Rowing machines have a unique appeal – and a lot of benefits. They are popular with cross-fit fans, people that enjoy strength training, as well as people looking to burn fat and have a thorough cardio workout.
When you look at the range of machines available, you will see that all groups are covered. A basic hydraulic rower will get the job done for under £100. At the other end of the spectrum you can spend 10x this amount and get an amazing club-style machine, for example a Concept2 rower.
This page gives you a quick overview of the biggest benefits of rowing. There are smaller plus points too. These are summarised under the main points. While not every benefit will work for you, many people are surprised just how versatile a home rowing machine will be.
Many routines claim to be ‘Full Body’, though only rowing machine workouts put a number on this. 85% is an amazing total. Each time you complete a stroke, you are working your quads, glutes, obliques, calves, abs, biceps, lats, deltoids, triceps and more.
Compare this to a run, spinning bike session or lifting weights and you will see just how big that 85% coverage of muscle groups really is. The only comparable activity would be a swim.
You can have a gentle warm up or warm down on your rower. For those looking to burn fat, these machines have a surprisingly good intensity level. A vigorous row will get through 600 calories per hour. Interval training will spike your heart rate and give you an amazing cardio routine (HIIT fans love rowing machines).
I like to use my rower as an add-on to other routines. A quick burst in the morning, or after a strength workout can easily burn 200+ extra calories. Over time, they add up.
Some activities can jar your joints. While for anyone that is moderately fit and active will not feel this in the short term – the effects can add up. In some cases, they add up to the end of your running (for example) for good.
Rowing has a naturally smooth action which does not jar any joints. This is known as a ‘low impact’ activity. This makes rowing suitable for people starting their fitness journey, or even recovering from injury / illness (make sure you speak with a medical professional first!).
Even the most basic home rower will come with a console. This will track your strokes, distance, and time. You can then vary your strokes per minute. Above the budget level you get trackers for calories burned and your pulse rate too.
These days, app connectivity is a popular option. You use your own tablet or phone along with your rowing machine. Apps like Ergdata and LiveRowing allow you to track your own progress, row through scenic spots from around the world and compete with others. There are also subscription services which allow for coaching. Connecting with others will amplify the benefits of your rowing machine workouts.
Other than a quiet ‘whirr’ of the belt, rowing machines are far quieter than most home fitness equipment. For anyone in a flat, or who likes to work out late / early without disturbing the family, a rower makes a great alternative to a noisy treadmill.
These machines can take up space, though if you invest a little extra in a folding model, this issue quickly disappears.
The list of plusses goes on when you look at the smaller details. Rowers are the only home cardio machine which will give your butt a tone while you burn calories. There are also versatile ways to get the ‘resistance’ of your strokes. These are hydraulic, magnetic, elastic cord, air resistance and water rowers. You will also train yourself to have a good posture. Good technique is all about a straight back while you row.
Rowing is hugely popular with a wide variety of fitness fans. It has several benefits that exercise bikes, treadmills and ellipticals can’t match. They include the range of muscles worked, intensive cardio routines, lower impact, and the quiet action of the machines.
You will find out more about what you get for your money, the types of resistance – and the most popular brands, over on my best home rowing machines page – check it out now!
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