The Definitive Guide to Indoor Rowing for Rookies

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Is rowing the new spinning? Although indoor rowing has been around for centuries, its popularity has been gaining speed in recent years. Those seeking a low-impact, high-intensity cardio activity—or a cross-training workout for running, swimming or CrossFit—are flocking to gyms and specialty studios to row, row, row their way to a fitter physique.

What makes rowing a strong contender to other aerobic exercises? According to instructor Ann Weixel, owner of Ride & Workout, this power endurance activity is an efficient calorie burner. "Not only do you recruit 84 percent of your muscle mass, your cardio-respiratory system also works hard," she says. As a bonus, unlike indoor cycling, Weixel points out that you can't "hide" on a rower—you have to push, hinge and pull every stroke and truly give it your all. 

Although it's often assumed to be an upper-body activity, rowing is powered primarily by the lower body, as the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves work together to complete each stroke. Meanwhile, the abdominal and lower back muscles work to stabilize and support while your mid- and upper-back muscles aid in pulling. "If you don't utilize your back muscles properly, your arms and shoulders will fatigue very quickly," warns Weixel.

Many also love the mental stimulation the sport provides. "Rowing isn't mindless—you have to think about technique with each stroke to maintain efficiency," says Kristen McAuliffe, certified WaterRower instructor at It's Working Out. "This really helps the class fly by—there is no mind wandering or clock watching." As an added bonus, the classes foster a sense of healthy competition and camaraderie, as the two "teams" encourage one another during challenges.  

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JIACOLO 12/8/2019
I miss rowing since I do not go to the gym anymore Report
Thank you for a very helpful article. I’m rather slow rowing because I seem to have to focus on form a lot. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Report
REDROBIN47 12/7/2019
Thank you. Report
DMEYER4 12/7/2019
thanks Report
DMEYER4 12/7/2019
thanks Report
KELLIEBEAN 12/7/2019
My park district fitness center has water rowing machines. For the past month and a half I've been going twice a week doing ten minutes on the treadmill, ten minutes on the rower and repeat. I am seeing a slimming effect and slightly defined muscles. Not to be indelicate, but look into avoiding chaffing. I learned the hard way! :-) Report
AZMOMXTWO 12/7/2019
thank you Report
NANASUEH 12/7/2019
thanks Report
NEPTUNE1939 12/7/2019
ty Report
AQUAGIRL08 12/7/2019
This was interesting. Thank you for sharing! Report
LEANJEAN6 12/7/2019
interesting article-Thank yu Report
MAREE1953 12/7/2019
Rowing is incorporated into our crossfit workout every so often. It's not my favorite but a good cardio workout! Report
FERRETLOVER1 12/7/2019
I never tried indoor rowing, but I used to like to row a rowboat - it was hard work, but fun! Report
CD24848958 12/7/2019
Thank you Report
I think that I will try this exercise when I go to the gym next time. Report
Thanks, good need-to-know information. Good tips! Report
Great information. Report
Thanks for the ideas Report
Thank you for sharing Report
I've owned and used a Concept II rowing machine for years-- great workout! Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
I just started using a rowing machine and it kicks my butt. Love it. It will take a while to conquer this, but I'm up to the challenge. Report
something new to do Report
I added the rowing machine in my cardio program, with the others and with the elliptic, enjoy the overall body work out. Thanx for the article. Report
My Planet Fitness finally got rowing machines. Love the full body workout. Report
I enjoy rowing at the gym. Report
Any recommendations for a brand of rower for a beginner to purchase for home? Report
Rowing is so hard but worth it Report
Thanks for the demo. Form is very important. Report
I tried rowing, but the arthritis in my shoulders cut that real short real fast. Bummed me out. Report
thanks for posting very useful for me & maybe I will go in for it Report
Thank you for a good article. Right now I don't use the rowing machines. Report
The Orange Theory Class I take incorporates the water rower and it's such a workout. I love the intensity at such a low impact on my knees! Report
Years ago I use to row.The only excerise I stuck to. Report
This article was very helpful Report
great info here Report
Great informative article! Report
Stretching is very important to eliminate injuries and blood pooling. Report
I believe I've tried every machine except the rowing one, after reading this article full of know how, I believe I will venture over to the machine this week.Thanks for Sharing! Report
Thank you, I love my rowing machine. I want to work out on it everyday but I don't have a trainer, and the internet says not to work out on it everyday, but I needed this article to row correctly. Report
Form is critical Report
I love the rowing machine, but it IS addictive!!! Report
I wish my gym had a rowing machine, I would love to do it! Report
I have never done rowing but I might give it a try. Report
Thanks! Report
Thanks!! Report
I've loved rowing for a long time. Several years ago I used a tax refund to buy my own Concept rower. My elderly father (in his 80s) would even use it. When he went to the doctor, the doctor wanted to know what he was doing because his numbers were so good. My dad just grinned and said he'd been rowing. Report