Five good reasons to work out on a rowing machine

So you've succumbed to the charms of the treadmill and the cross trainer in the gym but have yet to try your hand at the rowing machine? Well, it won't be long before you'll be using it all the time.

A piece of equipment that works your muscles and gives you a good cardio workout, the rowing machine looks like two machines in one and is sure to attract some puzzled looks from the uninitiated. A lot of people think that cardio and burning off energy is all to do with getting your legs going on a treadmill or cross trainer.You might even hear some say that rowers only develop their upper bodies. Well, they only say that because they obviously haven't seen their legs. There is more, so much more to the rowing machine than cardio and bulking up arm muscles. As well as telling you exactly what rowing machines can do, we're going to give you five good reasons why you should use them.


[1/] They were designed to help olympic rowers keep on training [dash]

You may be asking yourself why we've started off talking about rowers. Well, that's just because the rowing machine is the stationary version of a rowing boat. As you might have guessed, when you sit on a rowing machine, you row. As an activity, it is also called indoor rowing.

This piece of cardio fitness equipment is a member of the family of ergometers. This is the name given to all stationary exercise equipment that simulates an outdoor activity: running or walking on a treadmill; cycling in all its forms as a cardio fitness exercise; and rowing on a rowing machine.Your muscles, cardiovascular system, lungs and mind all work in the same way as they would if you were performing the activity outdoors, and there's the added advantage of avoiding the rain and cold weather.That's the very reason why the rowing machine was designed in the first place: to allow rowers of all abilities to practise this Olympic discipline all year round. 

The newly designed rowing machine replicated rowing so well and was so effective that it quickly became popular and found its way into gyms. Today's rowing machines display information such as distance rowed, calories burned and your heart rate. There are three types of rowing machine systems: central pull (the most popular), Scandinavian pull (vertical motion) and Latin pull (horizontal motion). 

So apart from helping Olympic rowers keep on training whatever the weather, what are the other good reasons why you should be using one of these machines?

Muscles rower

[2/] Rowing machines are good for your health [dash]

OK, so you're probably thinking, “Here we go with the big statements”. But we're deadly serious: rowing machines are great for your health. 

To start with, by developing your muscles on a rowing machine (which is the fourth good reason why you should use one), you'll also be increasing your base or basal metabolism. Depending on your age, sex, size, weight and level of activity, your body burns a given number of calories every day when you move around, concentrate, eat, digest, etc. This vital energy you burn off in performing basic functions is your basal metabolism. To increase it and thereby bump up your daily caloric expenditure, you need to develop your muscle mass.It's perfectly logical.The more muscles you have, the more your body has to work to supply blood to them and make them function, and the more energy your muscles burn up: and that's how you increase your basal metabolism.

Adopt the right posture on a rowing machine and you'll give yourself every chance of avoiding back pain. Using a rowing machine will also help you improve your motor function significantly. Your coordination and balance will improve as will your general posture, and your movements will be more fluid.

It's also worth knowing that you can burn between 300 and 800 calories in a session on the rowing machine, depending on the level of intensity. Make the rowing machine part of your workout routine and you'll build your muscles up and burn up sugar, which provides fuel for your muscles. If you're diabetic, this will help bring down your blood glucose levels. Using a rowing machine will also do wonders for your cardiovascular system and your stamina, as it burns off fat. In the process, you'll get rid of bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase levels of good (HDL).

rowing machine good for the heart

[3/] It's good for the heart [dash]

As we said, working out on a rowing machine is good for your cardiovascular system, as it helps pump blood and oxygen to your organs and muscles. Did you know that getting enough oxygen to your muscles prevents the build-up of lactic acid, which causes muscle pain and the cramp you used to get on cross-country runs at school? You also need a strong heart to keep pumping blood and the oxygen it contains to your muscles. And there's nothing better for building up your heart and making it stronger than a good workout. Using a rowing machine will develop your aerobic capacity. Your stamina will improve and you'll be able to row for longer without your heart beating wildly and without being out of breath. Your anaerobic capacity will also improve as your train. You'll spend longer on the machine and the movements you make will be more intense.Every now and then you should try to pick up the pace for a few minutes, even if it means being more out of breath than you are in "stamina" mode. So now you've got the picture: a strong heart pumps blood and the oxygen it contains in sufficient quantity to your muscles, ensuring they function correctly while you exercise. You'll also find yourself breathing better. After all, the oxygen that powers your muscles has to come from somewhere.

