Simple, but effective, indoor rowing machines are making a comeback. They’re still relatively low-tech — a handle on a chain attached to a caged flywheel with a sliding seat — but within their simplicity lies genius: They offer a total-body workout that can burn upward of 550 calories an hour (based on a 135-pound woman). Whether you’re sculling solo or are doing a group row class, you’re gonna get your burn on.
“Rowing increases your dynamic range of motion and flexibility, is low-impact and provides a killer calorie burn without making you feel beat up the next day,” says Josh Crosby, former world champion rower and co-creator of the group fitness phenomenon Indo-Row. According to Crosby, approximately 80 percent of your muscle mass is used with every stroke — we’re talking the quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, abs, shoulders, biceps, low back, rhomboids, trapezius and latissimus dorsi.
In addition to being a muscular multi-tasker, rowing is also simple to learn. The stroke is separated into the drive and the recovery. The drive is when your “oars” are in the water and you’re trying to generate the most power. During the drive, think push then pull — about 60 percent of your power is generated from your legs (you should push explosively with your legs to start the move), 20 percent from your core (you keep your spine straight and swing back with your torso in the middle part of the move), and 20 percent from your arms (the last part of the stroke involves driving your elbows straight back and squeezing your shoulder blades together).
The recovery happens when you come forward after the drive and set yourself up for your next stroke. The recovery should take twice as long as the drive, so if you take one second to drive back, take two seconds to come forward.
Your strokes should link together smoothly and comfortably. Once you get the hang of it, play with your drive power and stroke speed, and throw in things like intervals and sprints, like Crosby has done in his sample program. Then, ready “oar” not, you’re going to burn some serious calories!