Rowing Machine: Use & Benefits

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by Devin Sarno, NSCA-CPT

Do you suffer from knee pain? Maybe have trouble running, using the ellipitical, or other forms of cardio? Maybe you are looking for some high intensity cardio that will save your joints? The rowing machine could very well be your answer in any of these cases. Under almost any circumstance, you can likely use the rower, and use it to effectively help reach your goals. It may not quite be a one size fits all machine, but I would argue that it is as close to it as just about any other machine out there. Regardless of your goal, current fitness level, or current state of physical health, you can very likely reap some major benefits and progress.

First and foremost, the rower is a very low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise. As long as your feet are strapped down appropriately and you row with good technique, there is almost no extra impact or tension placed on any of your joints. Given that both your hands and feet are fixed on the foot pads and handles, you do not have to worry about impact. This will allow individuals with joint issues, or even injuries, to still be able to do some form of cardiovascular exercise or conditioning.

Next, its use is also very adaptable form person to person. Other than the damper setting, which only actually adjusts how much air can be drawn into the machine with each pull, there is no adjustments that need to be made. The workout can be as hard as you need it to be. However, the greater your overall power output is, the more difficult you can make the workout because you can have a longer and stronger pull. But even if you have a lower power output, if you are maximizing your own output than you will still reaching a great intensity for YOU. Whether you row at a 2:00 500 meter pace or a 3:30 500 meter pace, if it is a high intensity for you, you will be improving your fitness.

Another great thing about the rower is you can use it for different types of workouts as well. You can choose to use it for a cardiovascular endurance type of workout by settling into a steady pace and rowing for distance. You can also use it for high intensity interval training by doing short distances or rowing for time at extremely high intensities. With that being said, the rower can function as a tool for both weight loss and fat loss.

One last thing to consider when thinking about using the rower, is that it truly is a total body exercise. During the drive phase of the pull, you primarily use your legs and core as you press to extend your legs and levering back. Toward the end of your drive phase and into your finish phase, using your upper body, you pull the handle in toward your chest. Once you complete your pull, you will then re-extend your arms and re-bend your legs as you return to the base of the rower before repeating you the movement. If you try to compensate one way or another and use more legs or more upper body, then your performance on the rower will suffer. It forces you to be well-rounded and have or build both strength and endurance in your upper and lower body.

If the rower isn’t a tool that you currently utilize during your fitness routine, it is definitely something you should consider starting to incorporate! It is truly a multi-faceted exercise tool and it can provide some great benefits for any gym goer. Just about any goal, fitness level, or physical condition can be well suited for using the rower. The quality of movement, lack of impact, and amount of intensity it draws out of you makes it an excellent exercise option for an extremely wide variety of people. Not sure how to use the rower properly? Try checking out this video!

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