When you walk into a gym, you might not exactly know what all of those fancy machines are for. Do they confuse you, or make you wonder what each one’s purpose might be?
Well, you aren’t alone!
Here’s the lowdown:
Any equipment that you find in a gym has a purpose of its own. Each piece of equipment is designed to provide different results, work on different parts and muscles in the body and also has to be used differently. Over the years, these types equipment have become more and more advanced and also more specific to the work out requirement.
One such equipment is the Rowing Machine. And we will be looking into detail about this super-cardio machine!
What is an indoor rower/ rowing machine?
A rowing machine or “indoor rower” can be used to perform a workout that mimics the action of rowing a boat.
In the beginning, this machine was primarily used by professional rowers who wanted to train for the same purpose but, over time, even regular athletes have found that this machine has many purposes and can be used for a brilliant cardiovascular workout that works many different muscles in the body.
What muscles are worked?
Let’s take a look:
One “Stroke” on a rowing machine can be broken down into 4 different parts, and each part of the workout affects different muscles in the body.
- The “catch”:
This is basically the action of bending or crouching forward and catching the handle of the machine.
Muscles worked: Gastrocnemius, hamstrings, Soleus and Erector Spinae (the spine)
- The beginning of the “drive”:
This is the movement when you bend your upper body lower and prepare your arms to pull the handle into a “drive” or rowing action.
Muscles worked: Rhomboids, Quadriceps, Erector Spinae, Soleus, Hamstrings, and Gastrocnemius
- The “drive”
This is the actual rowing movement when the level and weights are pulled towards the chest. This particular movement works multiple muscles of the body at the same time, which is why it’s considered a good full-body workout.
Muscles worked: Trapezius, Pectoralis Major, Erector Spinae, Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Rectus Abdominis, Hamstrings, Gastrocnemius, Triceps, Rhomboids, Deltoids, and Soleus
- The “finish”
This is the fourth part of one rowing movement, where the lever is extended completely and the body is in an almost 180-degree position. This part requires the maximum strength and also works the core muscles along with many others.
Muscles worked: Trapezius, Pectoralis Major, Erector Spinae, Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Rectus Abdominis, Hamstrings, Triceps, Internal and External Obliques, Quadriceps, Deltoids
The Best Technique to use a Rowing Machine:
Working out without proper form on a rowing machine could prove to be fatal or cause an injury if the technique is bad.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting the technique absolutely right:
Step 1: First things first, make sure your feet are strapped in securely. If your feet slip, you could be doomed!
Step 2: Get into the correct “catch” position. To do this you have to adjust your body in such a way that your knees are bent and the handle is right in front of your body. Make sure you keep your back as straight as possible and the forward hinge needs to be only at the hips. Grip onto the handle securely so that there’s no issue of it slipping out of your hands while rowing.
Step 3: Use your quads and glutes only to push off the foot plate and then extend your legs. Try not to put pressure on your feet because you might get a cramp. Rowing involves a technique where the work out first begins with your leg muscles and then moves to your core and your arm muscles. Doing all of it at once is a bad idea. 60% legs, 20% core, and the remaining 20% is your arms.
Step 4: Next, you have to keep your spine straight and lean back into a 45-degree angle. For this, you must use your core and hamstrings to achieve maximum stability.
Step 5: You have to extend your arms next, pulling the handle right below your chest and remaining in the same 45-degree angle. When you begin to release the handle, move it slightly downwards, right where the sternum is, and then move the torso forward along with the handle. When you release, the legs are no more extended and the knees have to be bent towards the chest.
Step 6: You’re now back at the starting position and you can repeat the same cycle as mentioned in the previous steps.
The most important keywords here to remember are:
- 45-degree angle
- Legs extended and knees bent
- Using the core and hamstrings
- Starting with legs and ending with arms
What is a rowing machine good for?
A rowing machine is essentially applauded for its ability to give the whole body a workout. Full-body workouts are great for people who want to strengthen their muscles overall and also condition their bodies to increase stamina, endurance and fitness levels. By targeting more than just one muscle or part of the body, it helps with making a larger difference to one’s health and fitness regime.
