For as long as we can remember, the rowing machine at the gym has seemed more like an inefficient waste of space than a valuable addition to our fitness routine. That is until recently, when the workout-du-jour hype turned its attention to rowing and made the longtime popular sport into a newly trendy fitness routine, minus the boats, oars, and water. Not only does this newfound fascination with rowing mean that this once overlooked machine at the gym is going to be doing a lot more than just collect dust, but also that you have a new weapon to get seriously fit. And just in case you’re a little late to the party and still making a beeline for the treadmill, here are a few of the reasons you should get on board the rowing bandwagon (or boat).
1. Do it for your cardiovascular health.
The motion of rowing is performed while you’re sitting down, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t make for some pretty effective cardio. When you’re rowing, your heartbeat remains consistently elevated, which means that the workout can improve your cardiovascular health and increase your endurance. Plus, lowering the resistance level on your rowing machine can increase the speed of your motions, ultimately increasing the aerobic benefits of the workout.
2. Do it for the muscle.
When you’re rowing, you’re not just getting an upper-body workout. In fact, the motions that you perform on a rowing machine – the workout combines leg press and pulling movements to mimic the rowing sequence of motions known as catch, drive, finish, and recover – demand major effort from your legs and core in addition to your arms. This means that through the workout, especially when you have your machine set to a high resistance, you’re building muscles all over your body, including in yourm biceps, triceps, shoulders, quads, hamstrings, and abs.
3. Do it for the [crazy high] calorie burn.
Even though the number of calories that you work off while rowing depends on your body and the intensity with which you’re performing the exercise, this is a workout that definitely ups your burn. On average, though, a 60-minute rowing workout will burn between 250 – 600 calories. This makes it a more-than-worthy addition to your fitness regimen, especially if weight loss is a goal and you’re looking to increase your long-term calorie deficit.
4. Do it because it’s a low-impact workout.
Even though proper form is important to reaping the benefits of rowing, this is an exercise that, when performed correctly, has a significantly lower level of impact than other alternatives. Since the motions are smooth and are performed in a position that doesn’t put a lot of weight or strain on the body, rowing doesn’t put a lot of pressure on joints in the ankles, elbows, knees, and hips. This makes it a great way for anybody with an injury or joint problems to work in a combined low-impact cardio and strength training session.
5. Do it with a group.
Not only does the rise in rowing’s popularity mean that you’ll finally want to use the lone rowing machine in your gym, but that there are a growing number of group rowing classes. From upbeat rowing classes popping up in big-name gyms like Equinox, to the mushrooming of specialty rowing gyms like Indo-Row and New York’s popular CityRow, rowing as a workout is taking on the team mentality that is part of what made rowing so popular as a team sport.