Introduction to rowing

The basics of rowing

Read our quick introduction to rowing to find out everything you need to know about this great sport, from what it involves to how it can help to get you fit and healthy.

Olympic rowing consists of two main types of rowing, either sculling or sweep oar, with both heavyweight and lightweight divisions. A rower uses one oar in sweep rowing, and has an oar in each hand in sculling.

Introduction to rowing

Boats have one, two, four or eight rowers. In a team of eight rowers there is also a cox, who is responsible for steering the boat and directing the crew.

Olympic rowing is an endurance test over 2,000m (1.24 miles), with finishes that can reach speeds of up to 10m per second (36kph or almost 22.5mph). Crews cover the middle 1,000m at about 40 strokes per minute, but over the first and last 500m, the crew can be going at a rate of around 47 strokes.

The Olympic Games has had a rowing competition since 1896, but did not add the women's rowing competition until 1976. Women now compete in six of the 14 medal events.

The Olympic rowing events:

  • Coxless pair — men
  • Double scull — men
  • Double sculls — women
  • Eight with cox — men
  • Eight with cox — women
  • Four without cox — men
  • Lightweight coxless four — men
  • Lightweight double sculls — men
  • Lightweight double sculls — women
  • Pair without cox — women
  • Quadruple sculls without cox — men
  • Quadruple sculls without cox — women
  • Single sculls — men
  • Single sculls — women

Health and fitness benefits of rowing
Rowing can benefit the mind and body in the following key areas:

  • Developing arm muscles and upper body strength.
  • Working out the cardiovascular system and improving oxygen supply.
  • Boosting stamina and hand flexibility.
  • Focusing the mind and developing mental concentration.

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