What cardio machine gives you the ability to burn more than 500 calories in an hour—and isn’t the treadmill? If you guessed the rowing machine, gold star for you. That’s why this fat-blaster has made a major comeback in the cardio world, says Deirdre Clute, an instructor at Row House in New York City. “Everyone wants to use it because not only do you reduce the risk of injury because it’s low-impact, but it’s also a great mix of strength and cardio,” she says. “You can constantly challenge yourself and always have room to push a little more.” (For more tips on how to build muscle, pick up Lift to Get Lean by Holly Perkins.)
Rowing calls upon your core, upper, and lower body all within different stages of a single stroke. “The harder you push, the greater the resistance, and the better your workout is going to be,” says Clute. And you don’t have to focus on just speed. In fact, she says rowing is more about control and power. “You’ll build incredible cardio endurance throughout, but each drive through your legs is building strength in your legs, core, back and arms.”
Rowing Workouts 101
Before you walk into a class, it’s important to know what the heck your instructor is talking about. Because with terms like “stroke, power 10s, and split time” flying around, it can get confusing fast. Here’s what you need to know.
ERG: Another name you might hear your coach give the rowing machine. And while you probably won’t hear it often, indoor rowers can be called ergometers, and the act of rowing is erging. #themoreyouknow.
Stroke: The actual act of rowing. When done properly, each stroke can be broken down into three sections, says Clute. Lean forward and grab your handle with both hands; your knees should be bent close to your chest and your body positioned at 11 o’ clock. Drive through your heels to push your legs back, keeping your torso back and your arms straight. As you move to the back of the rower, open up your chest, keeping your core contracted as you lean to 1 o’ clock. Lastly, pull your arms toward your chest, using your back to help carry the momentum and strength through the end of the stroke. Then you reverse the movement to return to start, extending your arms straight and leaning your chest forward before bending the knees back into your chest.
Stroke Rate: How fast you row through each stroke. Keep in mind that faster isn’t always better. “A higher stroke rate doesn’t necessarily mean you’re trying any harder,” says Clute. “It’s better to focus on power first, speed second.”
Split Time: The amount of time it takes to row 500 meters. “On the rower, it’s a strong gauge of effort—the lower your split time is, the more effort you’re giving,” says Clute. You can often find this number in the middle of your monitor.
Power 10s: A common instruction at the beginning of a workout, it simply means busting out 10 strong strokes. Again, focus here on strength. “Your legs really drive the movement, and you want to explode through the beginning of your stroke,” she says. “Power should be driving 60 percent from your legs, 30 percent from the core and just 10 percent with your arms.”
30-Second Blast: This is exactly what it sounds like: Going all-out for 30 seconds, working to get your split time as low as possible.
Ready. Set. Row.
Now on to the good stuff—your workout. Clute designed this 30-minute interval workout for folks who need to squeeze in a muscle-quivering sweatfest in a short amount of time. As you move through it, she says it’s key to not forget about your breath. “Try to set up a steady cadence. It’ll put you in a rhythm for when the workout starts to feel harder,” she says. “I like to breathe out as I push to the back of the rower, and breathe in during the recovery return to the front.”
You’ll sweat through four three-minute rounds, followed by 30-seconds at an all-out effort, and one minute of easy recovery. “The purpose of three minutes is to prepare your body for the max effort you’ll give for 30 seconds, and to challenge yourself to stay strong over a sustained period of time,” says Clute. “Rather than holding a steady pace, try to build up your effort throughout the three minutes, getting stronger every minute.”
30-Minute Rowing Workout for MAJOR Calorie Burn
|0:00 – 2:00||Easy Strokes|
|2:00 – 7:00||4 Power 10s, resting 20-30 sec in between|
|7:00 – 10:00||3 minutes strong:
1 min @ 70% effort (15 sec slower than your fastest split)
1 min @ 80% effort (10 sec slower than your fastest split )
1 min @ 90% effort (5 sec slower than your fastest split)
|10:00 – 11:00||Active recovery, easy strokes|
|11:00 – 11:30||100% effort (split time as low as possible)|
|11:30 – 12:30||Active recovery, easy strokes|
|Complete 4 rounds|
|29:00 – 30:00+||Active recovery, easy strokes|