Calorie Torching Cardio: Rowing Machine Workouts

October 9, 2013

Ever wonder which cardio machine provides the most effective workout? When I go to my gym, I usually see most people on the elliptical or treadmill followed by the Stairmaster. Most of us just ignore the crown jewel of the cardio section – the rowing machine. Usually limited to just one or two machines per gym, this previously unpopular machine is making a major comeback. The Crossfit community deserves much of the credit for taking it from obscurity to mainstream. In fact, many indoor rowing studios are beginning to open up around the country to capitalize on this new trend.

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Rowing is often viewed as a very boring exercise. It’s repetitive and difficult to continue for more than 10 minutes. Maybe it lacks a tv like the rest of the cardio machines on the floor. Then why the sudden rise in popularity? Compared to the other cardio machines in your gym, rowing provides by far the most efficient workout. It’s literally a total body workout and unlike the treadmill, it has very little impact on your joints. In addition, it’s the only cardio machine that provides an amazing core and upper body workout whereas the treadmill and the Stairmaster is almost exclusively for your lower body. Rowing may seem to be more of an arm heavy workout, but it’s actually your legs that drive the motion. It’s like performing a leg press followed by a row. Every repetition requires the use of your shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, upper back, lower back, abs, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.

Remember, just like every workout, it’s all about your form especially when it comes to rowing. It’s quite easy to throw out your back if you don’t do it properly. Here are some tips on how to perfect your form.

1. Grab both sides of the handle and keep your wrists straight
2. Start in a crunched position with your back straight, knees and hips flexed, and arms extended in front of you
3. Move forwards and bend your knees until they’re over your ankles
4. Keep your shoulders relaxed, push your feet and begin to extend your legs and knees
5. Begin the row motion by moving your elbows to your sides and bringing your hands to your ribs
6. Repeat the process

If you need a bit of motivation then you should try to find a gym near you that offers indoor rowing classes. If you are used to going to spin class then you should feel right at home with the high adrenaline instructors, intense peer pressure, and thumping music. Equinox has been seeing a major transition from spin to rowing and in response has begun to offer rowing classes in many of their locations. Brooklyn Crew, the first dedicated indoor rowing studio in New York city, holds daily 45 minute classes. They claim that you can burn up to 800 calories in each of their high energy & heart pounding sessions.

If you decide to go at it alone then try out these fat torching rowing machine workouts:

Beginners: Set the resistance at level 4, then proceed by doing 10-20 power strokes which involves putting in max effort to each repetition followed by 60 seconds of easy rowing. Do this for 20 minutes.

Intermediate:  Set the resistance to level 5, then proceed by doing 10 easy strokes followed by 10 power strokes. Repeat this routine in 10 stroke intervals until you are rowing 50 easy strokes and 50 hard strokes. Then do go down the pyramid until you are at the starting set.

Advanced:  Set the resistance at level 5 or 6. Perform four 500 meter rowing intervals without rest. Perform the first interval at 50% effort, the second interval at 75% effort, the third interval at 90% effort, and the last interval at full effort. You should be crawling back home after this one.

Tip:  Another hardcore use of the row machine is to incorporate it in between sets. For example, when you do a set of box jumps or pull-ups then run over to the row machine and do 500 meters at full strength (should take no more than 2.5 minutes). This routine will make you the grandmaster of your gym.

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