rowing machine good for the muscles

[4/] It's good for your muscles [dash]

As well as offering the perfect cardio workout, the rowing machine is great for toning muscles too. And then some! It engages the vast majority of the body's muscles: 90% to be exact. As far as your upper body is concerned, the biceps and triceps are engaged when you bring the pull bar or pistons towards you, while keeping the palms of your hands facing the ceiling. The deltoids, the trapezius and most of the back muscles are also used, along with the abdominal wall. Depending on the kind of exercises you do, you can also work your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Pretty amazing, isn't it? If there's a more complete piece of apparatus out there than the rowing machine, then we'd like you to tell us about it! 

The movements you make on it work several different joints and also protect them. And it's a cardio workout that is totally impact-free.With various parts of the body adopting a set position on the sliding seat, the footrests and the handles, you are guaranteed an efficient workout, provided that you follow these rules on your posture: keep your chest (and, by extension, your back) straight, and make sure your elbows are pointing backwards and not out to the sides when you complete your strokes. 

Rowing machines allow you to make a lot of movement and flex and extend your muscles. That allows you to work on your explosiveness and flexibility. Want an extra bonus? In sliding backwards on the seat and bringing your arms up to your chest and below your shoulders, you'll strengthen your chest muscles.

And there's nothing to stop you from rounding off the session by doing some body weight exercises, whether you're in the gym or at home.

[5/] It's good for everyone

If there's one advantage to using a rowing machine that's going to get your attention, then it's this one: how easy it is to get the hang of it.And that goes for all of us.There's no fussing around with a rowing machine. So do you want to give it a go? You'll find it fun.Working out doesn't get much more accessible than this; all you have to do is sit down. And it's a no-impact exercise too. So if you're overweight, you don't have to worry about hurting your joints. It's also perfect for pregnant women, though you should seek medical advice first. And if you've got general aches and pains caused by poor posture, using a rowing machine will really help you correct it and strengthen your muscles.

Want to tone up? Want to slim down? Want to get back into sport after an injury or taking time out? Want to make exercise part of your daily routine?Want to lose weight? Want to stay in shape? Want to strengthen your body to improve your quality of life and get around more easily? Or want to complement your favourite sport with an activity that is pretty complete in itself? There's no goal that a rowing machine can't help you achieve, not least because you can adjust the resistance levels (on a scale of 1 to 10, 4 is equivalent to rowing in water) and vary the frequency of your sessions. There's no doubt about it: you'll see the progress for yourself when you use a rowing machine. 

Need some inspiration? Check out our muscle strengthening and cardio workout programme for rowing machines:

Get rowing in five simple stages

Some advice before you get going.


1. Posture [dash]

Sit down on the sliding seat, put your feet on the footrests and fix them in place with the straps. Take the handles in your hands, with your palms facing the floor or the ceiling, depending on the muscles you want to engage.

2. Take up your start position [dash]

Your glutes should come up to your heels and your thighs up to your chest. Your arms should be stretched out, above your knees.


3. Let's get started!pushing off [dash]

As you start pulling on the handle, push off with your feet and legs to force yourself backwards along the beam, while straightening your back and bending your arms towards you.

4. Completing the stroke [dash]

Your legs are outstretched, your back straight, your elbows pointing backwards and not out at the sides, and your wrists are by the side of your body, in line with your shoulders.

5. The return movement [dash]

In moving back to the start position, you simply reverse your movements: first your arms, then your back and your legs. And then you start all over again, from step 3.

We know you can't wait to get started, but before taking a seat on your rowing machine don't forget to give your joints a proper warm-up by rotating your head, shoulders, arms, wrists, pelvis and ankles in both directions. Then do a moderate ten-minute warm-up on the rowing machine or another piece of cardio apparatus. Don't make it too strenuous. You should still be able to hold a conversation with the person next to you. 

And there you have it. You now know all you need to know to join the champions who provided the inspiration for the rowing machine! Because we've won you over, right? Are you going to give it a go?

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