Hi readers! My name is Petra Amara, and I’ve had a real passion for rowing since I was just a child. I was born into a family of rowers, so I had a lot of experience early on.
I am frequently asked if using an indoor rower is good for overall fitness, and what can I say, except that—
Yes! Yes to rowing machine workouts! They are incredibly good for fitness!
Since I was handed an oar at 3 years of age you might think that I’m prejudiced, but I like to think of myself as a realist. I didn’t start off rowing to lose weight, gain muscle, or to get in shape, but over the years, I’ve discovered that this is exactly what happens whenever anyone takes up rowing!
Are you a fan of stair climbers? Spin classes? Weight lifting? Rowing is better for you than any of those, and I’ll tell you why.
What Makes Rowing Machine Workouts Awesome
Spin classes, stair climbers, treadmills and weight training all give you the benefits of exercise, but did you know that rowing works more muscles than any of these fitness machines?
Weight training can work all of your muscles, but it offers zero cardio exercise.
Spin classes, treadmills, and stair climbers only work the lower body, while rowing works the entire body with every workout. Talk about efficiency!
If you thought that rowing was mainly for the upper body, think again. Rowing uses 60 percent leg muscles, 30 percent upper body and 10 percent of your core muscles with every stroke.
Your legs are the biggest muscles in the body, so it makes sense that you’ll want to use them, but rowing also works those triceps (bye bye bat arms!) and core muscles, which are vital for a strong back and a nice flat belly.
Bicycles, including mountain bikes and spin bikes, along with treadmills only work the legs and glutes. This is where you can reap multiple benefits in one workout. You work both your upper and lower body in one workout!
Too Busy to Exercise? Hit Your Goals with HIIT!
Between driving the kids to school and after school programs, grocery shopping, working on your own job or projects, cooking, cleaning, etc- who the heck has 6 hours a week to exercise?!
What if I told you that you could work out your entire body in a single exercise session. Sounds impossible, right? If you have access to a rowing machine, that’s exactly what you can get!
HIIT workouts are the key, friends. If you haven’t heard about this, HIIT stands for High-intensity interval training and it’s a lot easier than the name sounds.
You can do 30-minute HIIT rowing workouts and reap the same benefits as doing 60-minute workouts.
Since HIIT workouts involve going all out for short periods of time, it’s recommended that you do them every other day. That means you’ll do 3-4 workouts per week and get the same amount of benefits as you would from doing 60 minute workouts 5-6 days per week!
Wow. Think of all the time you’ll save!
Rowing is so much more than a cardiovascular workout, too. You can build new muscle because it is also a strength training workout at the same time.
If you want seriously toned arms without bat wings (look at Michelle Obama), then rowing is the perfect workout for you. However, if you’re looking to get some serious muscle size (think Jada Pinkett Smith or Madonna), you’ll need to lift some weights.
Been Injured? Start Rowing!
For anyone who has suffered an injury of some type, whether it’s a low back injury or your knees just aren’t what they used to be, you’ll be interested to know that rowing is super low impact. It’s probably one of the few exercises you can do safely.
This means that anyone who has weak or knees, or even a bad back can, can possibly do rowing workouts without pain. Of course, you should only start any exercise program (including rowing) after consulting with and getting the approval of your doctor.
I’ve seen some seriously injured people wearing casts still able to get in some exercise using a rowing machine.
If you’ve heard that rowing is hard on your back, the truth is that rowing is one of the best things you can do for your back!
Using an indoor rowing machine will strengthen the muscles in your back and give you better posture, which is a big cause of back pain.
Yes, if you don’t use a rowing machine properly you can experience upper or lower back pain, but today’s modern rowers offer instructional videos to help you learn the proper rowing technique.
If running has hurt your knees or hips or you’ve got arthritis, you’re going to love a rowing machine. Always speak to your doctor first, but if they give you the go ahead, you are sure to love how pain-free a rowing machine can be.
