What if you could find a piece of exercise equipment that burns calories to help you lose weight, strengthens and tones muscles and provides a great cardiovascular workout — a total body workout, in fact.
There is such a piece of equipment — a rowing machine. Just a few years ago, rowing machines could be found near the back wall in health clubs and you never saw anyone using them. Why the change in popularity? The secret of it’s amazing benefits have been revealed.
Actually the biggest reason why people don’t just hop on a rowing machine placed in a health club cardio room is simple: They don’t know how to use it. Almost anyone can figure out how to walk on the belt of a treadmill or pedal a recumbent bicycle. A rowing machine takes a little more finesse, but you’ve got this.
Let’s go over the benefits for choosing a rowing machine for your workout, learning basic rowing techniques and avoiding common mistakes and ways you can start rowing today.
Since rowing constitutes a non-impact exercise, it’s easy on the back and joints, making it an excellent form of exercise for older fitness enthusiasts. Rowing burns substantial calories, making it a great tool for weight loss. Since rowing is an endurance exercise, there are cardiovascular benefits, including improved lung, heart and circulation systems.
Since rowing uses almost every major muscle group in the body, stronger toned muscles are another benefit. Rowing works both the upper body (shoulders, arms and back) and lower body muscles (legs, hips and buttocks) with each stroke. It’s also a performance abdominal exercise since the core stays engaged throughout the exercise.
Learning proper rowing technique might not be as difficult as it seems. According to Concept2, a maker of rowing machines, there’s a four-step process to the rowing stroke:
- The catch: This is your starting position where your legs are compressed, arms extended and you’re gripping the handle.
- The drive: Focus on pushing with the legs first, next pivoting backward at the hips so your shoulders pass your pelvis (you should be in a slight lay back) and then pulling the arms into your chest.
- The finish: This is where the abs stabilize the body and the glutes and quads are contracting as well as the biceps and back muscles.
- The recovery: This is the final stage where the arms are pushed away from the body and the torso moves forward as you slide up to the catch position.
Some of the most common rowing technique mistakes are to row only with your arms or hunching your back during the stroke. It takes practice to get the technique sequence down and create a smooth stroke.
“This sequential engagement of the kinetic chain is the natural sequence in which muscles are supposed to engage for efficient, safe and effective movement,” said Allen Russell, a personal trainer at Crossroads Fitness who has an extensive background in biomechanical performance. “The rowing machine provides an excellent evaluation tool in order to better provide quality training which will improve overall performance and function of my clients.”
There are many ways to incorporate rowing into your exercise routine. It can be performed as a warmup prior to a strength training class or as a cooldown. You might choose to row during a high-intensity interval training program in which you engage in short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by short periods of slower-paced rowing. You might incorporate rowing as your primary cardiovascular workout as you would exercise on a stationary bike or treadmill.
Rowing machines are used by cardiac rehabilitation patients to Olympic athletes and everyone in between. Because of the wide range of health benefits associated with rowing, you might consider making rowing part of your lifelong fitness routine.