Rowing Machines: One of the Most Underrated Pieces of Equipment

by Matt Weik

Rowing is an amazing cardiovascular exercise that has added benefits of acting as a full-body workout. Unfortunately, not many of us own a boat where we can hit the water and sing Row Row Row Your Boat for exercise. But there’s good news! Some gyms out there have rowing machines. You can also purchase a rowing machine for your home.

If you’ve never used a rowing machine before, be warned… It’ll kick your butt. Besides just the cardiovascular aspect, rowing also helps develop a strong upper body and improves overall lung function. However, there is one downside to utilizing rowing machines: lower back problems. Let’s address this first and get it out of the way.

Rowing into Back Problems

According to research, rowing in excess amounts can be a leading cause of lower back problems. It is not always guaranteed that a person first learning how to row will know how to row properly and with good form. If rowing is done improperly, it can put a strain on the lower back, which leads to back pain.

The amount of strain from pulling the cord on rowing machines towards you can affect you and can actually be quite painful if lower back pain sets in. To avoid general back pain and injury, always try to push with your legs as you pull the cord with your arms. This reduces the strain on your back and improves your posture.

People who tend to hunch forward also face the risk of hurting themselves when using rowing machines for the first time and wind up giving up soon after. Hunching forward while rowing (or at any time, as a matter of fact) can be problematic for the lower back muscles. In doing this, it does not allow the smooth movement of all the muscles necessary to complete the activity, and hunching lowers the abdominal space, which reduces the amount of oxygen intake by the lungs.

As a solution to hunching forward, you should always focus on engaging your core while using rowing machines. Activating your core helps you improve your posture and also has more upper body benefits.

Rowing Machines Aren’t the Sexiest Equipment

Rowing machines might be a little boring for people who try them. But then again, the same can probably be said for running in place on a treadmill or using a stepper where you’re stationary.

Utilizing a rowing machine incorporates the same set of movements repetitively — pull and return. You may be questioning why you’re wasting your time, but in reality, this form of cardio is one of the best as it hits both the upper and lower body while burning an incredible number of calories.

Many people also share the view that rowing machines are somewhat loud, and to be honest, they are not wrong. It truly depends on the kind of rower you’re using. Some are extremely quiet, while others are like a storm is roaring through the gym.

Rowing machines that work by means of moving air or water to get the friction and resistance can be noisy. This is something you need to be made aware of if you’re thinking about purchasing one for your home. If you live in an apartment and keep the rowing machine near a wall, it may bother your neighbors, depending on the thickness of the wall. Also, rowing machines take up a considerable amount of space which could be a problem if you don’t have a lot of room in your home. This is also the reason why some gyms don’t have rowing machines (which is a shame). H

Row Away the Calories

The physiological benefit of an exercise is calculated by looking at its metabolic equivalent — the amount of oxygen required to do the activity. According to a 2011 study, rowing has a MET value of 8.5, which is considered an activity requiring vigorous effort. Many people do not consider using rowing machines despite being one of the best calorie-burning forms of cardio out there. Also, for the most part, rowing is considered a low-impact workout, which can save the health of your ankles, knees, and hips.

Even though the entire body is engaged in the movement, the person is still sitting, and it is way more comfortable working out in such a situation. Depending on the types of rowing machines available to you, the seats can vary. Some are hard, while others are soft and padded. If you’re buying one for your home, take this into consideration based on comfort.

One reason why many people choose rowing machines as their preferred means of cardio is that they get the fat-burning benefits while also getting a total body resistance workout thanks to the resistance of the machine.

Rowing machines help strengthen the arms, back, and shoulders along with lower body muscles like the legs and glutes. This makes rowing machines one of the most underrated pieces of gym equipment. Most people do not understand the benefits of using such a piece of equipment, and they’re truly missing out.

If you’re looking at rowing machines and want to get one for your home, look for one that is quiet, comfortable, is able to fold, and fits within your budgetary limits. Rowing machines are a great piece of equipment that once people try and see the results, it’s hard to get them on another piece of cardio equipment.