Fitness Articles

The Most Undervalued Piece of Equipment in the Gym

9 Reasons to Try the Indoor Rowing Machine

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By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer         
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Are you sick of the same-old cardio machines at the gym? Bored by the treadmill? Tired of the elliptical? Can't stand to do another mile on the stationary bike or another flight on the stair climber? Well, then, it's time you head over to the indoor rower. Yes, that rower—the dusty piece of equipment over in the corner of your health club that doesn't get used very often. The one that has a big handle and straps for your feet—that's the one!

The indoor rowing machine is awesome. It used to be fairly popular back in the early health club days but fell out of vogue when the newer and fancier stair climbers, treadmills and ellipticals came on the market. Now though, with more people looking for a complete full-body workout, indoor rowing is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, no doubt thanks to the popular Crossfit style of exercise that often uses indoor rowers in their workouts. And it's with good reason that rowing is becoming trendy again: There are a ton of reasons to love it. In fact, here are nine!

9 Reasons to Try the Indoor Rower
1. Anyone can do it. Old, young, good knees or bad knees, indoor rowing is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints. So no matter what size you are or what limitations you face, you can probably do it. In fact, it's the exercise du jour for many people who are recovering from an injury because it's so easy on the body, yet provides a great workout!

2. Rowing burns big calories. Hop on the rower, start moving, and burn some major calories. A 160-pound person will burn about 250 calories in just 30 minutes of rowing, which is as much, if not more than, what you would burn on the stair climber or the elliptical.

3. Strength and cardio in one. The reason why the calorie burn is so high is because rowing requires you to use both strength and cardio endurance at once. The pulling motion of your upper body along with the pushing motion of your lower body requires strength of the legs and torso, while the full movement itself requires the increased cardio output of your lungs and heart. Meaning, your muscles are pushed and you get out of breath. Talk about multitasking!

4. Rowing uses your full body. When it comes to indoor rowing, the question isn't which muscles are used, but which muscles aren't used? From your shoulders to your chest to your back and biceps and triceps, your entire upper body is used. On the lower body, everything from your hamstrings to your quads to your glutes and your calves are engaged when rowing. And don't forget the core! Your full torso, including your abs and erecter spinae (back) are used to power through the rowing motion. It is functional fitness at its best!
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomeGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com. A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • Great article. I love the Concept 2 rower. It has become my favorite piece of gym equipment. - 3/29/2016 4:57:53 AM
  • I have recently started using the rowing machine, and I love it. I must admit that I am concerned that I am not using it correctly, though. As for being the most underused piece of equipment in the gym, I disagree. There are 6 machines in the gym, and sometimes they are all being used at the same time. - 3/5/2016 11:22:43 PM
  • I sporadically used a rowing machine 2007-2012 when I had a gym membership, then I started exercising at home. This past Christmas, I found a rowing machine for under $100 sold by Overstock.com. Its not nearly as sturdy as those in the gym, and I wouldn't recommend it if you weigh more than about 220 pounds. It has served me well, as in the last for years I've gotten my weight under 195. It has strengthened me in these last 2 months, and I've replaced a lot of other core exercises I had been doing. - 2/26/2016 11:17:28 PM
  • I am a former NCAA collegiate rower and then rowed with a community rowing club for many years after graduation. Rowing is a wonderful sport. I encourage everyone to try it. Please be sure to ask for help from the staff at the gym if you are just starting out. The form is VERY important so as not to strain your back. If your arms are working too hard, you are doing it wrong - it should be mostly legs. - 2/26/2016 10:09:15 AM
  • I would love to have a rower. However, my knees wouldn't allow it! I have a total knee that doesn't bend past 85 degrees, if I force it I might get 90, but that's about it!

    - 2/25/2016 7:54:36 PM
  • I was shown a rower during physical therapy- and was shown how to use it properly ( after I explained how awful it was to do) and the most important thing I was taught - is doing it fluidly & not trying to row the Atlantic ocean in 1 session.I row 2x a week still, and it is the 1 set of machine that are always empty. I started at 254 pounds - so being big will not stop you from using it, and it is a real total workout - CAUTION you may notice less joint ache, and better posture after a while. : ) - 2/25/2016 10:51:43 AM
  • Rowing machines are my absolute favorite apparatus. I was first introduced to one in cardiac rehab, and ever since whenever I go to a new or old gym for that matter, it is the first thing I look for right after the bathroom. Hey, it;s about priorities. - 1/18/2016 3:31:06 PM
  • When I was a kid, we had a "rowing machine" at our house. We used to play on it. It was very utilitarian. I haven't seen one since! In all the gyms I've been to, not a one. I didn't know it was a real cardio machine! lol - 1/5/2016 9:52:30 AM
  • I just got a Sunny Health Fitness Rowing Fitness Machine, a rather lightweight model (I wouldn't recommend if you're much above 200 lbs). from overstock.com. Easy assembly and under $100. - 1/4/2016 8:33:23 PM
  • I love the rowing machine but Planet Fitness doesn't have any :( Not sure why. - 1/2/2016 8:00:29 PM
  • I love rowing! It's a good warm-up for my runs to prevent cramping. Unfortunately for me, the rowing machines at my gym are almost always taken. - 1/2/2016 4:06:16 PM
  • I used to think that when I was paddling our canoe, it was relaxing on the lake, but not that much exercise. After not paddling for a while, we went out and I noticed how many muscles I was using and then next day, I noticed again! It was really good and not boring since we were on a beautiful lake with lots to see.
    - 1/2/2016 2:28:44 PM
  • Rowing is fun, but you need to use good form on this machine, too, just as you do for all other machines, or you can hurt your back. - 1/2/2016 12:18:21 PM
  • I use the concept 2 machine, set it for 2000 meters, and then simulate a race - hard start, steady endurance in the middle, then a strong finish. At level 6 I've got it to 10 minutes. Working on the achieving the same time at a higher level. - 12/19/2015 10:14:52 AM
  • The rower is under used for a reason. It's boring as far as I'm concerned. Amazing how many people use it. Whatever works. Do it! - 12/19/2015 9:20:08 AM

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