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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MSROZZIE 8/8/2019
Thanks, good need-to-know information. Good tips! Report
SPINECCO 8/8/2019
Great information. Report
DRAGONFLY631 6/7/2019
Thanks for the ideas Report
RAZZOOZLE 4/15/2019
Thank you for sharing Report
I've owned and used a Concept II rowing machine for years-- great workout! Report
Thanks! 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
I love indoor rowing, my indoor cardio machine of choice.

"Not only do you recruit 84 percent of your muscle mass, your cardio-respiratory system also works hard"

I don't think there is another indoor cardio machine that can compare to this, plus it is low-impact to boot. Report
My gym does not have a rower like the ones pictured. Ours has a seat you sit on with a vertical pad in front of the chest that you lean into in the forward motion. There is a metal plate on the floor of the machine with an incline to press your feet against. The seat does not move. There are two curved bars in front that you lean forward to grab. You pull this back to complete the upper body rowing motion. Weight can be set to increase the resistance. Report
Correct form is MUCH more important than speed or duration. If you cannot find a trainer or instructor, have someone record you as you row so you can compare against 'proper form.' and are very useful sites, no matter what brand of erg you're using.

I also recommend stiff soled workout shoes. Since my cycling shoes have no clips, I wear those. Report
Rowing on the water is my sport but I got into it after rowing on an erg in the gym. I think aiming for a split of 2 minutes or less is fairly ambitious for beginners!
I'd say the most important things are to learn how to complete the stroke sequence correctly (legs body arms - arms body legs) and that a higher resistance and faster rates aren't necessarily better. Report
I tried rowing at my old gym and actually liked it, to my surprise. I want to get a rower for the home gym I'm creating. Report
I have been wanting to try rowing. It's looks fun. Report