Useful Rowing Tips for Beginners
If you’re new to rowing or you’ve just started on a new fitness plan, I hope you’ll find my personal tips useful:
- Be patient! It’s natural to want to speed along and get going but it’s important that you learn the rowing strokes so you don’t hurt your back. It’s also important to get up to speed gradually. If you are exhausted or super sore the day after using your rower, you won’t want to get back on it!
- Take All the Time You Need. It is very common for beginners to be completely exhausted after less than 10 minutes of rowing. Don’t be depressed or discouraged if you can’t do more than 5 minutes without a break. If you can only do 5 minutes today, try for 6 minutes tomorrow, 8 minutes the next, etc. You’ll be doing 30 to 45-minute workouts before you know it!
- Don’t Let Boredom Take Up Room. In my opinion, boredom is the biggest killer of all exercise machines. Try some of the new interactive rowing machines, called smart rowers, such as Hydrow or Ergatta, which provide new workouts weekly, along with games and incredible scenery to help keep you interested, or you can try iFit, which has thousands of workouts.
- Do at Least 2 HIIT workouts per Week. HIIT workouts are not only the most effective, but they are also done every other day, which means you can do other things on your “off” or rest days. Try cross training on the other days so your body doesn’t become accustomed to the same workout. This is the perfect time to try swimming, resistance training, take your dog for long walks, or play hopscotch with your kids.
- Change Up Your Workouts. After a while, your body will become accustomed to doing the same workout over and over, leading to weight loss plateaus. Keep your body guessing by changing up your workout routine. Your body continues to burn more calories if it doesn’t know what you will ask it to do or how long it will need to do that.
If you’ve never rowed before, see if your local gym has a rowing machine. There might be rowing classes for beginners or you can watch some of the many videos and practice your form.
Get a feel for what using a rowing machine is like before you even think about buying one.
Hopefully, you get to try different brands and models, like NordicTrack, WaterRower, Concept 2, and Pro-Form. After you’ve tried a few rowing machines and you’re considering buying one for your home gym, check out these fantastic interactive rowing machines for every budget.
Everyone is different, so if you don’t like studio-type workouts, don’t buy a machine that only has those type of workouts. If you like the upbeat instructors but want to feel like you’re rowing outdoors, consider rowing machines like Hydrow. If you love water rowers and want challenging workouts but prefer rowing without instructors, then Ergatta is right up your alley.
Many brands of smart rowers will let you try their product in your own home free for 30 days, so you can explore that opportunity if it’s available in your area.
How Much Rowing Is Enough?
When you do your first rowing workout, unless you are already in really good shape, you’re going to be shocked at how quickly you become tired.
This is because many people are used to just working one muscle group at a time. When you exercise the whole body, including your heart, you’re going to really feel the difference!
I’ve seen some very big, well-conditioned men with some good-sized biceps last 5 or 6 minutes because they are out of breath!
So if you think that 30 minutes of exercise on a rowing machine every other day won’t be enough, trust me, it’s going to be fine. Within weeks you are going to be on a whole other level of fitness!
You know what I love best about rowing? You won’t be super sore the next day! Rowing distributes the effort across all your muscles, not just a few, so they all share the burden, so to speak.
Oh, you will definitely feel the burn alright, and you’ll be a bit sore but nothing like the way weightlifting, squats, or burpees will do to you!
The Final Takeaways
At the end of the day, you’ll find that an indoor rowing machine is perhaps the most perfect pieces of exercise equipment ever made.
You will burn hundreds of calories in only 30 minutes and, in addition to that, you’ll have taut muscles that you can be proud of.
Oh yes, did I mention that your heart is going to thank you as well?
Show some of the love that you freely give to others to your own body.
Feed it lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and some sweet self-talk daily (Health is as much as mental as it’s physical!)
Every other day, give your body a rowing machine workout that will keep it feeling younger than your years!
Stay healthy, happy, and enjoy rowing, everyone!