Rowing: One of the Best Exercises

David Schutz

Rowing may be the best exercises there is. Are you familiar with it? If not, the good news is that exercising on a rowing machine (or erg) is easy to learn, a great exercise for all ages, and great for new and advanced athletes alike.

So what makes it so efficient? You’ll hear me repeatedly hail the benefits of compound movements and functional exercises. Compound movements are efficient because they work a number of muscle groups at the same time, and functional exercises are those that train your body for, or mimic, activities in everyday life. Rowing improves overall health, is low impact, easy for all ages and fitness levels, and provides a full body workout. Additionally, you can use a rowing machine for steady state cardio, or for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

Rowing provides many benefits, including weight loss, cardiovascular endurance training, toning and building muscles, and increasing stamina. Rowing works both your upper and lower body, developing 9 major muscle groups, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, lats, core, shoulders, triceps, back and biceps.

Regardless of your age, your fitness plan should include cardiovascular exercise, which is an important component of physical fitness and overall health. Since rowing incorporates so many major muscle groups, rowing effectively raises your heart rate and increases oxygen intake, for a very effective cardio workout. Because you can adjust every aspect of rowing, from the rate (the number of strokes per minute), to the pressure (how much effort you apply in the push), and adjust the resistance on the rowing machine, you can customize your workout to be easy or very challenging.

Rowing machines are great for weight loss. It’s pretty obvious that regular workouts burn calories and tone your muscles. Because rowing works so many muscle groups at once, it’s extremely efficient at burning calories. And since rowing is primarily a lower body exercise that uses your quads, which are the largest muscles in your body, as well as your calves and glutes, rowing burns a lot of calories. Bigger muscles burn more calories than smaller muscles, make sense? And again, you can row at an easy pace or absolutely blow yourself out with intervals. This means that if you’re short on time, rowing is extremely efficient.

If you happen to be overweight or have joint problems, and can’t do high impact exercises like running, the good news is that rowing machines are low impact. Rowing is a natural motion, much like picking something up off the floor, which puts minimal stress on the joints. Like stationary bikes or elliptical trainers, rowing machines are great for injury prevention and are also an excellent way to strengthen and condition knees after surgery. While it’s true that if you have poor form you can strain your back, proper rowing technique minimizes risks. Good rowing posture lets your legs do the work, taking the pressure off your back.

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Rowing also provide a good upper-body workout, as rowing utilizes muscles in your shoulders, upper and lower back. Rowing also works the biceps, pecs, and abs, which develop your core.

Rowing may seem intimidating at first, but the long-term benefits are worth it. As stated, rowing is cardiovascular and works out all your major muscle groups, making it one of the most efficient exercises you can do. Used regularly, rowing will improve your cardiovascular endurance and boost your metabolism, giving you more energy to do the things you love.

Adopting exercises you enjoy is key to long term improved fitness. Because rowing is approachable for beginners and can challenge even the most seasoned athletes, and because rowing works out your entire body, it's an exercise you can start gently with and continue to challenge yourself for years. It also provides a great means of benchmarking your progress, as you can monitor your 500, 2000, or 5000 meter times, or just see how many meters you can row while you watch the news. Rowing machines also tilt up and stand on their end for easy storage.

Try it at your local gym, or buy one here, and use it at home.

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