One piece of useful cardiovascular kit in the gym that is often neglect is the rowing machine. Typically overlooked by many gym goers who stick to the familiarity of the treadmill or crosstrainer, the rower is a superb full-body exercise that will build your cardiovascular capacity and strengthen muscles throughout.

There are many rowing machine benefits which include a high calorie burn, strengthening of muscles throughout the body (specifically legs and arms), efficient improvements of cardiovascular fitness and improved muscular endurance.  Considering all of these benefits, the rower is a great piece of kit for any home gym, so that rowing machine for sale that you saw on the internet the other day, might not be a bad investment!

What muscles does a rowing machine work? As mentioned, rowing is a fantastic full body exercise engaging many muscle groups up and down the body. However, to understand the muscles that we are working, let’s think a little about Rowing machine technique first. So, here is all you need to know about how to use a rowing machine…

You should sit down on the seat and to begin with you need to strap your feet down tight to the footrests of the rowing exercise machine before you start  – this is going to stop you from tumbling off the back!  If you only take one thing away from this section, let it be this – when rowing, “legs first, arms second”. You will drive hard with the legs and feet on the footrests to propel yourself backwards; only once the legs have extended out do you then pull on the bar pulling it right into your chest. It’s very important that we keep the chest up and squeeze our abs throughout to stop us from arching our back as this can put some strain through the back and shoulders.

When we drive off the footrests, the glutes (backside) and quadriceps (legs) fire powerfully to drive you back and the latissimus dorsi (back), deltoids (shoulder) and biceps (arms), all contract in order to bring the bar into the chest. The core muscles also have to work extremely hard during rowing in order to keep you upright and stable during the rowing movement.

In terms of calories burned by rowing machine, an adult will burn, on average, anything between 200-300 calories during a 30 minute moderate intensity session. There are many different options when you are selecting a Rowing Machine Workout. When using a rowing machine for cardio improvements, options include focusing on a set time, set distance, number of calories burned or maintaining a specific speed. For example, you could decide to complete a 20 minute rowing session, 2.5km row, 200 calorie burn or maintain a pace of 25 spm (strokes per minute).

We can use the rowing machine for weight loss by adopting a common workout technique called High Intensity Interval Session (or HIIT Training). The structure is simple; a short period of high intensity work, followed by a brief period of low-intensity work or rest before repeating for a given number of sets.

A basic HIIT rowing session may look something like this:

  • 30 seconds high intensity
  • 30 seconds low intensity / rest
  • Repeat x 6 – 10

Fan resisted rowing machine

The best rowing machines tend to be fan resisted machines; although there are machines known as water rowers which have a large drum of encased water inside to replicate the feeling of actually being out on the water. Fan resisted machines do tend to have a slight advantage over a water rower however due to the fact that the user can adjust the fan resistance to make the exercise more challenging whereas many of the water rowers do not have this option. Therefore, we can progressively make our rowing sessions more challenging with a fan rower and as a result, the body will adjust and allow us to become faster, more powerful and stronger. So, if you are looking for a home rowing machine, it may be an idea to start with a fan resisted rower.

Whilst you probably won’t be competing in the rowing competitions at the Olympics any time soon, incorporating regular rowing into your training is certainly very beneficial and worthwhile for the body in terms of strength, endurance and body composition.

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