Need to get your cardio workout done indoors? Don’t overlook the benefits of a rowing machine.
Rowing machines have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years.
Also known as indoor rowers or ergometers, these machines let you mimic the movements — and reap the benefits — of rowing a boat without venturing into the water.
There are four main types of indoor rowers:
- magnetic resistance
These rowing machines are the type commonly found in gyms.
“Pulling against a spinning flywheel creates the resistance that simulates rowing outdoors on the water,” explains NASM-certified personal trainer and weight loss coach Jody Braverman. To increase the resistance, simply pull harder.
Hydraulic rowers and magnetic resistance rowers
Hydraulic rowers get their resistance from compressed air or fluid, while magnetic resistance models get theirs from a magnetic brake system.
Both of these tend to be quiet and compact, making them great for at-home workouts.
These rowers are closest to the real deal.
“A water flywheel simulates the drag of an oar through the water, and you can actually hear the water moving as you row,” Braverman says.
One snag: Water rowers are often expensive.
No matter which type you use, you’ll enjoy a boatload of rowing machine benefits.
Here are four reasons to add the rowing machine to your workout routine.
1. Indoor Rowing is a Full-Body Workout
“I think rowing is one of the best workouts you can get,” Braverman says. “It’s a full-body workout that builds strength, power, and endurance.”
Whether you’re rowing indoors or outdoors, every rowing stroke follows a push-then-pull sequence that lights up multiple muscle groups.
Your quads and calves take care of the push portion, helping you generate the power to drive back.
When you pull the rower handle toward your midline, your upper back, biceps, and shoulders kick in to finish the stroke.
Then, your hamstrings fire up as you fold forward to reverse the movement.
Your abs, obliques, and low back do plenty of work, too — mainly to stabilize and generate power throughout, Braverman says.
2. Rowing Machines Offer a Low-Impact Workout
If your joints can’t handle high-impact cardio options like running, the indoor rower might be for you.
Rowing can also be an excellent alternative to exercises like plyometrics, jumping rope, and dance.
Because your feet never actually leave the rower, you don’t have to worry about the impact of landing.
“It’s a great option for those who require a low-impact workout that’s not stressful on the joints,” says ACE-certified personal trainer Tami Smith. “I’ve seen plenty of people switch from running to rowing.”
3. Rowing Builds Cardiovascular Endurance
Like other forms of cardio exercise, rowing helps your heart and blood vessels build the stamina needed to feed oxygen to your working muscles for longer durations.
This is known as cardiovascular endurance.
This can come in handy during everyday activities like walking and climbing stairs.
Endurance exercises that bring up your heart rate — like rowing — can help to keep your heart and lungs healthy, according to the American Heart Association.
4. Rowing Machines Can Help You Lose Weight
In 30 minutes, a 150-pound person can expect to burn roughly 252 calories rowing at a moderate intensity, and 306 calories rowing at a vigorous intensity.
“Burning calories is obviously part of the fat-loss equation — or rather, being in a calorie deficit — so the calorie burn achieved through a rowing workout is great for those who need to lose fat,” Smith says.
Rowing also helps to build muscle, which can help to increase your calorie burn throughout the day, Smith adds.
That added burn can help you dip into the calorie deficit you need to lose weight.
8 of the Best Rowing Machine Brands
Ready to get those rowing machine benefits at home? Here are a few popular brands of indoor rowers to look into.