Why include the indoor rowing machine in your workout

Your first visit to a new gym can be pretty overwhelming as you are confronted by an array of different, and sometimes intimidating, gym equipment. There’s the treadmill and the bike – those are pretty familiar to us, but what about the indoor rowing machine? This is a piece of equipment that is often overlooked because a) it’s not clear what the benefits of using the indoor rowing machine are and b) it looks a bit complicated to operate.

So what are the benefits of indoor rowing?

You can watch the benefits of indoor rowing in this video.


1. Rowing works every muscle in the body

Rowing uses more muscles than any other cardio activity. In the lower body, the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes are all worked. The upper body uses the abdominals, the lower and upper back, lats, forearms, biceps and shoulder area.

Rowing is also fantastic for the entire core of the body making it the choice piece of equipment when it comes to reducing your waistline.

2. Aerobic benefits

Aerobic exercise is generally relatively low intensity and lasts for periods of time usually in excess of 20 minutes. Aerobic means "with air" and refers to the body’s use of oxygen to meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism.

Rowing is an excellent activity to improve cardiovascular fitness, which is the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to the working muscle tissues and the ability of the muscles to use oxygen to produce energy for movement.

The main benefits of increased cardiovascular fitness are:

a) Increased metabolism of body fat.

b) Increased efficiency of the body’s ability to pump blood through the circulatory system as the heart becomes stronger.

c) Reduced risk of chronic and life threatening disease such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

d) Effectively combatting anxiety, stress and depression, leading to an increased level of self-esteem.

Aerobic benefits are often achieved by rowing for longer periods of time at lower intensities.

3. Anaerobic benefits

Anaerobic metabolism refers to exercise of an intense nature and is used to promote strength, speed and power. Anaerobic means "without air" and is typically a high intensity activity, which lasts from mere seconds up to two minutes in duration.

Rowing can be used very effectively to increase the anaerobic fitness of an individual as it uses many large body parts and is effective in the recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibres.

4. Stress free on the body

Rowing is impact free and teaches the body to use a full range of movement. Due to the seated position, the ankle, knee, hip, lower back and spine are protected from impact meaning an excellent workout can still be achieved by virtually every cross section of society, from young to old, untrained to fit.

Regular indoor rowers report that there is less perceived effort with an elevated heart rate, therefore you can improve your levels of fitness and stamina much easier without feeling as if you are working as hard. It is easier to maintain a higher heart rate with rowing than it is with other forms of exercise, meaning that you can exercise for longer at a given heart rate to increase your overall fitness capacity.

5. Time efficient and delivers maximum results

We live busy lives so we ideally want to use equipment that gives the best return on time and effort expended. Due to the recruitment of many large muscle groups, rowing is very time efficient in achieving desired results of fat loss, cardio respiratory fitness and anaerobic power performance.

Rowing produces superior results in less time giving it more "bang for your buck” than running on a treadmill, cross trainer or stationary bike.

So the next time you’re in the gym, give the indoor rowing machine a try, and reap the benefits of this full body workout.

Check out this video from Olympic Medallist Chris Bartley to find out how to get your technique right.


About the Author:
Richard Stock
is the Head of Insight and Product Development for British Rowing, the national governing body for rowing. It is also responsible for the development and organisation of international rowing teams representing Great Britain. 

ymca | 13 January 2015