When cardio day rolls around, your mind probably turns to one of a few options: running, cycling, or using the elliptical. While all great options, most gyms are housing a secret weapon—the rowing machine. When used correctly, this machine can provide a crazy-good, challenging cardio workout. Here, we break down some of the cardio benefits of rowing.
Why is rowing such good cardio?
Most of us grew up running and biking, so the actual mechanics of the exercise are second nature. Rowing, on the other hand, is usually a new sport, so it’s more challenging. It will require more attention and more effort to get right, especially when you first start, but the cardio benefits of rowing are worth it.
As for the movement itself, rowing is more of a combination exercise—working muscular and cardiovascular endurance. To row, you need to use your upper and lower body almost simultaneously. It works multiple major muscle groups, like the shoulders, arms, core, and legs, at one time. The required push and pull is fairly unique to stationary machines, and the set up means that you’re getting strength training and cardiovascular training in one low-impact workout.
How does rowing compare to other forms of cardio?
For starters, rowing can burn up to 600-800 calories per hour. Unlike running, rowing is low-impact, making it an ideal cross-training workout. It’s also really simple to tailor your workout to your fitness level. Compared to other forms of cardio, rowing provides a greater range of muscle work. It hits just about everything in the upper body and lower body, as well as the core. Few other machines can boast those full body benefits.
What muscles does rowing work?
The big push—called the catch—works your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Those huge leg muscles push repeatedly the whole time you’re rowing, and since those are some of the biggest muscles in your body, you’re burning a ton of calories. Likewise, working those major muscles means that your body will continue to burn a higher number of calories throughout the day.
Those big pushes also require stabilization, meaning your core comes into play. Without a strong, stabilized core, your body will kind of collapse while you rowing. And when we say core we mean all the muscles in your truck, not just the abdominals.
Thanks to the added pulling motion, your arms and back get in on the action, too. Biceps, triceps, rhomboids, and your chest muscles help reel the handle in and complete the motion. Just a few minutes on the rowing machine can help loosen up tight back and neck muscles, and warm up your arms rather quickly.
Rowing is kind of like lifting and running combined—a two-for-one workout. The cardio benefits of rowing alone are huge, but the added strength component makes all the difference. You’ll test your muscular and cardiovascular endurance and strength, making you stronger and more efficient over time.