I’m sure you’re wondering:
What are the benefits of using a rowing machine?
Imagine burning 600 calories an hour. Doesn’t that sound good? On a rowing machine, you can tone your muscles, build your metabolism, burn more calories and fat when compared to a lot of other standard gym machines. When teamed with a good diet and a personalized workout plan, you can always make the best use of a rowing machine to lose weight the healthy way, without losing any essential mass and energy from the body.
Higher intensity cardio workouts are great, but not always. For those who have existing weight and joint issues, the usual cardio drill might actually have adverse effects. Instead, on a rowing machine, the actual rowing motion is also a great form of cardio but it has a low impact on the bones and muscles. It is also an excellent workout to condition and strengthens leg muscles and the knee joint for those who have problems of weakness in these areas. It is important to note though that the posture of the back has to be correct, to avoid any issues.
Rowing machines are great to condition and tone the upper body. Right from the back muscles and triceps to the biceps, core muscles, pecs and abs, all of it is worked out. While initially, it is hard to get the posture and form right, once you’ve nailed that, you can make full use of the benefits of this machine. The upper body workout with this machine has proven to be quite effective!
Probably one of the major reasons why people have taken a liking towards the rowing machine is the fact that it works both the upper and lower parts of the body in a single workout. The hamstrings, glutes, calf muscles are all worked in this movement. Since the rowing movement essentially begins with the leg muscles, most of the strength comes from there, and this helps with both building and strengthening the lower part of the body.
When the workout requires multiple parts of the body to work at the same time, it’s the best type of endurance training. Hence, being an exercise that is not easy for beginners and takes quite a bit of practice to perfect, it also gives the body the right amount of drilling and training to become stronger and less susceptible to fatigue.
Ease of usage:
Once the technique has been practiced a few times, the rowing machine is actually quite easy to use. The best ways to learn how to do a workout properly would be to watch it hands-on, take the advice of a trainer or watch videos online and try to grasp the right technique. Once you get the knack of it, this machine is going to become a favorite because of its many benefits and advantages.
A rowing machine can definitely be set up at home. There are a lot of great brands in the market (which we will be looking at very soon) which are readily available and are quite easy to install as well. For someone who prefers working out at home, this machine would provide a great alternative to traditional cardio machines
Common mistakes to avoid on a rowing machine:
Making mistakes is common, especially on a piece of equipment that is completely new to you. We, humans, tend to think alike and hence, we also tend to make some common mistakes.
What are these?
Not checking the resistance
The resistance level or the “damper setting” on the rowing machine is what helps to determine how hard the rowing action will be to perform. For beginners, the resistance has to be very low, until he/she has learned the technique properly. Many beginners make the mistake of not checking the resistance before hopping on to perform the workout.
The “arms only” approach
By choosing to use only your arms and not your whole body to row, you’ve made the grave error of putting your upper body in potential risk of getting injured. The rowing machine is designed in a way that works best when the whole body is put into motion. While the exercise can very well be done with just the arms on a low damper setting, the whole purpose of a full body workout is lost and you could also give yourself a very bad back cramp.
This is probably the most common mistake made on a rowing machine. Learning how to keep the right posture requires a good amount of advice or research on how to actually use the machine. Many people tend to hunch or arch their backs forward while rowing, which puts an immense amount of strain on the spine and the back muscles. If this posture isn’t corrected, it could cause long-term damage! So always make sure you’ve got your posture just right.
The wrong order of action
The rowing movement starts with the legs first and then moves upwards until the whole body is engaged in the workout. Unfortunately, a lot of beginners make the mistake of moving the whole body in one big movement. Why is this a problem? By doing this you’re not getting the necessary push from your leg muscles and putting a whole lot of pressure on your arms and back. Also, the core muscles are barely worked.
