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Benefits of Rowing Machine

The Best Total-Body Workout That You're Probably Not Doing

The rowing machine is getting more and more use lately, as many fitness enthusiasts are discovering the power of this surprisingly simple (but crazy effective!) workout. CrossFit boxes love incorporating rowing into their programs, and boutique rowing studios are starting to pop up in major cities, but for some reason, we're still seeing empty rowing machines at the gym.

Related: Row Like a Pro and Get a Great Workout

To find out a little bit more about what makes rowing so amazing, we talked with a couple experts — Kevin O'Connell, coach at Reebok CrossFit ONE, and Dino Adelfio, instructor at Row Club rowing studio in San Francisco — and we took a class ourselves. Holy. Cow. That class was hard, but incredible! We were definitely feeling the burn the next day (hello, quads!).

Here are four reasons you should try rowing now:

  1. It's a Total-Body Workout: Did you know that rowing uses 86 percent of the muscles in your body? That's pretty hard to beat. Plus, rowing is a cardio workout, which burns major calories and leads to a healthier heart.
  2. It's efficient: Adelfio told us that NASA astronauts train with rowing, because it's so efficient. Thirty minutes of rowing can have the same physical impact as 90 minutes of cycling, so if you're short on time, skip Spin and head to the gym for a quick session.
  3. It's versatile: The moves you do in rowing "carry over to the mechanics of other movements" outside the gym, explains O'Connell. CrossFit founder Greg Glassman defines this as "universal recruitment patterns," a characteristic of Functional Movements. When we took our first rowing class, we experienced firsthand how the rowing movement breaks down into squat and front row, working many different muscle groups.
  4. It's injury-safe: O'Connell says that with rowing, "there is minimal impact loading, so it is safe for individuals that may have had ankle, knee, or hip injuries." NOTE: make sure to keep the damper — which controls the resistance — set to 5 and no higher!

Ready to get started? Here's how to start using the rowing machine. If you're more familiar with the machine, try our rowing interval workout.

Image Source: Reebok
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