Health & Fitness

British Indoor Rowing Championships 2007

For Every...Body!

Latest update:

1st September 2019

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FES-Rowing Studies

This section builds to provide a complete history of studies involving FES-rowing training. The studies appear chronologicallty the most current first. Once a study has been completed, the authors, title, publishing journal, and brief abstract of the studies findings will be reported.

2015: VA Palo Alto Health Care System, California, USA

Researchers at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System are looking for volunteers to participate in a VA funded study about changes in bone health following spinal cord injury. All participants will receive four bone density scans over a 9-month period. Some participants will also take part in a rowing exercise program 3 times per week for 9 months which will use functional electrical stimulation of the legs muscle to perform the rowing action.

For more information contact Becky Lambach:

Landline: (650) 493-5000, 1, 1, 69411

Email address: rebecca.lambach@va.gov


Or click on PAVIR website for more imformation

2014: Brunel University London, UK

Gibbons RS, McCarthy ID, Gall A, Stock CG, Shippen J, Andrews BJ. Can FES-rowing mediate bone mineral density in SCI: a pilot study. Spinal Cord 2014 Dec; 52: S4-S5.


Study Findings

This single case study preceded a 6-month repeated measures study. It was designed to investigate the effect a structured FES-rowing training programme had on mediating bone loss following spinal cord injury (SCI). Compared to previously reported FES-untrained patients (see Skeletal Health following SCI; McCarthy et al, 2012), the proximal tibial trabecular bone mineral density (BMD) of the highly-trained FES-rower was greater, and importantly, above the threshold associated with fragility fractures following chronic SCI. In addition, the knee joint contact forces were above the threshold known to mediate BMD following SCI. Whilst the study concluded that structured FES-rowing training may provide therapeutic benefit, further investigations were required with larger numbers and additional channels of FES to increase loading at the hip and ankle.

Male T4 complete FES-rowing training

2014: Brunel University London, UK

Gibbons RS, Shave RE, Gall A, Andrews BJ. FES-rowing in tetraplegia: a preliminary report. Spinal Cord 2014 Dec; 52(12): 880-886.

Study Findings

This study, the first of three with tetraplegia as the primary theme, was designed to assess the feasibility of FES-rowing in tetraplegia. Eight individuals with complete and incomplete injuries ranging from C4 to C7 successfully participated in the 12-month study. With some modifications to the equipment, all participants were able to continuously row for 30-minutes three times per week after completing 13 ± 7 FES-rowing training sessions. Peak and steady-state power outputs all increased over the 12-months. See FES-Rowing in Tetraplegia.

Female C4 complete FES-rowing training

2002: University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Wheeler GD, Andrews BA, Lederer R, Davoodi R, Natho K, WEiss C, Keon J, Bhambhani Y, Steadward RD. Functiuonal electrical stimulation-assisted rowing: Increasing cardiovascular fitness through functional Electrical Stimulation rowing in persons with spinal cord injury. Archives of Physical and Medical Rehabilitation 2002; 83: 1093-1099.

Study Findings

This prototype, ROWSTIM II, enabled training volumes of up to 30 minutes at a time necessitating the development of training protocols. Like ROWSTIM I, this system used 4-channels to stimulate components of the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups. Target exercise volume was three 30-minute rows per week with an exercise intensity of 75% - 80% of a pre-determined peak oxygen uptake test.

ROWSTIM II a development of Laskin’s FES-rower

1993: University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Laskin JJ, Ashley EA, Olenik LM, Burnham R, Cumming DC, Steadward RD, Wheeler GD. Electrical stimulation-assisted rowing exercise in spinal cord injured people. A pilot study. Paralegia 1993; 31: 534-541.

Study Findings

This innovative new exercise device, ROWSTIM 1, was developed to investigate the potential health benefits of an exercise modality that combines concurrent voluntary upper limb exercise with FES-assisted lower limb exercise in people with SCI. ROWSTIM 1 was conceptualised by Dr Garry Wheeler. The device was based on a 4-channel FES-system that enabled components of the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups to be stimulated via their respective peripheral nerves. Inevitably this first-of-a-kind prototype had a number of design limitations which restricted training to a few minutes at a time. However, it did demonstrate its future potential with design modifications. A new prototype was deveoped in 2002 called ROWSTIM II.

James Laskin’s innovative rowing prototype ROWSTIM

Three exercise modalities where compared, FES-leg-only rowing, arms-only rowing and FES-rowing. The primary metrics used to compare the exercise modalities were relative oxygen consumption (O2·kg) and heart rate. FES-rowing produced mean (± SE) steady state values of 16.34 ± 0.74 mL·kg-1·min-1 which represented 83% of the peak FES-rowing values achieved, or 23% increase over arms-only rowing, or 118% over FES-leg-only rowing. Steady state heart rates were 105 bpm for FES-rowing compared to 112 bpm when arms-only rowing, or 71 bpm when FES-leg-only rowing.

Although the prototype developed in this study had a number of design limitations, the results highlighted the potential health benefits FES-rowing might offer including reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease and improved quality of life.