Releasing in a haste
The first movement on the rowing machine called “the drive” requires a lot more energy and stability while pushing with the legs and pulling with the arms. However, the second part which involves releasing the handle needs to be a lot slower and relaxed. A lot of people make the mistake of releasing too quickly and end up bumping their butts into their heels. This actually puts stress on the hips and is not the right form at all. There has to be a balance of energies.
Jerking the upper body
Instead of sitting at the optimal 45-degree angle, some people make the mistake of sitting with the back curved outwards, with the butt and hips jutting out. This causes the arms to jerk the handle while pulling it toward the chest. While the arms and legs are still worked, the back and hips are definitely taking a beating if the exercise continues in this form. Hence, on a machine like this, good posture is extremely essential.
3-Step warm up before working out on a rowing machine
Stretch the following muscles (preferably in this order)
This is a floor warm up. Lie down face front, hold your foot in your hands and curl them inwards. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat with the next leg. Doing this stretch about 3 times each should be sufficient.
Next, lie on your left side and pull your knee towards your chest, but not completely. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then switch over to the right side. Again, doing this stretch twice on each side should be sufficient.
Note: Considering that your legs do a lot of work on the rowing machine and need proper conditioning before you start off, stretching your hamstrings is essential.
First, sit down on the ground in a perpendicular position. Stretch out both your legs in front of you and rotate your feet clockwise and anti-clockwise a few times. Next, fold your left leg inwards, with your feet touching the right thigh, and hold that pose for about 15 seconds. Repeat the same stretch on the right leg and do this thrice on each leg.
Bring your legs back together. Now, bend forward and try to touch your toes and far ahead as possible. Once you’ve reached your peak, hold that position for 10 counts. Repeat this thrice as well. You should definitely feel a stretch on your hamstrings!
Hip and lower back
The final set of stretching is from your hip and back, especially the lower back. Stand upright and slide down one side of your body, using your hand to slide from the hip to a little below the knee. Do this repeatedly on both sides about 5 times each.
Next, lie down on your stomach. Lift one leg upwards at a 45-degree angle and hold it there. Now rotate the leg and keep your arms outstretched in front of you. This helps with strengthening your lower back.
There are a lot of other variations when it comes to warming up that you could try out. The main aim here is to focus on warming up the muscles that are worked the most!
5 workouts to try on a rowing machine
Wondering how to get started with different workout programs using a rowing machine? These might help:
Ground and upwards workout
- After a five minute warm up
- 100-meter row
- Bodyweight squat x 10 reps
- 200-meter row
- Bodyweight squat x 20 reps
- Backward lunges x 10 reps
- 50-meter row
Repeat this set at least twice and try to increase that number gradually!
20-minute Fastrack cardio
- After a 5 minute warm up:
- 250 straight row (non-stop)
- Dumbbell thrust x 25 reps
Again, repeat this set twice or more, depending on your stamina and try to increase it.
Pump and row pyramid
- After a 5 minute warm up:
- 100-meter row
- Body squat x 5 reps
- Push ups x 10 reps
- Air cycling x 2 minutes
This is round one.
Round two increase the rowing to 200 meters and repeat the cycle.
This work out aims at calories burnt and not distance covered. Set the calorie counter on the rower’s monitor and then begin doing reps as per the targeted calories you wish to burn.
The aim here is to row fast and in a calculated manner. Reducing the number of rows per set in a descending order.
This workout should be done in not more than 30 minutes, intervals included.
The lean leapfrog
10 minute warm up first.
- This workout is done with regular one-minute intervals.
- Row as fast as you can for one minute.
- Rest for one minute.
Repeat this process for 10 reps and then take a two-minute break before repeating the cycle one more time.
Best rowing machine brands
Confused as to which brands in the market are worth the hype and money? Take a look at these options:
They started off in 1994 and have seen quite a positive response in the market. Making gym equipment, at home sets, professional grade weights, and spinning bikes, this brand is known to be both affordable and mostly at par with other brands in the market. Although their first few models of the rowing machine were slightly disappointing, their latest model the VR500 has seen a massive upgrade and is preferred by many who have a budget to look at as well.
