It’s a cardio staple – the perfect endurance exercise that increases muscle capacity, melts fat and keeps your overall fitness levels afloat. The rowing machine is often overlooked for alternate stints on the treadmill, elliptical and bikes. Tragically overlooked, in our opinion. Because the rowing machine comes with a crazy list of benefits, including burning the most amount of calories in the least time with the lowest perceived rate of exertion.
If you’ve been casting aside the rowing machine, it’s no surprise. Firstly, it’s often shoved into the corner without an obvious purpose like an awkward Christmas tree in January, which isn’t entirely motivating. And secondly, you probably don’t know how to use it. But it’s time to rectify that. Here are a few reasons you should be rowing – and exactly how to do it.
Benefits of rowing machines
- Rowing machines provide a thorough full-body workout. In order to complete one full rowing stroke, you need to engage both your lower and upper body. Anyone who has used a rowing machine knows this is guaranteed to get you sweating – no shortcuts possible.
- You get the most for your minutes. Do it right and a rowing machine can be the perfect cardio for time-short fitness enthusiasts. Rowing places a huge demand on both the aerobic (continuous exercises which improve the body’s utilisation of oxygen) and anaerobic (muscle-targeting exercises in short bursts) system. This means your whole body has to work the entire time, raising your heart rate faster for a quicker, more efficient workout.
- Multiple muscles get to work. A whopping 80% of your muscle mass within nine major muscle groups are used when you hit the rower. Power comes from your legs as you push forward (known as ‘the catch’), core and arms on the way out, and all three on way back in.
- Rowing torches calories and sheds fat. The average person weighing 185 pounds (roughly around 13 stone or 83kg) can burn a sizzling 377 calories by rowing for 30 minutes vigorously, according to Harvard University. The numbers speak for themselves.
- Low-impact and non-weight-bearing. You row sitting down, with movements that are easy on weak joints compared to high-impact activities such as sports that include running and jumping.
How to use a rowing machine properly
Order, control and execution is extremely important when using a rowing machine, if you want optimum results. Here’s how to perform with perfect rowing form:
- Secure your feet onto the pads and tighten the straps so your feet don’t slide around.
- Bring your knees up, grabbing both handles with an overhand grip and pulling the handle with your as you slide the seat to the top of the machine.
- Keep your legs straight but with a slight bend – no locking knees. Lean slightly backwards and pull your hands to your chest, so the handle is below your chest. Keep your elbows pointing down against your sides. This is the starting and ending position to complete a full stroke.
- Bring your arms out first, followed by your upper body. Keep your back straight, not slumped, with your shoulders back and abs engaged as you follow through. Slightly angle your body forward as you extend your arms back out, sliding your body forward on the seat and bending your legs.
- To slide back, push your feet off first, straightening your legs with your arms extended, body leaning forward. Continue to push through your legs and move your upper body so you lean back. Pull the handles and bend your elbows so the handles touch the front of your chest and into starting position.
Rowing machines for warming up
Whatever workout you’re doing, rowing is a great warm-up. It gets the blood flowing before something like a run and is a great light-lifting exercise before doing weights.
A great way to warm up is to create a rowing playlist of three songs. For the first song, row at a light, easy and steady pace. For the second and third song, stay at the same pace until the chorus, then give it your all until the chorus ends and repeat for every chorus. Guaranteed to pump you up before a workout, every time.