6 Benefits of Rowing Machines

Man on rowing machine.

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Rowing machines, or ergometers, have been around for decades. Perhaps you’ve even seen one at your local gym, sitting empty next to an entire row of joggers on treadmills. The truth is, the whole contraption can look pretty intimidating. Yet, taking the reins — er, oars — is simpler than it sounds. Plus, there are plenty of rewards to reap when you add rowing to your routine. Here are some of the top benefits of rowing machines.

1. Total Body Workout 

According to the American Fitness Professionals Association, rowing is 65% to 75% leg work and 25% to 35% upper body work. That means the rowing machine targets practically every part of your body. Major muscle groups, including the quads, calves, glutes, arms, abs and pecs, will fire up and tone up whenever you hop on this machine. 

Even the muscles that maintain your joints put in some effort. Strong joints support mobility and healthy movement so your arms, legs, fingers, toes, back and other body parts can work safely and efficiently. 

2. Low-Impact 

In a HIIT class or weight training gym, lifting, jumping and pressing puts a lot of extra pressure on your joints. Eventually, repeating the same movements can break down cartilage and cause your bones to grind together. If that sounds painful, it’s because it is. 

While rowing does work your joints, it does so gently to slowly strengthen them over time. Thus, it burns serious calories without putting added stress on your knees, ankles or hips. Perhaps it’s because you get to sit down and break a sweat. 

3. Relatively Accessible

Another great thing about the rowing machine is that it’s relatively accessible for most people. A standard ergometer will run you a few hundred dollars, which might be doable if you plan to use it often. They’re quiet, so they’re perfect for apartments, and some even fold up for easy and discreet storage. 

However, most people find and use a rowing machine at their local gym. If you worry your gym might lack one, take another look around. Odds are your eyes skipped right over it on your way to the treadmill or elliptical. 

4. Beginner-Friendly 

As long as you have access to a rowing machine you can add rowing to your routine. Whether you’re an expert or a complete novice, this exercise is for you. Accelerate fat loss, lower cholesterol levels and increase trunk flexion with just a few sessions each week.   

The best thing about rowing is that it’s for everyone, regardless of personal fitness level. Even if this is your first time using gym equipment, the movement is relatively easy to learn. The intensity, resistance and speed is up to you so your workout is completely customizable. Start where you are and improve from there. 

5. Boosts Cardio Fitness

Like running on a treadmill, rowing on a machine is one fluid movement. There’s no stationary period to rest or recover, like you might have in a HIIT workout or yoga class. Instead, you fall into a rhythm of movement and breath, which ultimately boosts your cardio fitness levels. 

Because rowing is an aerobic activity, it’ll build lung capacity and increase blood flow. That means your heart will beat faster and get stronger with each pulse. Eventually, you’ll find yourself breathing easier and gliding through your session. Perhaps you’ll even lower your resting heart rate!

6. Builds Power and Endurance

Not only does rowing strengthen your heart and lungs, but it strengthens all the other muscles in your body, too. The combination of strength training and cardio will help build both power and endurance so you can keep betting yourself and reaching goals. 

Power is your ability to exert maximum force in a very short amount of time. Endurance is your ability to sustain an activity. The more often you row, the faster, steadier and stronger you’ll become. You’ll also be able to extend your sessions and row for longer periods of time. 

Start Slow and Get Swole 

You don’t have to spend hours rowing to get fit. All you need is a few sessions a week to start to see results. The movement itself is simple, yet maintaining proper alignment is often quite challenging over long periods of time. Yet, good posture is essential to reaping the many benefits of rowing machines.

That’s why it’s important to start slow and work your way up to longer sessions. Try rowing for a few minutes at low intensity and see how you feel. Then, you can work on lengthening or intensifying your time on the machine. You’ll put in half-hour workouts soon enough. For now, just enjoy the ride. 

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