Fitness & Equipment Guides > The Best Cross Training exercises for Rowing

The Best Cross Training exercises for Rowing

27th Feb 20

Cross training is a tried and tested method of improving your performance in one exercise by training in others. It uses each different activity’s unique strengths and movements to help with your overall technique in the activity you want to focus on. Here, we’re looking at cross training exercises to boost your rowing.

Rowing is one of the best full-body exercises you could want. Making the most of it seems like an obvious thing to do. When you get serious about your rowing, however, like in any sport, it’s only natural to want to take it to the next level.

We’ve compiled some of the best cross training exercises you could ever ask for to boost your rowing performance all in one place. It’s worth trying them all across an array of different workouts to see which suit you best.

Let’s take a look

Cardio Exercises

A great place to start when it comes to cross training for rowing, or any exercise really, is with other forms of cardio. It makes sense that the most similar styles of exercise will help you out. When you’re doing an intensive full-body cardio exercise, you reap multiple cardiovascular, respiratory and fitness benefits at the same time. All of this is essential for giving the best rowing performance you can. To truly make the most of it, this is where we need to best possible exercises.



Woman running outside


One of the best and most iconic exercises that you could do is running. It’s renowned for being an incredible cardio exercise, that’s benefits affect your whole body, inside and out. You can vary your intently to get the best from it as well as looking at other performance changers such as parachutes and resistance bands too. No matter what you do, it’s likely to slingshot your rowing progress.

Assault Bike Training


Person using an assault bike


Assault bikes, much like rowing machines, are up there with the best full-body cardio equipment you’re going to find. They have variable resistance and adjustments to make them the perfect workout for any fitness goal. As a result, it makes sense to use them both separately. They both use the same motions in some way or another too. That’s always useful for rowing cross training.



underwater shot of person swimming


The final cardio exercise that we’ll look at comes from swimming. With swimming being a water-essential exercise, that means two things. The first is that it becomes a low impact exercise since your weight is dramatically reduced. That’s great for taking a break from harder exercise. The second is that the water adds increased resistance to your exercise too. That builds up muscle in a practical and functional way. Both of these things mean that when you come back to rowing, your body should have a new advantage.

Weight Training Exercises

There’s much more to cross training exercises for rowing than just other cardio too. To truly get the most out of your performance, it’s always wise to be able to exert as much force as possible to get the most efficiency out of every movement. That’s where weight training comes into a league of its own. It’s a real game-changer if you can find the right kinds of exercises and for the right reasons.

Low Rows


Person using low row cross training


We’ll start by getting the obvious out of the way; a large amount of power comes from rowing based exercises like the low row. It’s a fundamental back exercise like you’d find in our back and biceps workout, and it’s incredible for your mid and upper back. The stronger your back is in this exercise, hypothetically, the greater your stroke should be with every row, helping you to cover the most distance in the lest ground when you get back to rowing.

Rear Delt Rows


Person doing single arm rows


There’s more to your back than your lats and mid-back involved in your rowing performance too. As the movement is so diverse and uses your whole body, your arms tend to reply on your rear deltoid muscles as well. That’s where rear delt rows come into play. They’re some of the best exercises you could find for your rear delts, and that’s what makes them so popular. The results should speak for themselves.



Person doing deadlifts


Moving onto the even bigger muscles involved in your rowing, your lower body has a huge role to play as well. When you begin the entire exercise, the brunt of the power comes from your legs. This is why we need deadlifts. They’re up there with the best lower body exercises imaginable, and they affect your entire posterior chain. As that happens, you should be able to excerpt a massive amount of power in your row.



person doing squats


The final cross training exercise to boost your rowing goes back to the basics. The motion of your legs pushing you back on the rowing machine happens to be just about exactly the same as you’d see in a leg press or a squat. Since squats are the favourable exercise vs leg presses, we’ll go with these. Building your squat is almost guaranteed to have a huge impact on your rowing performance, so it’s worth playing with high weight low reps as well as low weight high reps. Both of them have a part to play.


Ultimately, any exercise that uses the same muscles will be a benefit to your performance. To get the most out it though, these are undoubtedly up there with the best of the best. Try them all out over a few weeks and see how your rowing progress is affected.

Good luck! Rowing Machines




Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.