How Are Hamstrings Used in Rowing Workouts?

Woman on rowing machine

Rowing is a great cardiovascular workout that many people believe is solely an arm exercise. But rowing actually is powered by leg strength, specifically the hamstrings and glutes. Every pull of the rower is initiated with a push in the legs, and your hamstrings do a large part of the work.

Rowing Motion Analysis

Although the arms are important in rowing, the leg movement powers the row and maximizes your hamstring strength. If you look only at the legs, each row is initiated by bending your legs and basically squatting on the rower. From there, each row is initiated with a powerful extension of your hips and extension of your knees. After the movement is initiated with your legs, the arms use that momentum to pull the row bar in to your chest. If you row and feel like you arms get fatigued quickly, you are not using your legs properly.

Importance of Hamstrings in Rowing

The hamstrings are important in the explosive push phase of the row. Each push of the legs involves hip extension, and the hamstrings are a powerful hip extender. If your hamstrings were weak, rowing would become more of an upper-body workout, and your arms would fatigue quickly. Strong hamstrings can create a powerful push off during every row and create a lot of momentum for a powerful arm pull. Hamstring endurance also comes into play during longer rows, as you do not want your legs to give out and rely solely on your arms.

Rowing Workouts

To practice good rowing technique and improve the ability of your hamstrings to power your rows, start with interval rowing workouts. Set a timer to go off every 30 seconds and row hard for 30 seconds and then easy for 30 seconds. Continue to alternate for five to 10 minutes. Make sure to emphasize the leg push off during every stroke during the hard intervals to focus on improving your hamstring strength. Also, try rowing for five to 10 minutes straight at a fast pace to work on the endurance of your hamstrings. Push with your legs throughout the entire row to focus on your legs.

Cross-Train for Hamstring Strengthening

To cross-train for rowing and improve your hamstring strength in other ways, try the hamstring curl machine at the gym. Either seated or prone, this machine will focus solely on your hamstring strength and can result in improved rowing capacity. Complete two sets of 15 repetitions on the hamstring curl machine. Also, try exercise ball leg curls. Lie on the ground with your straight legs on an exercise ball. Lift your hips up, and roll the ball back and forth by bending your knees and pulling in with your feet. This exercise is great for improving hamstring endurance and should be done 15 to 20 times. You will find that this cross-training, if done regularly, can significantly improve your rowing.