Rowing on an indoor rowing machine or outdoors has some really cool benefits for your body and health. You might know some but do you know all of them? Here are 9 of the best benefits of rowing.
Rowing has a plethora of health and physique benefits if done correctly. Rowing is great exercise to improve cardiovascular health and endurance. There are also other effects like muscle toning, posture and strength gains in some areas.
Are you looking to buy an indoor rowing machine? Check out this complete buying guide that tells you everything you need to know.
1. Improved cardiovascular health
This is one of the biggest reasons why you should do any type of cardio exercise. Having an elevated heart rate at least several days a week will massively improve your cardiovascular health.
Improving cardiovascular health has many health and longevity benefits that don’t need any further explanation.
The foundation of improving your cardiovascular health is elevating your heart rate for a certain amount of time regularly. That is pretty simple with a rowing machine. Simple but not easy because rowing can be a very tough workout.
The more muscle mass you use, and the higher the intensity you use it at, the more oxygen they need. Oxygen is transported by your blood which is pumped around by the heart. So the more oxygen your muscles need, the harder your heart has to work. Doing that regularly is what improves your cardio. The rowing motion uses a lot of muscle which makes it great for a cardio workout.
2. Weight loss
Any exercise can help you with weight loss. Rowing is an especially great way to burn extra calories. It might not be the form of exercise that burns the most calories per minute but you can do it with high regularity. And, because you use many muscles in your whole body, you can burn a lot of calories while combining it with moderate muscle growth.
Because rowing is low impact, you have a lower injury risk than methods of cardio that burn more calories. Not getting injured means you don’t have to take breaks and recover. You’re also less likely to get overuse injuries so you can do it more often. That means doing a workout more often which means more calories burned.
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Of course weight loss and lowering your body fat levels has two parts. Burning calories is one part that rowing helps with. The other side of the equation is getting your diet in check. If you start rowing fanatically and burn 1000 calories extra per day but also eat 1000 Calories extra a day, nothing is going to change. Combine rowing with a healthier diet and lifestyle and you’ll see great results.
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3. Strength gains
If you’re a beginner, you’ll strengthen your muscles by starting rowing. Using a muscle will strengthen it, no matter what you do.
Following a normal steady-state cardio workout schedule will give you some strength gains but, if you want to focus more on strength increases and muscle gains, you can change up your workout a little bit. For cardiovascular health, it’s common to do steady-state cardio for an extended amount of time. How long that is, depends on your fitness level.
If you want to focus more on strength and muscle mass, you can try a HIIT protocol. You drastically increase the resistance and therefore intensity. This has as a result that your body will become stronger to deal with the extra stress.
Besides strength, rowing also builds endurance. This is different from getting stronger or growing muscle mass. There are two parts to endurance. One part has to do with the muscles but the other part is more mental.
Most humans can push themselves much further than they think they can. You’ve got reserves that you don’t think you have. Regularly doing a workout allows you to discover the reserves you didn’t know you had.
Regularly pushing yourself also practices your willpower. Especially if you push through the discomfort when it arises. Knowing you can push through certain barriers doesn’t only help with getting into a better shape but can also help you carry over this mental endurance and willpower to other parts of your life.
5. Better looking legs
Most of the power during rowing comes from your legs. This is where you will see pretty decent improvements if you’ll follow a regular workout schedule. Especially the quadriceps and hamstrings but glutes and calves are hit as well.
That means in a single exercise, you’re building your whole leg. You might not want bigger legs per-se, but here’s why rowing is really cool. It doesn’t only grow muscle, it also helps you with lowering your body fat percentage. Because you can’t spot reduce fat, lowering your overall body fat percentage is going to take a little bit of fat from everywhere, including legs. Combine this with a slightly bigger muscle, and your legs will look much better.
Rowing will build the whole lower body so; if you want one part of the leg to be bigger than other parts you can combine it with isolation exercises.
6. Upper back workout
While most cardio workouts only use the legs while only using the arms for stability, rowing actually gives you a decent upper body workout.
Not the whole upper body but especially the upper back and biceps. Although to row with good form you’ll also use your core and lower back muscles.
The upper back muscles are some of the most neglected in the body. And that while they are very important for having good posture and athletic performance. Many people that lift weights casually only target the muscles that they can see in the mirror. This is a mistake.
As said, the upper back muscles have very important functions in the body so if you’re strengthening the ‘mirror’ muscles, you should also train the invisible ones.
Rowing can be a great way to supplement your weightlifting routine and combine training your back with cardio.
7. Toned body
Toning is a term that isn’t really accurate. Most people understand it as being able to see a little bit of muscle but not too much. There is no magic to this. It’s just a combination of lowering your body fat percentage and growing the muscle.
If someone is ‘toned’ it usually means that that person has a reasonably low body fat percentage and has some visible muscle mass but isn’t too big. Some people use this term to indicate they don’t want bulky muscles like a bodybuilder. You don’t have to be afraid of that. Becoming a bodybuilder takes a lot of hard work and dedication. If you really think you’re getting too big, it’s pretty easy to change up your workout schedule a little to lower hypertrophy.
Either way, rowing builds a little bit of muscle and you can change workout tactics so you have some extra muscle building effect. But you won’t grow massive muscles from rowing only. That means it’s great for ‘getting toned’ since rowing also helps with lowering the body fat percentage.
As a result of lowering your body fat percentage and creating some new muscle mass, you’ll create a much more toned body than before.
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8. Better posture
Most people, especially if you’ve got a sitting job/lifestyle, have a pretty weak upper back. This can lead to postural problems, back pain, muscle imbalances and, as a result of that; injuries.
As mentioned above, rowing strengthens the upper back musculature which is very beneficial for most people. Upper back strength and endurance play a very important part in getting and keeping good posture.
Not only the upper back exercise helps with posture. The lower body is also a very important part. Having good posture starts from the bottom so if something is wrong in the lower body, it’s difficult to correct that higher up. And vice versa, if you’ve got a solid base, correcting posture problems higher up is easier.
Posture problems are most common in people that sit a lot. Which is the vast majority of the population in our current modern world. Computers and laptops especially are a big problem if used too much or in the wrong way.
The most common problems that arise from a sitting lifestyle are;
- Rounded upper back
- Rounded shoulders
- Forward head
- Forward hip tilt
These posture imbalances are the result of the muscles on one side being too tight while being too weak on the other side.
You’ll still have to do some stretching to solve the tight muscles if you’ve got posture problems. However, rowing with correct form helps strengthen the weak muscles for many of these problems.
For example, the upper back exercise you get with rowing is very helpful to strengthen the muscles to keep your upper back straight and your shoulders back. As a result of that, your forward head will already move back quite a bit which makes it easier to fix.
The forward hip tilt is a result of weak glutes and core combined with a tight lower back and hip flexors. Glutes and core do get a decent workout with rowing.
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9. Low impact
This is already quickly mentioned above but it’s important to really understand. Rowing is one of the lowest impact forms of cardio. There is no impact because rowing is a smooth motion. If you look at running for example, your feet hit the deck with every stride. No matter how much padding you have in your shoes and how springy your treadmill deck is, there is still an impact. That impact goes into your ankles, knees, hips to your spine. Over time this can hurt you if you’ve got a slight problem in running technique.
With rowing, your feet never leave the footrests and there are no abrupt shocks in the movement. This makes it very low impact which helps with keeping your joints and spine healthy.
Recommended indoor rowing machine
It’s not always possible to row outside and this site focusses on home gym equipment. Rowing on the right machine has the same benefits as rowing outdoors. To get a great rowing workout, check out the indoor rower below.