23 November 2020

Rowing Machine: The Benefits and Tips

You have probably seen it at your local gym –a relic machine from a bygone age that people rarely use. Well, you guessed it right. We are talking about a rowing machine.

Did you know that, while people barely row these days, a rowing machine is a complete body fitness device targeting over 90% of your muscles?

Get one complete sturdy compact session on this thing, and your full-body workout for the day is done. From cardiovascular fitness to total body functioning, the benefits of rowing are quite incredible.

Today, we look at the muscles that rowing targets, the benefits of rowing, and how to use a rowing machine effectively – yes, form and posture are key. Let’s get to it.

What muscles does a rowing machine work?

A rowing machine offers one of the most efficient exercise regimes you can get from a cardio machine –better than the treadmill and cross-trainer. Here’s why; rowing involves using your major body muscles all at once.

A rowing machine will activate the following muscles;

  • Upper back muscles, including the rhomboids, latissimus dorsi (the largest muscle in our upper body), and the trapezius muscles.
  • Abdomen core muscles, including the obliques and the abs
  • Lower body muscles, including the calves, quadriceps (front thigh muscles), hamstrings (back thigh muscles), and the glutes.
  • Shoulder and arm muscles including the biceps, triceps, and the pectoral muscles (pecs)

Some of these muscles, such as glutes, will be activated throughout the rowing. Other muscles, such as the triceps, biceps and quadriceps, will be targeted as you pull the handle, bend your knees and push the body back and forth.

Rowing machine benefits

A rowing machine is more than a cardio machine. Here are the two main benefits;

1. Total body conditioning

As stated earlier, rowing works almost every muscle in the body – you even engage your hands and wrist muscles as you grip on the rower’s handles. Therefore, every stroke of the rower will condition each of these muscles, making them stronger as you increase the machine’s resistance.

2. Aerobic conditioning (Cardio)

A rowing machine is perfect for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts or, better yet, the Tabata routine. Here, you row for 20 seconds at a high intensity, then rest for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.

You not only get some cardio but also reap some of HIIT’s fat-burning benefits. Besides, you can use it for moderate-intensity exercise lasting about 30 – 60 minutes for 5 days a week

How to use a rowing machine

You only benefit from a rowing machine if you use it with the right technique – the rowing motion. That said, you have to start by placing and strapping your feet on the rower’s footplates before going into this four-phase rowing technique.

Once done, follow this technique;

1. Catch position

With your feet strapped to the footplate, sit with your back upright, core engaged, and knees bent close to your chest. Then hold the rower’s handles with an overhand grip and extend your arms.

2. Drive motion

Push against the footplate until your legs are straight while keeping your core engaged. Then hinge at your hips and lean back slightly (about 45 degrees) and pull the rower handle towards your lower rib cage.

3. Rest position

In this position, you have the legs straight, hip hinged, elbows tucked, and the handle almost on your torso.

4. Recovery motion

Here you start by extending the arms and untucking the elbows, unhinging the hips forward until you sit upright again, then bending your knees to get back to the catch position.

Completing the 4 phases is considered as one stroke. Once you have mastered the technique, you can set your goals to make the workout enjoyable. You can try out an interval workout or set a goal of rowing 1,000 meters or for 10 minutes straight. It will be worth it.

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