Cross-Training for Rowing

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Many athletes these days are now branching our into other sports, even if it’s purely for recreation. Playing sports other than your primary sport can be a great way to enhance your conditioning, learn some useful skills and conditioning tips, and perhaps most importantly, to have some fun! In this article we will discuss some of the cool ways that rowers have incorporated cross-training into their program with beneficial results.


This may seem weird, but boxing is actually a conveniently applicable form of cross-training for rowing. There are some key similarities between the two sports. First, both rowing and boxing combine a high degree of cardiovascular fitness with muscular strength and endurance. By participating in one sport, you won’t need to be worried about bulking up or trimming down too much in the other sport.

Another key similarity is the focus on upper body resistance training. There’s a bit of a difference in that boxing training primarily focuses on exercises under your own body weight, while rowing incorporates resistance due to the water, and even wind and other smaller factors. In any case, endurance in these two sports is key, so you don’t need to worry about bulking up too much from one of the sports and losing your ability to maintain a certain pace.

While boxing does not target the back muscles to the extent that rowing does, it is still quite surprising how much of a workout your back does get with boxing. Part of the reason is because constantly returning your hands to a protective position after every punch involved using your back muscles in ways you haven’t before, and the constant activation is a workout in any sense. Boxing targets the shoulders most of all, so if you think this is an area where you are lacking strength or endurance, boxing will for sure take care of that.

Just as importantly, boxing is a fun challenge, it’s a more social sport than many people think, and it’s easily accessible and affordable. All you really need are a membership and a good pair of boxing gloves.

High-Intensity Circuit Training

If you’re looking to add some “resistance” to your running program, we would recommend considering a circuit training program performed at a relatively high intensity. Circuits are exercises that target individual muscle groups, but when arranged in the correct fashion, will allow you to target every muscle group by the end of the workout.

Most standard gyms/fitness centres will have circuits, and you don’t always have to complete the full circuit to use the machines. However, if you opt for the true circuit program, you can keep the weight low and decrease your rest between exercises, which will have you panting at the end, but will have also allowed for a great resistance training workout, ultimately boosting your muscular strength and endurance.

I’m personally not a fan of spending tons of time in a public gym, but a circuit can be a great way to drop in and crush a workout, especially when you’re tight for time. Furthermore, if you want to include a buddy who doesn’t row, chances are the gym offers enough for them to want to sign up if they aren’t already going there. This could be a great way to stay in contact with close friends while not worrying about maintenance of your conditioning.


Generally speaking, if you can find something fun and active to do aside from your primary sport, you will benefit in many ways. Whether it’s having a bit of fun and decreasing stress, or improving on specific areas of your conditioning that you have identified as weaknesses, cross-training can be extremely beneficial. Keep an open mind, and before you know it you may be an expert at another sport!

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