Reasons to choose rowing for your workout routine.

Rowing and rowing machines have been frequently advertised on commercials and TV shows. House of Cards on Netflix, features Kevin Spacey’s character working out on a water rowing machine. There are also indoor rowing fitness studios popping up in cities around the United States.  Group rowing has taken the place of spinning classes and is growing in popularity.

We live in Philadelphia near the Schuylkill River where rowers of all skill levels come to enjoy the sport of rowing. Most Universities and High Schools have crew teams that compete on the Schuylkill River.

Boathouse Row Philadelphia

Rowing is a popular sport in our area, but you may ask yourself, why would you want to choose rowing for your workout routine?

Rowing helps you burn more calories than other work out machines.

For example, a basic complete workout could be obtained in 30 minutes on an elliptical machine and about 1.5 hours circuit training.

But on a rower, you need less than 35 minutes to accomplish the same workout.

Why? Because rowing works out almost every major muscle group. With the proper form, rowing works leg biceps, leg triceps, calves, buttocks, lower abs, upper abs, lower back, oblique’s, upper back (lats), neck (traps), rear shoulder (deltoids), outer deltoids, triceps, biceps, and forearms. It even works out the front deltoids and lower pectorals to some extent. A rowing workout hits every major muscle group. Here are some more reasons why rowing is a phenomenal aerobic/cardio workout.

  • It is a good workout for anyone. Short, Tall, Young, Old, In shape, Out of shape, you can use a rowing machine.  It is great for all fitness levels because it is a low-impact exercise. This means it is easy on the joints. You just need to understand the importance of proper form. Improper form can lead to injuries, especially in your back. Start out slow. Keeping your strokes per minute in the low to mid 20’s at the lowest resistance and practice the perfect form to get the most out of your rowing workout.
  • Great for weight loss. Rowing burns a lot of calories. The number of calories you can burn while rowing depends on your body weight, exercise intensity level and the duration of your workout. It is best to use a Calories Burned Calculator to find out how many calories you will burn. Enter your gender, age, height, and weight into the calculator and it will calculate the rest for you.
  • Cardio and Strength Training. This is the reason rowing burns so many calories. It requires both strength and cardio endurance at once. The pulling and pushing motion uses the strength in your legs and torso. The full motion is an aerobic exercise that improves lung, heart, and the circulation system, which makes it an effective exercise routine.
  • Cardio and Strength Training. This is the reason rowing burns so many calories. It requires both strength and cardio endurance at once. The pulling and pushing motion uses the strength in your legs and torso. The full motion is an aerobic exercise that improves lung, heart, and the circulation system, which makes it an effective exercise routine.
  • Rowing is a Full Body Exercise. What parts of the body does the rowing machine workout?
    • Leg Muscles: A rowing stroke starts with a powerful leg push called the catch. The sliding seat allows you to push-off by extending your knees and hips. In this movement you are using your quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus maximus, thus strengthening the largest muscles in your body. For those with knee and leg issues, rowing is particularly beneficial because it is a low-impact exercise.
    • Core Muscles: The muscles in your abdomen and back are strengthening with movements of rowing. Your core muscles contract to stabilize your lumbar or lower spine. This prevents your lower back from collapsing and reduces your risk of back injury.If you have had back problems it is important to start slowly to make sure you have the proper technique as to not hurt your back.
    • Upper Back Muscles: Pulling your arms and shoulders back and into your midsection works the muscles in your upper back and shoulders. Specifically the trapezius and rhomboids, located between your shoulder blades.
    • Arm Muscles: During rowing, your biceps and triceps in your arms are strengthened. Your biceps respond when you bend your elbows and pull the oar into your midsection. The triceps, anterior deltoids, and chest muscles, extend your arms forward to prepare for the next stroke.
    • Hip Muscles: Sliding the seat forward starts the stroke motion. This strengthens your arms, hip flexor muscles, and hamstrings. Your hip flexors muscles work with your quadriceps, to flex your hip and pull you forward into your next stroke. To bend your knees during the stroke, your hamstrings contract to add to your forward momentum.
  • Reduces Stress and Depression. Rowing is relaxing due to the rhythmic motion and feeling of being on the water. The repetitive motion can cause a calming feeling. reports that “physical activity stimulates pleasure centers in the brain. Cardiovascular workouts, in particular, increase the amount of endorphins released in the body, which can reduce stress and even lift feelings of depression.”
  • Option for cross training. Cross training is training in a sport other than your main activity. It is used to improve your performance by borrowing methods and movement from another sport or activity. Using rowing for cross training helps runners and cyclist work muscles they haven’t used before and improves endurance. Rowing can also help improve posture by developing midline stability. Also, it is a good workout for rehabilitating an injury since it is low impact.
  • Full Range of Motion. Rowing moves the joints through a full range of motion, from legs fully extended to fully contracted and arms fully contracted to fully extended. Moving the joints through a full range of motion aids joint lubrication, joint mobility, and overall Joint Health.
  • You can track your progress. Rowing machines come with fitness monitors that track workout time, number and speed of strokes, distance, energy consumption, and pulse rate. As you get used to the rowing process, you can set goals and create workout plans for yourself. You can also begin to increase the resistance on the machine.
  • It can be performed individually or as a group. Group rowing classes are popping up across the country as an alternative to cycling classes. They’re held much the same way, with high-energy instructors, music, and a choreographed routine set to the beat of a playlist. It’s a fun option for those who don’t want to exercise alone. You can purchase a rower for home use or try a rowing machine at your gym and go at your own pace.
  • Rowing is Fun. It’s an enjoyable motion imagining you are on the water. It is fun to change your speed and time your breathing a motion to the beat of a song.  You can also challenge yourself by finding different workouts to do on your rowing machine.

Proper Rowing Form

It’s important to take the time to learn the proper technique.  The instructions are broken down into steps, but the motion should always smooth and fluid. Make sure the foot-pads fit properly and are in the right position. The foot straps should be firmly places in the middle, upper part of the foot, just below where your toes begin. Then grab the handle or oars with an overhand grip.


  1. Start with your knees bent and your body angled forward with arms fully extended. Make sure your shoulder are relaxed and your abdominal muscles are engaged.


  1. Begin the row by pushing off powerfully with your legs. Your legs will straighten and your body will open into a wide V.


  1. As your legs are just about to reach a straight position, pull the handle or oars with your arms until it reaches your chest.


  1. Allow the handle to pull your body forward until your arms are straight and then bend your knees back into the starting position.


  1. Repeat!


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