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Core Strength: Row Your Way to a Better Golf Swing

rowing machine, core strength, golf swing

Rowing provides an excellent full-body workout that directly complements the physical and mental demands of golf. The synchronized leg drive and pulling motion of rowing mimics the explosive sequence of the golf swing. Rowing works the back, shoulders, arms and core – the key muscles golfers rely on for power and stability. It also enhances cardiovascular fitness for increased stamina on the course. The rhythmic nature of rowing promotes fluidity and tempo similar to an efficient golf swing.

Golf greats like Tiger Woods have incorporated rowing machines into their training routines and credited rowing for improving their overall fitness, strength, flexibility and golf performance. Woods once said, “Everything in golf begins from the ground up, and a rowing machine is one of the best tools to train the legs and core.” Other top pros like Rory McIlroy (we recently covered his love of Peloton) have been spotted using rowing machines to complement their golf training. The low-impact nature of rowing makes it an ideal cross-training exercise. By developing full-body power and synchronizing multiple muscle groups, rowing directly translates to generating more speed and consistency in the golf swing.

In this post, we’ll review some of the benefits of implementing a rowing program, explore the different types of rowers and models from Hydrow, Echelon, Concept II, WaterRower, Sunny Health & Fitness, and Topiom. Finally, we’ll review a few sample, golf specific workouts. This article provides general information about physical conditioning programs and is not medical advice; you should consult a doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

How Rowing Can Benefit Golfers

Rowing provides an efficient and accessible workout that engages nearly all the major muscle groups in one smooth, continuous stroke. The legs, back, arms, shoulders, and core are activated as rowers drive with their legs before pulling the handle towards their torso. This total body conditioning builds overall strength and endurance that directly translates to improved power and consistency in the golf swing. Rowing is also an intense cardiovascular workout that increases stamina for walking long distances on the course.

The fluid rowing motion enhances flexibility in the hips, shoulders, and spine – key areas for rotational range of motion in the golf swing. Rowing strengthens the core muscles that stabilize the body, improving balance and force transfer during the swing. The synchronized leg drive and pull of rowing mimics the explosive kinetic sequence of the downswing. Rowing develops muscular coordination, tempo, and motor control similar to the golf swing. The low-impact nature makes it accessible for golfers of all ages and abilities.

female golfer on rowing machine

Rowing Form

Proper rowing technique is critical for maximizing power and efficiency while minimizing injury risk. The common misconceotion is that this is an arms exercise, wher you pull backwards. Contrary to that popular belief, the rowing stroke consists of four phases – the catch, drive, finish, and recovery.

Common mistakes include over-gripping the handle, breaking the arms too early, improper body positioning, and rushing the stroke. The key is to initiate the drive by engaging the legs, then pivoting at the hips to swing the torso back before finally pulling in the arms. The recovery is essentially the reverse – arms extend first, then torso swings forward, and finally the knees bend. Maintaining proper sequencing and posture throughout is essential.

Proper technique takes time to develop and there are many great resources online focused on teaching form, providing tips, and workouts. Much like golf, mastering each phase of the stroke,and practicing drills that isolate form are key. With consistent practice and an emphasis on technique over speed, rowers can maximize gains while avoiding common mistakes.

female golfer struggling with rowing form

Rowing Machines

If you don’t have the space, funding, or inclination to invest in a rowing machine, most gyms will have a few on hand. There are also many dedicated rowing gyms, like Row House, which I discovered next to my office a few years ago. Before that, the only knowledge I had of rowing was watching Frank on House of Cards and wondering what the heck he was doing!

Types of Rowing Machines

The four main types of rowing machines utilize different resistance mechanisms, each with their own pros and cons. Consider noise level, space constraints, maintenance, and rowing feel when choosing the best type for your needs.

Last year, I decided to make the investment and navigated through a maze of options, price points, and untimately settled on a fairly basic water rower that folds up out of the way when not in use. I find it more than sufficient for the simple workouts that I have been doing. Much like the launch monitiors, golf simulator software, and spin bikes that we have covered on this site, options run from simplistic and stand-alone, to integrated, subscription based options.

