A comprehensive explanatory guide to what rowers can do for YOU
cardiothe enemy of the people. Powerlifters, bodybuilders, crossfitters, the average athlete, they dread doing it. However, everyone knows how beneficial it can be. So what are your options to choose from to do so?
We’ve all heard it before: “I want to lose weight, but I hate running.” Luckily, running isn’t the only cardio option out there. You actually have a few options when it comes to cardio equipment, but they all definitely have their pros and cons.
Walk on the conveyor belt can be boring, but running on the treadmill can be hard on your shins or knees. Stationary bike seats aren’t always the most comfortable things to sit on. Then there’s the Stairmaster, the true villain of all gyms. What do they all have in common? They mainly focus on your lower body.
But what about a type of cardio that doesn’t just work the lower half? Rowers. These tend to be largely overlooked and underestimated. The advantages of rowing machines are numerous. Let’s dive into it.
Editor’s note: Generation Iron content is intended to be informational and should not replace the advice and/or supervision of a healthcare professional/trainer. The articles and opinions on this site are not intended to be used for the diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment of health problems. Talk to your doctor/coach if you have any concerns.
Bodily benefits of rowers
Rowing machines can be extremely beneficial to the body. Engage you from head to toe, build your endurance, give you a variety of workouts and so much more!
Full body engagement
Jumping on the stairs, the treadmill or the bike for your cardio definitely gets the job done, but as stated before only work your lower body. Rowers, on the other hand, put your whole body into play. Rowers use more than just your arms or legs, as some people may think.
Your return, shouldersand the biceps are all contracted during the pulling motion, while your legs (especially the hamstrings and glutes) are used to perform this driving movement. All the while, you prepare your heart during the movement.
You get all the cardiovascular benefits, all the time build muscle at a time.
Endurance and strength of rowers
Like any other type of cardio, rowing machines build your cardiovascular endurance. Whether you’re doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT), low-intensity endurance training, or just occasional rowing, you’ll find that the more time you put in, the easier it gets.
Not only does cardiovascular endurance improve, but also muscular endurance and strength. Since the rowers engage the whole body and your muscles are worked, plus it’s like you’re doing repeated reps, your muscles are really put to work the entire time you’re on the rower.
The range of motion for movements on a rowing machine is also important. Think of it like doing reps of squats or a leg press while rowing at the same time, repeatedly. This increases both the strength and endurance of the muscle groups used!
HIIT training, distance training, etc., it can be done on a rowing machine. Whatever style of training you use, your cardiovascular fitness improves during this time.
As with almost all cardio, rowing can be beneficial for fat loss while preserving and possibly even increasing muscle. It’s a aerobic exercise, which means it uses carbohydrates and body fat as fuel.
Rowing Machines vs. Other Cardio Equipment
There are a lot of benefits to every cardio piece of equipment, so how does the rowing machine compare to them?
Rowers are low impact
Compared to other cardio equipment, such as the treadmill, the rowing machine is low impact. This means your joints don’t pound the ground like you would with something like a treadmill. Since rowers are low impact, it is easier for people with disabilities or other health conditions to do their cardio.
For example, someone with spinal problems or conditions such as shin splints might possibly benefit from a rowing machine rather than a device such as a Stairmaster. This is because the rowing machine is low impact equipment! They can even strengthen those weakened areas of the body.
Full body engagement
As stated earlier, you are engaged from head to toe when you are on a rowing machine. This differs from things like the treadmill, the Stairmaster, or the bike, which primarily engage only the lower body. Now the elliptical also engages the upper body, but the rower forces more abdominal engagement.
With full body engagement, you also see full body coordination. Everything has to work together to perform the movement on a rowing machine, unlike equipment like the Stairmaster where your legs are the only thing used.
rowing machine for recovery
Believe it or not, rowing machines can actually be used for recovery, especially after lifting. After intense strength training, the rowing machine can be used as a cooling tool. This is due to the low impact aspect, and during the movement you stretch your whole body. Even on a rest day, if you’re up for it, you can jump on the rowing machine.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Now that you’ve read all the great things the rowing machine has to offer, you might have a few questions!
How to use the rowing machine?
This is one of the main reasons why people don’t try new equipment, they don’t know how to use it. So let’s go step by step just to make sure you understand!
Define the drag: This is the resistance level, and can usually be found on the display next to the flywheel.
Placing the hands/feet: Tie your feet together, grab the handles with both hands, keep your wrists straight.
Lean forward: The shoulders should be in front of your hips.
Leg drive: Drive feet down, push off with your legs. This is done in a motion similar to a squat or leg press.
Lean back: Lean your torso back, but only slightly, you don’t want to go so far that you’re parallel to the floor.
Shoot: With your hands, pull the handles towards your body.
Pro tips: If you want visual instructions, check out this video from Deadspin where United States Olympians demonstrate the rowing machine:
When should I use a rowing machine?
Rowers can be started anywhere in your schedule, whenever you want! This is another advantage of rowing machines, they can fit wherever you want.
Using a rowing machine can be done before lifting, such as a warm up. This gets the blood pumping throughout the body and gets you ready to go for your lift!
The rower can also be used after a lift, as a recovery/recovery movement. Some people prefer to do their cardio after lifting, and if you fall into that category, feel free to throw it out at the end!
Active rest days are also a good time for the rower. It’s low impact, you can go at your own pace, do whatever type of workout you want. This makes rowing machines a perfect option for an active rest day.
Should I use a rowing machine rather than other cardio equipment?
The answer to that is up to you. If you can and have access to a rowing machine, why not change it up from time to time? At this point you’ve read all the benefits of rowing machines over other cardio equipment, why not give it a try?
There are so many benefits of rowing machines that have been discussed. It is low impact, suitable for the versatility of your workout and can be used to build strength and endurance while benefiting recovery. There are many reasons to try it. If you know where to put it in your workout routine, know how you want to use it for your workout, and are ready to put in the work, there’s no reason not to give rowing machines a try!