6 ways the rowing machine will get you jacked and why it's better than running or biking
rowingmachine works your entire body including your glutes, core, and back.
- It's a low-impact workout that's easier on the body than running.
- An intense rowing workout can burn nearly 100 more calories per hour than cycling.
The rowing machine at the gym may look intimidating, but it offers an incredible workout.
Rowing workouts target all of your major muscle groups, strengthen your core, and have a low impact on your body.
Here are six benefits of using a rowing machine.
1. It works out your entire body
The motions in a rowing machine workout include:
- Pushing yourself backward with your legs.
- Using your core to lean your body backwards.
- Using your arms to pull the handle in toward your chest.
This is important because building muscle can help reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.
2. It's low-impact compared to some other exercises
Rowing offers a vigorous cardiovascular workout "with none of the pounding on your joints that you'd get from running, for example," Fuhrmann says.
Because you're sitting and your feet aren't hitting the ground, your knees and back don't need to absorb shock in the same way as jumping or running workouts. When you run a hard surface, it can cause wear on your joints that can lead to painful stress fractures over time.
"You decide how hard you push and pull and how fast you row," Fuhrmann says, so if you pace yourself, you may also avoid strain.
If your form is incorrect, you're at greater risk of straining your lower back, wrists or knees.
3. It strengthens your core
Rowing strengthens the core muscles in your abdomen, lower back, hips, and pelvis. Having a strong core is vital for your balance and stability — this is important for athletes playing sports and anyone who wants to avoid falls or injury.
"Your core engages every time you lean back slightly at the back of the stroke and as you swing your torso forward to return up to the front of the machine. It's like doing a mini sit-up on every stroke!" Fuhrmann says.
4. Even short workouts are effective
"The rowing machine is perfect if you're pressed for time or just want to do a short, high-intensity workout," Fuhrmann says.
A rowing machine is a good option for short workouts because you can vary two things, Heron says:
- The speed at which you row (strokes per minute)
- The power you put into each stroke
Rowing burns calories fast — according to Harvard Health, a 155-pound person will burn:
- 252 calories per hour during moderate rowing
- 369 calories per hour during vigorous rowing
For comparison, vigorous stationary biking burns 278 calories per hour.
5. It's a great cardio workout
Rowing is great for a quick gym run, "but it's also perfect for the longer cardio workouts that are recommended for building strong hearts and lungs," Fuhrmann says.
Since rowing engages your whole body in movement, "it brings your heart rate up pretty quick," Heron says.
"None of the other traditional cardio machines are as efficient or effective," Fuhrmann says.
6. It can improve your posture
If you use the proper form, "you will be holding good posture throughout the rowing stroke and strengthening the postural position throughout," says Heron.
With rowing practice, your muscle memory will reinforce good posture and keep you upright throughout the rest of the day, Fuhrmann says.
Best rowing machines
We test and recommend the best rowing machines. Check out a few of our recommendations below:
- Best overall: Concept2 Model D, $1,210 on Amazon
- Best interactive: The Ergatta Rower, $2,199 on Ergatta
- Best smart rower: Hydrow, $1,995 on Best Buy
Rowing offers a fast and powerful workout that strengthens your whole body and has low impact.
Getting a lesson from a certified instructor or using online resources can help you get the safest and most effective workout.
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