Row Your Way to Better Health

Rowing in Chattanooga has a rich history. First started in 1876, the city is now home to top rowing teams and rowing events in the country. Since 2005, Head of the Hooch, the second largest regatta in the U.S., has been held on the Tennessee River off the banks of our scenic city. Each year the Lookout Rowing Club and the city of Chattanooga hold the Chattanooga Head Race. Last year, McCallie School‘s 8+ boat won the gold medal at Head of the Hooch and this year the same boat placed second. Chattanooga Junior Rowing has won the mixed double sculls for the last two years.

There are two forms of rowing: sweep (or sweep-oar) rowing and sculling. In sweep rowing, each rower has one oar, held with both hands. This can be done in pairs, fours and eights. In sculling, each rower has two oars (or sculls), one in each hand. Sculling is usually done without a coxswain, in quads, doubles or singles. Racing boats have sliding seats (slide seat rowing) to allow the use of the legs in addition to the body to apply power to the oar.

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. It improves cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength. Because it is a low impact activity with defined movement ranges, twist and sprain injuries are rare. When executed properly, the rowing stroke is a fairly safe motion, providing little room for the serious injury often found in contact and high-impact sports.

Rowing also has other benefits including the intensity and time efficiency of the workout and the added value of being outside. 

senior couple rowing

A University of Stockholm study confirmed that in addition to the healthy benefits of rowing, people tend to exercise harder outdoors and subsequently burn more calories and achieve fitness goals quicker. Additionally, the consistent and all encompassing activity associated with rowing, combined with being outdoors on the water, has an unparalleled impact on reducing stress.

Locally, and given the area’s milder climate, outdoor rowing is a 10 month sport. Chattanooga Rowing offers Chattanooga Junior Rowing for teens and children (18 years and younger). It also offers the Adaptive Rowing program for anyone who may need special equipment or instruction, including children with physical or mental challenges. Established in 1876, Lookout Rowing Club provides classes for adults. Each year it hosts an informal marathon row from downtown Chattanooga into the heart of the Tennessee River Gorge. Additionally, the organization leads the Chattanooga Head Race and with the Atlanta Rowing Club, hosts Head of the Hooch.

Jack Fish, president of Chattanooga Rowing has been a key leader behind the development of rowing in Chattanooga. When asked about rowing he adds, “Not only does rowing allow you to achieve an excellent level of physical health amongst the beauty of our area, it teaches life skills that kids carry with them forever. Rowing teaches how to perfect a new skill; it teaches discipline, teamwork, and good eating habits. It is a low impact sport that one can enjoy for his/her entire life. My first race was at the Head of the Hooch 30 years ago when it was first started, and I have never stopped rowing.”

If you think you would enjoy getting into shape with a low impact sport, while reducing stress among the natural beauty of our area, think rowing. For more information on rowing, visit and

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