They were established in the 1990s and are based in California. They make CrossFit equipment, cycles and of course, rowing machines. They cater largely to the indoor rower market and a lot of people prefer to use this rower in their home. Their innovative magnetic technology does really well in the market. So, if you’re someone who’s looking to use a hi-tech piece of equipment with oodles of features, this is the right brand for you.
Their bikes and treadmills have been around for some time and they are recent entrants in the rowing machine sector. When it comes to quality, they have a rather decent line of products, considering that they are priced much cheaper than the more expensive brands. For beginners who are looking to experiment with new equipment at home, this brand would be the right fit.
They’ve been the market dominators since 1981 and are known for their utmost quality, standardized equipment and revolutionary upgrades in gym accessories. When it comes to rowing machines, the brand is definitely on top of the list. Although priced on the slightly higher side of the scale, when compared to the array of other brands available today, gym enthusiasts are loyal to it because of its promise and reliability.
This German company has been around since 1949 and is a veteran in the market. The main USP of their rowers is the durability, sturdiness and overall build quality which is made to resist wear and tear. So while they aren’t pumped up with any fancy features and are pretty much just regular rowers, if you’re looking for something that will last you a good amount of time, this is the brand to look at!
Best rowing Machines 2018
Best value for money
The Stamina Air Rower is a winner in this category. It is affordable, boasts of good quality and is also comfortable to use. For beginners who don’t want to spend too much, this is the best option.
Pros: the resistance level is controlled using wind resistance, which makes it easy for athletes to use. It is also pretty much at par with an outdoor rower, keeping performance and durability in mind. It has a decent looking display and the functions are easy to understand as well. Many women athletes have preferred to use this rower.
Cons: It does compromise slightly on comfort and seat cushioning, probably due to its low price.
Price: approx. $300
Best high end
The WaterRower Classic rowing machine with S4 monitor is the most highly priced machine in the market. This machine is an absolute work of art. It looks brilliant and the ease of use is very commendable. It’s no wonder that it is priced highly, since it’s construction is extremely durable and the parts used are of high quality.
Pros: The machine is designed for absolute comfort, durability and reliability. More so, it is extremely easy to assemble at home and doesn’t take more than a few minutes! It also absorbs vibration really well.
Cons: the S4 monitor is rather basic, when compared to the rest of the machine and users have also complained about the lack of a backlight. Also, it does become slightly noisy being a water rower.
Price: approx $1,300
The Concept2 Model D wins best overall as well! This almost flawless machine is currently the best the market has to offer and most well-equipped gyms also prefer to use this machine over other.
For a professional whose main criteria is quality and build, the Concept2 Model D indoor rower is the best of the best. There’s no beating this champion rower that includes all necessary features, looks great and feels even better due to high-quality parts and fixtures.
Pros: The nickel plated enclosed chain has maximum durability and the performance of the rower is smooth, seamless and absolutely worth every penny spent. In terms of design, the construction is classy, sturdy and up-to-date with market trends.
Cons: It is priced quite highly, so beginners would probably give it a miss (unless they don’t mind splurging). Some have complained that the build is too bulky and not easy to transport from one place to another.
Price: approx. $945
For fitness enthusiasts and even beginners who want to get fit and experiment with different equipment, it’s quite important to be curious enough to learn about what each equipment does and how it could affect your workout regime in particular.
When you walk into a gym the next time and are curious about what a certain machine does, go up to a trainer and just start asking! Chances are you’ll be intrigued to give the machine a shot. If so, do your research and make sure your body is type is apt to use take up a certain kind of workout.
Pro tip: not every machine could be the right one for you. Especially when you’ve just ventured into fitness and are figuring out what your fitness goals are, you need to really understand these goals and then move forward accordingly.
When it comes rowing machines? There’s nothing like giving it a shot! These versatile machines are a great way to really get your body going in the right direction. So go ahead and get rowing!