It is of the utmost importance to any exercise-oriented individual that an adequate amount of cardiovascular exercise is completed regularly. Whether you are a bodybuilder with 22″ arms or simply a lean yoga enthusiast, the rule applies across all levels. Without a properly trained heart and lungs, your body misses out on a whole slew of health benefits and a decreased risk of heart problems; not to mention creating a disproportionate distribution of vitality within your body. Sure, your biceps have veins thicker than a garden hose, but what about what’s on the inside?
A dedicated gym goer may look at his/her six pack and scoff, “Cardio? My aerobic-free training has me leaner than ever and sweating it up on the Stairmaster for an hour isn’t my idea of a worthwhile workout.” OK, valid point, but a high performance vehicle is for nothing if the goods under the hood are garbage. Moreover, if you pack on muscle yet refrain to train your cardiovascular system, your physicality will resemble a hulking Toyota Tundra with the dinky engine of a Honda Civic. Struggling.
So, why rowing; better yet, why the rowing machine? Well, considering rivers that weave through your neighborhood with adequate boat houses are scarce, the rowing machine is the best substitute to mimic the movement and reap the rewards of such activity. Better yet, you never have to worry about bad weather, and even better than that, a great cardio workout can be accomplished in a fraction of the time that one may be looking at when getting on board an elliptical or treadmill.
The majority of people are under the assumption that rowing is an upper body intensive movement. Although there is some truth to that statement, the driving force in a successful rowing motion is derived from the lower body, where the body’s powerful leg muscles are able to sustain prolonged exertions that only they can deliver.
Need more reasons to try the rowing machine? How about the fact that the word impact can’t even be found in the same sentence as rowing machine, unless the word ‘low’ is front of it. Unlike running, which places unnecessary stress and trauma on the knees and ankles, rowing favors a far more fluid, floating sense of power and work. As your body moves back and forth over the rolling seat, your joints praise you as they are gently coerced into the flexion and extension of various limbs.
Still need more reasons? One of the greatest aspects of the rowing machine is that it is a cardio exercise that trains your whole musculature; not just your lower body, as many machines do. When stepping away on the Stairstepper, one can feel the sole distribution of strain compiling itself on your legs, while the upper body remains slack and in complete boredom. The rowing machine ties the two sides together, with the legs generating the massive power and force for each stroke and transferring it up the body, giving your abs, arms, shoulders, and of course, back, an awesomely toning workout.
If you have located and affirmed the presence of a rowing machine at your local health club, here is a great way to get introduced to the motion:
- Adjust the foot stretchers: Each machine is equipped with a platform to strap your feet into, both in socks or with shoes, and it needs to be adjusted so that the strap rests atop where the balls of your feet are, and also so that your bending motion isn’t inhibited by the strap.
- Set the fly wheel resistance: 10 is heavy, 1 is light – to put it simply. Personally, I like to warm up in the higher digits (7-10), and then commit to my workouts between 4 and 5, as most university programs suggest.
- Set the clock: The rowing machine has a great computer for tracking your workouts, but for now, simply hit ‘Just Row’, or begin pulling on the handle and the clock will start on its own.
Of course, it isn’t so easy to master the rowing stroke on your first few tries, so keep in mind these pointers:
- Always begin each stroke with lower leg perpendicular to the ground and your seat as far up as can be achieved. At this point, your should be fully outstretched and grasping the handle.
- Legs first! When driving, press off with your glutes, quads, and calves and drive your legs down to full extension.
- Back second! once the legs are down, lean back with a straight back and begin to transfer the speed of the fly wheel to your upper body.
- Arms in third! Once you have achieved a slight posterior lean with your straight back, pull the handle into your nipple line with by retracting your scapulae and flexing your arms.
- The ‘finish’, or end of the stroke goes exactly in reverse order: Arms back out, back over, then slowly move back up the slide with the legs, ready for another stroke.
20 strokes arms only
20 strokes arms and back only
20 strokes half leg extension
40 strokes full leg extension (full strokes)
Sample workout: 1 x 3000M, 1 x 2000M, 1 x 1000M, 1 X 500M, 1:00 rest in between each.
As you may notice this is a descending pyramid type of workout and it is great because mentally, the workload becomes easier and easier as you pass through each interval.
Select workout, then select Interval Variable, then enter the first distance, followed by the three others; then the rest.
The first 3000M should be done at 60-80% of your VO2 max, with that intensity increasing until the last 500M goes by at an all-out effort.
That’s it for now, I hope you can look into incorporating the rowing machine into your next workout and join the thousands who swear by rowing as the King of cardio.