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  • Writer's picturebrittanytblocker

The best piece of equipment for a full body workout

You step into the gym, look around and notice the plethora of bikes, treadmills, stair climbers, and ellipticals.

A passing thought of “What should I use today for my cardio workout” might spring into mind as you make your way over to the treadmill to go for a run.

Meanwhile in the back corner of the gym sits the best machine for full body muscle work as well as awesome cardiovascular gains.

This magic machine, one of my favorite machines of all time...the rower!

In today’s post I’m going to get all giddy about how much I love the rowing machine and talk about why it’s such a great machine for anyone looking for a low-impact, full body workout!

What is a rowing machine?

Way back in 1872 the first patent for a rowing machine was issued to W.B Curtis who created the first ever indoor rower to aid those water athletes (professional rowers, oarsmen at the time) in their training.

Being able to train on land as a water athlete was revolutionary at the time, and the structure of the original “flywheel” is still being used today!

Now when you step into the gym you aren’t using the indoor rowers from 1872 (they were wooden!)

However the training modality of being able to train indoors for a water sport now spans it’s reach to any fitness goer in modern day.

A rowing machine attempts to simulate the act of rowing on the water.

This training modality can now be used by any gym goer or for those who fall in love with one (like me!), can order one to have at home!

The benefits of rowing

Rowing has a multitude of benefits that might not be so evident when looking at that weird piece of equipment.

First, let’s go over how training with a rower can work a serious amount of muscles!

In every row “pull” you’ll be activating all of these muscles:

  • Calves

  • Quads

  • Hamstrings

  • Glutes

  • Biceps

  • Middle Traps

  • Lats

  • Abs

  • Obliques

  • Lower Back

  • Forearms

That’s a TON of muscles working for 1 single piece of equipment!

Compare this to your typical treadmill:

  • Calves

  • Quads

  • Hamstrings

  • Glutes

(I’m not running coach but running will directly work legs with some involvement from your swinging arms and abs to stabilize your spine throughout the run)

There is no doubt that rowing is a full body workout, using a combination of both upper and lower body to create force and power in the machine.

Secondly, rowing is low impact

For those who have knee, hip and back pain, running might be a recipe for disaster. The constant pounding on the pavement or treadmill can leave your knees crying for relief.

It’s no wonder why many, many avid runners have knee, foot, and hip issues that continue to hold them back from working as hard as they can.

Rowing takes away any impact because you are in a seated position, strapped into the foot pedals.

Therefore rowing is a great piece of equipment for those who can no longer comfortably perform higher impact exercise.

You can row much longer than you can run without risk of any injury. (Just be weary of how your butt might go numb after sitting on one for 45 minutes!)

Lastly, rowing outputs some serious cardiovascular response

Since your whole body is being used to generate force and maintain good form for a row workout - your oxygen and heart must be working at full capacity to perform this exercise.

There are many, many ways to get your heart pumping with the rower. Couple this with the fact that it’s low-impact, you allow your body to push past it’s comfort zone and truly hit high target heart rates for serious cardiovascular gains!

Ask anyone who has done a 2000 meter row and they will tell you that it might be the worst 7-10 minutes of their life...but it feels awesome. (Some of you are crazy and are a glutton for punishment!)

Rowing is FUN

Okay so maybe this section is totally biased and subjective to how I feel about rowing...but in my opinion it is much more fun and dynamic than any other cardio machine.

Sitting on a stationary bike and peddling away is boring to me, running on a treadmill is not fun at all, and I don’t have a pool to swim laps back and forth.

Rowing is dynamic - you use your legs, your arms and get into a flow of pulling once you hone down the form.

Rowing is also great because it gives you immediate feedback as to how you are doing. You know exactly how your pace is, how hard you are pulling, and how well you are performing.

This is great because it gives you the ability to adjust yourself to either work harder, slow it down, or keep working at your pace.

There is no lying to the machine or “guessing” how hard you are running/swimming/riding a bike. Sure these pieces of equipment can give you feedback but normally it’s not until the end of an interval, circuit, or workout.

With rowing you can keep yourself honest on a pull to pull basis ensuring that you are putting in the work that is necessary for that type of workout you are doing.

Rowing also has MANY different styles of training. You can do a steady state 30-1 hour row where you keep a pace and never have yourself feeling breathless.

You can do timed distances such as a 5000M row, 2000M row, 500M Row.

You can also do interval training as you input the metrics and do a certain amount of distance/time/calories with a set amount of rest.

You can also do variable training where you perform different work:rest ratios throughout 1 singular workout.

The possibilities are truly endless - I’ve been rowing for 6 years and still haven’t done all the possible combinations of workouts!

Rowing workouts!

I’m going to end this post with some ideas for different workouts you can perform on the rower. These workouts can be programmed into the rower.

Now these are only just a few workouts - there are so many more you can do...but to give you an they are:

Steady State: Endurance training

Row for 30 minutes - Max Meters

8 Rounds (16 minutes)

Row 1 minute hard

Row 1 minute slow

10K row for time

Set distance:

5k Row for time

2k Row for time

1k Row for time

500m Row for time


Row Tabata - 20 seconds work / 10 seconds rest : 8 rounds

30 Seconds work / 30 seconds Rest : 10 minutes

10 rounds:

100m Sprint

45s Rest

Power Row

1 minute max meter row

30 Cal Row Sprint

30 second max meter row

Circuit Row

5 Rounds for time

250M Row

15 Pushups

10 Goblet Squats

15 Minute AMRAP

15 Cal Row

15 V-ups

15 Jump Squats

15 Shoulder Press

Now these are not at all close to how many different workouts you can do - just a small taste!

Overall rowing is one of the best ways to workout safely, workout effectively, and workout with intention. When you strap into the rower, know that you are going to be working nearly every part of your body as well as increasing your cardiovascular response to exercise.

If you’ve never tried rowing before I highly recommend giving it a shot.

If you want to see a video explaining how to row with proper form, be sure to leave a comment on here!

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