A blog by runners. For runners.

All about the rowing machine

all-about-the-rowing-machineStill think you can’t get a great workout while sitting down? You’re wrong! Just a single session on the rowing machine can blast between 600-800 calories in an hour. That’s similar, if not better, than running or spinning for the same duration — and it blows the elliptical out of the water. In addition, walkers/joggers/runners can all benefit from the upper-body focus the rowing machine encourages.

The rowing machine, also called an ergometer, is a piece of equipment with a sliding seat that is used to strengthen the muscles used in and simulate the motion of actual on-water rowing. The machine is easy on the joints, as it involves little impact, making it a perfect workout for athletes in need of cross-training or those just looking to head or avoid injuries.

Rowing and, therefore, indoor rowing is “often referred to as a strength-endurance sport” because it “stresses many muscle groups throughout the body anaerobically” while also providing a challenging cardiovascular workout. (Source)

Strength blended with cardio! What could be better? It may seem like you simply sit down and start rowing — but please don’t do that. If you do, you’re setting yourself up for a sore back. Using correct posture will save you, though.   

  • “The stroke can be divided into two parts, the drive (work) and the recovery (rest).” (Source + Video)
  • You’ll want to keep a neutral spine and avoid overextending or hunching over throughout the smooth, continuous motion.
  • In between these two fundamental parts comes the “catch” (when you reach the front of the machine, knees bent, before pushing off again) and the “finish” (when your legs are fully extended, arms pulled in).
  • Another posture tip: It’s good to keep your chin up, shoulders down versus tensing or gazing at the floor for optimal breathing and reduced neck strain.

How to measure progress? Well, I say perceived exertion is best. If you’d like to get technical, pace, or the “split,” is measured in minutes per 500 meters. “A split of 2:00 represents a speed of two minutes per 500 meters, or about 4.17 m/s (15.0 km/h). The split does not necessarily correspond to how many strokes the rower takes (the “rating”) since strokes can vary in power.” (Source)

Along withe keeping good posture while on the machine, I advise some extra time stretching at the end of your workout. We runners tend to favor our lower bodies when it comes to activity, so all the new demands rowing entails can tax even the most conservative of cross-trainers. As with any new activity, it’s best to ease into a program, so try rowing for 10-15 minutes (with a slow warmup and cool down) before lengthening your workout.


Written by  Ashley Marcin.

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