Air Rowers

  • Use flywheel and fan blades to generate air resistance. The faster you row, the more resistance is created.
  • Provide smooth, natural rowing motion. Resistance adjusts to your pace.
  • Tend to be noisy due to the fan blades. Require regular maintenance.
  • Example: Concept II
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Magnetic Rowers

  • Use magnets moving past a flywheel to create resistance.
  • Resistance is adjustable but remains constant regardless of rowing speed.
  • Nearly silent operation. Lower maintenance than air rowers.
  • Example: Hydrow, Echelon
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Water Rowers

  • Mimic rowing on water. Resistance comes from paddles immersed in a tank of water.
  • Smooth rowing motion. Sound/feel of moving through water.
  • Large tank requires more space. Water must be filled and cleaned.
  • Example: WaterRower, Topiom
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Hydraulic Rowers

  • Use hydraulic cylinders with fluid or air to provide resistance when rowing.
  • Compact, affordable, and quiet.
  • Resistance can vary as fluid heats up. Doesn’t mimic water rowing.
  • Example: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW-1205
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Golf Specific Workouts

Rowing golf workouts are a creative way to make training more fun by integrating the scoring system of golf into a rowing interval session. Rowers aim to hit target distances each interval to earn birdies or eagles. The format provides variety, engages competition, and keeps rowers motivated.

Rowing golf can be adapted for all skill levels by adjusting the distance goals. It is an entertaining yet challenging workout that brings together the best aspects of both sports. Golfers and non-golfers alike can appreciate rowing golf as an enjoyable way to build golf-specific fitness.

Like any physical activity, remember that a good warmup is key. 5 minute low inensity warmup and cooldown as widely recommended.

female golfer rowing games

Rower Golf Fitness 9 Hole Challenge

A 9 interval rowing workout video, it is designed as a creative high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout that mimics playing 9 holes of golf on a rowing machine. It’s an creative and effective HIIT workout that keeps things fun and challenging by mimicking a round of golf on the rowing machine.

  • 9 sets of 1 minute hard rowing intervals
  • 1 minute rest period between each interval
  • Target distance for each interval is 300 meters (“par”)
  • 320 meters = Birdie (-1)
  • 335+ meters = Eagle (-2)
  • 280 meters = Bogey (+1)

The goal is to row as far as possible in each 1-minute hard interval to get under par. Going over 300 meters earns bonus points while under 300 meters results in penalty points.

Rowing Golf Challenge

The Rowing Golf Challenge is a creative interval workout designed by Asensei, who offer a mobile app and subscription-based set of rowing plans. Their Rowing Golf mimics playing a round of golf on a rowing machine[1]. The goal is to “row” 9 “holes”, each consisting of a 1 minute hard interval aiming to hit a target distance of 300 meters for “par”. Going further earns a “birdie” or “eagle”, less distance is a “bogey”.

  • 9 sets of 1 minute hard rowing intervals with 1 minute rest between sets
  • Target distance for each 1 minute interval is 300 meters for “par”
  • Going over 300 meters earns bonus points:
    • 320m = Birdie (-1)
    • 335m+ = Eagle (-2)
  • Going under 300 meters results in penalty points:
    • 280m = Bogey (+1)
    • And so on

Overall, the Rowing Golf Challenge is a creative and effective interval workout that provides an anaerobic challenge while keeping things fun and competitive. Proper warmup, good form, pacing strategy, and motivation are key to getting the most out of it. It can be a beneficial workout for rowers of varying abilities looking to build endurance and cardio capacity.

female golfer golf rowing challenge

Key Takeaways

  • Rowing strengthens core muscles that are crucial for stability and power transfer in the golf swing. The legs, back, shoulders, and arms engaged during rowing directly target golf-specific areas.
  • Rowing builds cardiovascular endurance which enhances stamina for walking long distances during a round of golf. Improved fitness allows golfers to maintain focus and consistency.
  • The full body motion and range of motion in rowing enhances flexibility in the hips, shoulders, and spine – key areas for rotational range of motion in the golf swing.
  • Rowing develops muscular coordination, tempo, motor control, and proprioception that closely mimics the kinetic sequence and fluidity of an efficient golf swing.
  • Rowing provides a challenging yet low-impact form of cross-training that helps prevent injury and aids recovery for golfers. The non-weight bearing motion reduces strain on the joints.
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