The Power of the Rowing Machine

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By: Sammy Cusimano

Summer is in full effect, and it is an opportune time to reinvent your workouts, with new challenges that will bring you to unprecedented levels in your own personal fitness journey. One of the most effective and also challenging pieces of equipment you will ever encounter in a gym is none other than the rowing machine. The numerous advantages of this machine make it one of the most effective workout boosters for all fitness lovers, including all levels of experience.

The rower is a cardiovascular powerhouse with muscle-toning and strengthening capabilities, all while being extremely gentle on the joints of the body. It is a formidable choice of cardio as well as resistance training because of its versatility. The rowing machine tones the arms, shoulders, back, legs and even core muscles, simultaneously, while pushing the heart and lungs to nearly full capacity each workout.

Rowing machines have been a standard component of fitness club ensembles of cardiovascular equipment for a very long time. Although, in more recent years, the rowing machine has evolved with increasing technology to become an even more realistic simulator of the type of muscle exertion that occurs when the body rows against actual water resistance. Modern rowing machines are based on the concept of variable resistance depending on the speed and intensity of the “catch” and “drive” portions of the movement during the motion of the exercise.

Most rowers utilize a fan mechanism to create variable resistance that increases as the motion of the exercise intensifies. Some rowing machines even contain water enclosed in a tank that is pushed by a fan during the exercise, to give an even more realistic feel of actually rowing in a body of water. The key to an effective rowing machine workout is being able to change the resistance level just as quickly and easily as it can be done in actual water, this enables interval workouts to be performed in a very efficient manner.
The basic technique of rowing breaks down to four main steps: the catch, the drive, the finish and the recovery. The motion starts with the legs bent and hands gripping the handle. This is commonly called the “catch”. Next step is the “drive”. The important thing to remember about this portion of the exercise is to push through the heels at the beginning of the “drive”. Launching with the lower body is crucial to the speed and effectiveness of each individual repetition of the exercise.

While gripping the handle that is attached to the chain or cable, drive first with the legs. Follow swiftly with a strong pulling motion, called the “finish”, into the upper abdominal area, while maintaining proper posture at the completion of the motion (shoulders back and chest up). During the “recovery” stage of the row, use the hamstrings to pull the body forward as you simultaneously begin straightening the arms for the next rowing repetition. As you return to the starting position, remember to reach far forward, while maintaining a straight back as you perform each repetition. The quicker you are able to “catch” the fan at full resistance, the longer distance you will travel as you row.

Proper breathing is crucial while engaging in an intense workout on the rowing machine. The basic breathing rhythm for maximum lung power is to inhale as you reach forward during the “catch” portion of the movement, and exhale as you pull the handle into your abdomen area on the “drive” and “finish” portions of the exercise. Keeping a steady rhythm of breathing will ensure that your body gets enough oxygen and expels plenty of carbon dioxide so that you lower the chances of lightheadedness and dizziness as much as possible.

Distance on a rowing machine is typically measured in meters. Workouts of 20-40 minutes on a rower can equal the calorie burning and cardiovascular output of a much longer session on a stationary bicycle or treadmill. The rower is a very efficient apparatus designed to provide the framework for a very fast and intense workout session in a remarkably short amount of time.

Workout sessions of 1000m and 2000m are excellent standards in a rower fitness program. A time of four to five minutes for 1000m and nine to ten minutes for 2000m are very good beginner levels. A time of 2:30 for 1000m and 5:30 for 2000m are elite levels to work towards as you train your body to row more efficiently with faster speed, smoother technique and more explosive strength. Intervals are easily incorporated into any rowing workout. Simply alternate speeds for a designated distance or time at a rate that challenges you to your maximum potential.

When it comes to rowing machines, the best overall choice is the Concept2 Indoor Rower. This air resistance fitness device was created in 1981 by Pete and Dick Dreissigacker, Olympic athletes, who were dedicated to making the highest quality of rower possible. The Concept2 Indoor Rower quickly became the best-selling and most popular indoor rowing machine on the market. All walks of life, ranging from Olympic athletes to cardiac rehab patients, were soon reaping the health and wellness benefits of this revolutionary machine. It is easily set up for home use as well as commercial applications, making it a popular choice for many fitness clubs as well as home exercise rooms and garage gyms around the world.

The top-rated water resistance rower is the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine. Another type of rower is designed with magnetic resistance. The best choice for one of these machines is the Sunny Health & Fitness (SF-RW 5515) Magnetic Rowing Machine. In addition to the air, water and magnetic resistance rowers on the market, there is also a hydraulic powered rower called the Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine. Finding the right rower that fits your needs will help you take your workouts to new places in record time.

Rowing is functional training that lays a solid foundation of cardiovascular stamina. After diving into a daily routine of workouts on the rowing machine, you will notice how much easier the tasks of daily life are able to be completed. The rower will train your body to perform. Whether you are a competitive athlete or simply trying to get in shape for summer, the rowing machine is capable of giving you the extra edge that you need to achieve all that you desire.

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