What does a Rowing Machine Do?

What does a rowing machine do?

What Does a Rowing Machine Do for Your Body?

A rowing machine enables a person to mimic the motion of rowing on water but dry land. Rowing machines offer the chance to engage in world-class exercise inside or outside, regardless of the weather. 

For those who live in geographical regions where seasons change and inclement weather is typical; having access to a rowing machine means you can get the benefits of this fantastic piece of equipment all year long. 

You never have to miss a workout.

Rowing combines cardio and resistance training to engage many muscles without the impact of activities like running. 

The health benefits of regularly engaging in aerobic activity are well established, and rowing is one of the best cardiovascular activities a person can do. 

Let’s take a closer look at what a rowing machine can do for you!

Can a Rowing Machine Be Your Full-Body Workout?

Rowing is one of the few cardio activities that can also serve as a full-body workout. 

Running, although challenging, doesn't condition the upper body the way rowing does.  Running is also a high-impact activity that might not be appropriate for every fitness level. 

On the other hand, rowing is low-pact and requires a unique lower body and upper body contribution on each stroke. 

Rowing machines offer a nice blend of cardio and strength training.  Every pull simulates moving a boat through the water, which means you’re pulling against resistance. 

Aggressively pushing away from the platform using legs and finishing with the upper body against varying resistance levels (adjusted using the damper) incorporates power and strength. 

The muscle activation required to row is incredible for total body conditioning and burning calories. 

People often find shorter duration workouts deliver the same (or better) results while using a rowing machine (compared to other cardio activities).   

Better results in less time? Sign me up. 

How Are Muscles Worked on a Rowing Machine?

Nearly 85% of the muscles in the body are involved in one cycle of a single rowing stroke.

We can extrapolate this a bit. 

Assuming you’re rowing at a cadence of 26 strokes per minute for a duration of 10 minutes, you’re racking up 260 repetitions of an activity that recruits 85% of the muscles in the body.

No wonder rowing is hailed as one of the best workouts on the planet.

This fantastic article describes the muscles put to work during each phase of a rowing stroke:

  • Triceps
  • Deltoids
  • Traps
  • Calves
  • Hamstring
  • Abdominal
  • Lower Back
    • Deltoids
    • Traps
    • Biceps
    • Upper/Middle Back
    • Glutes
    • Hamstring
    • Quads
    • Calves
    • Traps
    • Deltoids
    • Biceps
    • Forearms
    • Lats
    • Glutes
    • Quads
    • Traps
    • Hamstrings
    • Calves
    • Triceps
    • Forearms
    • Abdominal

     Of course, let's not forget about the most critical muscle in the body, the heart. 

    Does a Rowing Machine Enhance Cardiovascular Performance?

    Yes, rowing machines do a wonderful job at enhancing cardio performance. 

    Rowing offers a total body training effect (combining cardio and strength) without the impact. 

    Combining cardio and strength without insane impact stresses is one of the most notable benefits of rowing to improve fitness. 

    The joint sparing benefits of rowing are also great for folks getting back into exercise or need a break from higher-impact activities like running. 

    Rowing is a premier method for improving cardiovascular fitness, both aerobic and anaerobic. 

    Aerobic fitness is critical for building a healthy heart and lungs.

    The heart and lung benefits of rowing play an essential role in fitness and establishing good health. 

    Regular engagement in cardiovascular boosting rowing delivers a while host benefits, including:

    Movement is medicine!

    The benefits of adding more cardio activity to your workout routine are undeniable, and the rowing machine is the best choice.

    What Are the Best Rowing Machine Exercises You Can Do?

    Rowing machine workouts have limitless options when you factor in adjustments to intensity, duration, distance, stroke cadence, and the ability to mix the rowing machine with other activities like calisthenics and weight training. 

    Rowing longer distances with a steady cadence are great for improving aerobic endurance and stamina, while short distances performed at a high intensity will enhance power and anaerobic qualities. 

    Rowing machines can be used to improve:

    • Speed
    • Power
    • Anaerobic conditioning (high-intensity efforts)
    • Aerobic conditioning  (long-distance efforts)

    Here a few workouts to try:

    500m Repeats

    • Row 500m
    • Rest for 2-3x the time required to complete the distance
    • Repeat for 6 rounds

    Descending Distances

    • Interval #1:  2000m
    • Interval #2:  1000m
    • Interval #3:  500m
    • Interval #4:  250m
    • Interval #5:  125m
    • Rest for 2-3x the time required to row each distance 

    15-minute Time Limit

    • 15-minute row for max distance
    • No rest, row until the timer sounds!

    Rowing Machine Vs Other Cardio Machines?

    Rowing machines sit at the top of the cardio machine food chain when it comes to calories burned, total body workout, time investment to achieve a good workout, and low-impact training. 

    Few other machines deliver the sheer amount of performance and health benefits.  As mentioned above, muscle engagement while rowing is unparalleled.

    You’re getting massive health benefits in less time with virtually no impact on the body. 

    People who invest in a quality rowing machine quickly realize how effective this type of training improves performance and overall health.

    It only takes a few minutes to send your heart rate soaring and break a sweat. 

    Assuming you have 30 minutes to squeeze in a workout and you want to maximize your training time, go for the rower.  You’ll burn a significant number of calories and challenge the muscles. 

      Light (15 min/1 hr) Moderate (15 min/1 hr) Vigorous (15 min/1 hr)
    135 lb (61 kg) 53/214 107/427 130/519
    145 lb (66 kg) 58/231 116/462 140/561
    155 lb (70 kg) 61/245 122/490 149/595
    165 lb (75 kg) 66/263 131/525 159/638
    175 lb (79 kg) 70/280 140/560 170/680
    185 lb (84 kg) 74/294 147/588 179/714
    195 lb (88 kg) 78/312 156/623 189/757
    205 lb (93 kg) 81/326 163/651 198/791
    215 lb (98 kg) 86/343 172/686 208/833
    225 lb (102 kg) 89/357 179/714 217/867

    The more inefficient you are with an activity, the more energy (calories) your body will use to complete the work. 

    Remember, it’s not always about the number of calories burned. 

    Getting more muscles working while training is always beneficial, and rowing crushes other cardio machines in that department. 

    The strength and power development from rowing is as functional as it gets. 

    Can You Use a Rowing Machine Even If You Are Injured?

    The safest and best answer is:  it depends.

    Exercising with an injury is about focusing on what you can do versus what you can’t do.

    If it hurts, don’t do it.

    Rowing can be a great exercise alternative for those who suffer nagging low back pain.  Despite perception, many people find rowing does not aggravate lower back issues when the damper setting is kept low and the technique is good.

    Many who experience low back pain find rowing to be therapeutic for rebuilding strength and function

    * Note:  If the damper on the rower is high, the resistance increases, resulting in increased strain to the lower back. 

    The low-impact nature of rowing makes it an excellent activity to explore if you’re on the rebound from an injury.

    If you're recovering from an injury, focus on activities that will not worsen your condition. 

    More often than not, rowing is a good choice.

    Flipping the Question

    Rowing machines offer the ability to engage in heart healthy cardio while working muscles in ways other cardio machines can’t. 

    All while sparing your joints from the impact stress. 

    Rowing is truly an activity you can benefit from for a lifetime. 

    Learn more at GoRowingGo.com

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