The cardio row machine was once reserved for professional rowers. But not anymore.
These days, thanks in part to CrossFit, rowing is having a moment. Boutique rowing studios are thriving, and rowing machines are commonplace in plenty of gyms. Every CrossFit box has rows upon rows of Concept2 rowers, and rowing competitions are increasingly popular, too.
“It’s a total-body workout that uses most of the muscles in your body during every stroke with little to no impact,” says Lisa Niren, a group fitness instructor and CITYROW trainer. “It burns fat while providing extreme cardiovascular fitness and ridiculous muscular endurance.”
Compared to other full-body cardio sports—swimming and cross-country skiing, for example—you’ll build more strength and power while rowing, says Eric Von Frohlich, CrossFit Level 1 certified trainer and founder of EVF Performance and Row House NYC. “Rowers tend to be more muscular than other endurance athletes: their backs, shoulders and arms are thicker and stronger. A good, powerful row stroke is similar to a kettlebell swing or a deadliftbecause you have to engage your core so the power from your legs transfers to the handle.”
Rowing is also by nature a strength movement, essentially a blend of a deadlift and a barbell row. That’s an ideal combination that everyone should do, hitting all the posterior-chain muscles that can easily get weakened by all the sitting that takes place in 2019 society.
Rowing is also easy to program into any workout, because you can get plenty of oomph from a rowing workout in just 10 to 15 minutes, and you can easily work in other implements, mixing rowing with, say, kettlebell swings or some other movements to create well-rounded, full-body routines. Need a few examples? Check out the workouts below.