Rowing is one of the few non-weight bearing sports that exercises all the major muscle groups, including quads, biceps, triceps, lats, glutes and abdominal muscles. The sport also improves cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength. High-performance rowers tend to be tall and muscular: although extra weight does increase the drag on the boat, the larger athletes' increased power tends to be more significant. The increased power is achieved through increased length of leverage on the oar through longer limbs of the athlete. In multi-person boats (2,4, or 8), the lightest person typically rows in the bow seat at the front of the boat.
Rowers may take part in the sport for their leisure or they may row competitively. There are different types of competition in the sport of rowing. In the U.S. all types of races are referred to as regattas whereas this term is only used in the UK for head-to-head or multi-lane races (such as those that take place at Dorney Lake), which generally take place in the summer season. Time trials occur in the UK during the winter, and are referred to as Head races. In the US, head races (usually about 5k, depending on the body of water) are rowed in the fall, while 2k sprint races are rowed in the spring and summer.
Rowing machines were first used in Archaic Greece. Chabrias, an Athenian military general in 4th Century B.C., invented wooden rowing simulators for his inexperienced oarsmen. This enabled them to learn technique and timing before stepping foot on actual water crafts. And it must have worked — Chabrias successfully led numerous naval attacks against the Spartans.
Noise level is another large factor that tips the scale more towards water rowers. Air rowers make a fairly loud “whooshing” noise every stroke, which makes them bad for people who like watching TV, have sleeping children, live in apartments, or like working out early in the AM. Water rowers do make some noise but the splashing of water in the tank is a lot quieter and more soothing than the fan noise produced by air rowers.
In sweep or sweep-oar rowing, each rower has one oar, held with both hands. This is generally done in pairs, fours, and eights. In some regions of the world, each rower in a sweep boat is referred to either as port or starboard, depending on which side of the boat the rower's oar extends to. In other regions, the port side is referred to as stroke side, and the starboard side as bow side; this applies even if the stroke oarsman is rowing on bow side and/or the bow oarsman on stroke side.