These workouts can be 10- or 15-minute HIIT workouts on your rowing machine. They can be 20- or 30-minute challenge workouts. Or they can be 30+ minutes of endurance training.
Depending on your schedule and your goals, how you integrate rowing into your training routine is up to you.
Regardless of what your exact fitness goals are, adding rowing into the mix is a sure-fire way to improve your endurance and strength. By diversifying your training program, you’ll see results in areas you haven’t found with a single form of exercise.