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Final Full-Physique Exercise: Indoor Rowing

By Lisa Steuer

Are you looking for a cardio workout that will get your whole body in shape? The rowing machine in your gym may be a better choice than the treadmill or elliptical machine. More and more people are realizing the fitness benefits of rowing without ever stepping near water. Rowing combines cardio and resistance training, which means you can actually cut your exercise time in half. In fact, rowing activates 86 percent of the muscles and primarily trains the core.

Why row?

Rowing is a whole-body workout because it’s a cardio that uses your back, core, and arms, says Tom Sanford, director of rowing at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Born into a rowing family, Tom is also the head coach of the women’s team at Marist, having previously coached the men and made her their 10th birthdaythe consecutive MAAC championship in 2009. They have also won the championship twice since then.

“[Rowing is] obviously great for cardio and you use your legs in turn, then your back, and then your arms. So there are other sports that are good [for fitness], but they usually focus on one or two parts of the body, not all, ”says Tom.

The rowing program at Marist is pretty strong with around 80 rowers and rowers and Tom knows exactly what it takes to train beginners. “I taught kids how to row, and I am currently teaching an 88-year-old man how to row,” says Tom. “The athlete needs a little patience. If you stick with it a little, you will definitely see how much you can make of it. “

In fact, not only is rowing a good workout for those looking to get in shape, it can also improve an athlete’s performance in other sports. “Many colleges now have basketball teams sit on rowing machines to teach them physical discipline,” says Tom. He even convinced Marist to buy four or five rowing machines for the weight room so he could teach other athletes how to row.

Another positive aspect of rowing is that it increases core strength. It also increases flexibility, balance and can even be used in rehab for a shoulder or back injury. “I think it’s great and you can do it forever,” says Tom. “Once you’ve learned to row, you can do it at 90.”

Prepare for rowing

Tom says rowing can be “deceptively painful”. This applies even to experienced athletes who are already in good shape. Many people also think that the rowing machine will be a breeze because they have upper arm strength. But actually, it’s the legs that do a lot of work.

It is important to practice rowing techniques before you begin (see How to Row sidebar). Failure to do so could result in injury. An even better idea is to have someone watch you practice your technique so you can be sure that you are doing it correctly. “It’s a pretty easy sport to learn. But if you don’t get it right, it can lead to lower back problems, ”says Tom.

Once you’ve learned the correct moves, it’s best to start with shorter strides. Row, rest, and repeat for 3 to 5 minutes the first few times. Beginners should aim for a short-term goal of cycling non-stop for 30 minutes. Once you do that, you can begin a good exercise program. Rowing machines (Tom suggests Concept2 machines because they most closely resemble actual rowing machines) are similar to treadmills in that they usually track calories and distances, and let you work at specific speeds, stroke rates, and resistance. A lower intensity workout would be 18-22 beats per minute, while a higher intensity workout would be 30-34 beats per minute.

Before rowing, Tom suggests an active warm up that includes stretching, running in place, or a quick jog and jumping jacks. The cool down is light rowing with no resistance. Also, Tom always lets his athletes do sit-ups, push-ups, and planks for core strength. A strong core protects the lower back while rowing.

Here are some rowing workouts that you can try once you are comfortable with the rowing technique. Depending on your fitness level, experiment with your pace and stroke frequency. Remember: 18-22 beats per minute is a lower intensity, while 30-34 beats per minute is more advanced. You can use the breaks between steps to stand up and stretch, or you can just rest on the machine if you prefer.


• Row for 3-5 minutes, rest for 3 minutes by stretching. Repeat four times.

• Row at 3-minute intervals with 1-minute breaks. Start at a comfortable pace and try to increase your beats per minute slightly over the next 3-minute interval, then return to a more comfortable pace on the next interval. Do a total of four 3-minute intervals.

More demanding workouts:

• Row a total of four times in 10-minute increments with a 3-5 minute break in between.

• 20-minute increments x 3. Rest 3-5 minutes in between.

• 40-minute increments x 2. Rest 3-5 minutes in between.

• Row 300 meters x 2. Rest 3-5 minutes in between.

Training on the rowing machine

Before making rowing a part of your exercise program, it is important to first familiarize yourself with the correct rowing technique to avoid injury. The seat moves and your feet are tied to it, and the rowing is a continuous movement.

1. Grasp the handle while sitting in an upright position and leaning back slightly with your legs straight. The handle should be pulled back so that it is just above your belly button. This is the “end” position of a stroke.

2. To begin the next pull, extend your arms, pivot forward slightly (from your hips), then bring your butt forward by bending your knees (moving towards the machine).

3rd With your arms outstretched, you will reach the “start” position when your chest is a few inches from your knees.

4th Start the next punch by pushing through your heels as hard as you can.

5. Just before your legs are fully extended, rotate from your hips to a slight incline (80 degrees), then pull your arms back so the handle is just above your belly button.

6th Immediately move on to the next stroke.

7th Remember that each punch starts with the legs, the back follows, and then the arms. Legs, back, arms.

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