Rowers Provide a Great Workout


Rowers are excellent choices for cardiovascular exercise, and they have the added benefit of being good for building muscle as well. Yet they are not nearly as popular in health club cardio rooms as treadmills and elliptical machines. Sometimes I think people are missing a bet.

Advantages are that they are low-impact and work both your upper- and lower-body during each complete rowing stroke. And they are high-calorie burners because so many muscle groups are brought into play in the act of rowing. Treadmills, steppers, stationary bikes, and elliptical machines are all good cardio choices, but they do not involve the upper-body muscle groups except in minor ways.

Still, too be accurate, rowers are often referred to as “total body” exercise machines, and that is not quite the whole truth. While the pulling muscles of the upper-body are certainly challenged, the pushing muscles are not. For balance, however, exercises that work the upper-body pushing muscles (pushups, supine and overhead presses, as examples) can be added to constitute a well rounded total body workout.

Legs are not a problem. Both the pushing and pulling leg muscles are involved in rowing.

Rowing machines also come reasonably close to the feel of actually rowing a single scull on water. The seat slides forward and back with each stroke, as it does in a racing boat. A handle and chain are connected to a flywheel, which has a braking mechanism (using pneumatic, hydraulic or magnetic damping) that simulates the feel of oars pulling through water.

Some machines calculate your power by measuring the speed of the flywheel during the stroke and records the rate at which it decelerates during the recovery. A monitor mounted above and in front of the flywheel displays the distance rowed, speed, and calories burned. Some machines also include heart monitors.

Competitive athletes often use the machines in training, and today there are indoor rowing competitions all over the world, including a world championship event called C.R.A.S.H-B Sprints held annually in Boston, Massachusetts.

Prices range from a low of about $300 up to approximately $2500 for new machines. As always, I recommend trying all equipment before purchasing, and also finding out about return policies and warranties.

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