Rowing vs Running: Which Is Better

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Aspiring and current athletes alike consider rowing vs running and wonder which is the best fit for them. Rowers are tall, broad at the shoulders, and have flawlessly tapered lats. Runners, on the other hand, look like fitness models. Both groups of athletes are powerful and beautiful, but which exercise is right for you?

If you are new to the gym, it can be intimidating to see all the workout equipment there. You don't want to waste your time. What will help you reach your goals quickly, efficiently, and safely? Keep reading this comprehensive guide regarding rowing vs running to find out which is the better fit for you.

What Are The Benefits Of Running?

A strong case can be made for running being the best exercise because of its accessibility. You do not need to spend several thousand dollars on a boat and oars or even $1,600 on an indoor rowing machine. The barefoot running movement is exploding, so some would argue you don't even need shoes. But besides its accessibility, what are the benefits of running?

Fights Depression

We have all heard of the runner's high. This is the point in the run when you begin to feel euphoric. The entire world melts away, and it is just you, your feet, and the pavement, grass, or sand. It does not matter that you need to put fuel in your car or your boyfriend didn't do the dishes again. Your body is flooded with endorphins and you can't help but have raised spirits.

Improves Balance

Running is great for the elderly because it helps improve your balance. A strong core keeps you from leaning backward or too far forward. Especially when running over uneven surfaces, your core works hard to keep your body upright. While rowing does an excellent job strengthening your muscles, running provides your muscles with the opportunity to practice balance and coordination. Trail running also helps you pay more attention to your surroundings. For many, this translates to fewer falls and accidents.

Torch Calories

Rowing torches calories, but when comparing rowing vs running, there is a quadratic relationship regarding power. Let's say it takes you an effort level of 2 to run 500 meters. To row that same 500 meters would take an effort of 16 on your personal scale. Intuitively, you may think that rowing is the better calorie-burner. However, many people simply cannot sustain the effort necessary to row vigorously.

Rowing vs Running: The Burn

The average 155-pound person burns 1,228 calories running at 10 miles per hour for 60 minutes and 744 calories running at six miles per hour for the same amount of time. An hour of rowing vigorously on the water, which burns more calories than stationary rowing, will only burn 632 calories per hour. Interestingly, rowing moderately indoors burns more calories (520 per hour) than rowing moderately on the water (493 per hour).

Strengthen Your Joints

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It is true. Running is a weight-bearing exercise. But humans evolved to run. An eight-year study conducted on several thousand participants demonstrated that the more people ran, the less chance they had of suffering from knee pain or osteoarthritis. By stressing your joints, bones, tendons, and ligaments, you are actually strengthening and conditioning them. This is particularly important for the older population to consider. Bone loss is extremely prevalent as we age.

How To Run

Since childhood, we have all known instinctively how to run. However, good running form is critical for enhancing performance and preventing injury. Here are 10 tips to help you run correctly so you stay safe and get the most out of your workout:

  • Keep your head straight
  • Keep your shoulders back
  • Keep your hands relaxed
  • Keep your arms at 90-degrees
  • Lean forward at the hips
  • Keep your hips stable
  • Do not lift your knees too high
  • Land on the middle of your feet
  • Take short, light steps
  • Breathe deeply and rhythmically

What Are The Benefits Of Rowing?

There are many differences between rowing vs running and many of them are good. Primarily, rowing is ideal for those who have joint pain or wish to get a full-body workout.

Move More Muscles

Primarily, when you run you are using muscles in your lower body. Your calves, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes are getting a killer workout. But your core muscles and biceps are being used to a much lesser degree. When you row, you are truly getting a full-body workout.

How To Row: The Basics

Whether you are on the water or on an indoor rowing machine, your stroke will begin at the "catch." Your knees are bent, your shins are as vertical as you can get them (be sure to stretch your calves before you start), your arms are straight, and your body is leaning forward slightly.

The second step in rowing is the "drive." Push off with your legs like you are jumping off the ground (use your heels as well as your toes). Once your legs are fully extended, swing your back through the vertical position and begin to pull with your lats. Rowing is not a bicep exercise. Your lats are much larger and stronger than your biceps. If you are on an indoor rowing machine, flip the handlebar upside down if you have to and picture squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades.

Your legs are fully extended at this point. Continue swinging backward until your back is 45 degrees from vertical and the oar or handlebar is at the bottom of your chest. Women sometimes find it helpful to touch the base of their bra with their knuckles. At this point, you are at the "finish."

The "recovery" is the reverse of everything you just did. Push your arms forward, lean forward from your hips until you are 45 degrees forward from vertical, then begin to bend your knees until you have made it back to the catch. Well-stretched hamstrings are critical for rowing on the water. If your hamstrings are too tight, you will come up to the catch too quickly and one of two things will happen.

First, your seat may come off the slide, putting the rest of your eight-man boat in a tight spot. Otherwise, you may "catch a crab." When this happens, your oar ends up behind you and the entire boat has to stop so you can get your oar back in front of you. Never rush up to the catch!

Muscles Used Rowing

Sitting at the "catch," your hamstrings, calf muscles (both the gastrocnemius and soleus), and erector spinae muscles are being used. At the start of the "drive," you work your hamstrings, calves, quads, rhomboids, and erector spinae.

Throughout the "drive," you work your erector spinae and rectus abdominus in your core. You work your triceps, rhomboids, deltoids, and trapezius in your shoulders and upper arms. You work your pectoralis major in your chest and your wrist extensors and flexors in your lower arms. In your lower body, you work your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles.

During the "finish," you work your erector spinae, rectus abdominus, and internal and external obliques in your trunk. In your chest, you work your pectoralis major. In your arms and chest, you work your wrist extensors and flexors, biceps, triceps, anterior deltoids, and pectoralis major. Your hamstrings and quads are also being used in your legs.

Low-Impact Exercise

One of the biggest benefits of rowing vs running is rowing is both low-impact and non-weight bearing. This causes less stress on your joints. If you suffer from osteoarthritis or have weak joints, this is particularly important.

As with any exercise, improper form can lead to injury. As you push off from the catch, use your entire foot. If you push off with just your toes and neglect to push with your heels as well, you risk straining your knee joints. If your doctor or physical therapist has told you not to participate in any weight-bearing activity while you rehabilitate an injury, rowing is the perfect alternative to running. It works the same muscles (core, hamstrings, quads, calves, glutes) but allows you to recover from your injury while staying fit.

Which Is Better For You?

Whether rowing or running is better for you depends on your goals. If your goal is to rehabilitate an injury, rowing is the better fit for you. If your goal is to strengthen your bones, running is the best fit for you. If your goal is to pack on muscle throughout your body, row at a high resistance. If you want to burn fat and show off your hard-earned toned muscles, you should run as fast and far as you can.

Rowing vs Running: The Bottom Line

There is no clear-cut answer in determining whether rowing vs running is better for you. If you can run at a rate of 10 miles per hour for 30 minutes or more, you should run to lose weight. If you can row at a moderate pace indoors for long stretches of time, you should row. The best solution is to take advantage of both exercises because they both have their benefits.

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