What Does the Rowing Machine Target? 5 Essentials You Need to Know

Notorious for burning up to 50% more calories than the treadmill, rowing machines offer more than just an upper body workout. Effectively targeting all the muscle groups in your back, shoulders, arms and legs, these training machines have become a popular option for building strength and shredding kilos.

The rowing machine is designed to offer a non-impact full body workout, so it’s become an ideal mechanism for fitness enthusiasts with joint and lower back problems. Boosting cadio fitness, muscular strength and endurance and working to tone your muscles, rowing machines can also work in reducing stress levels and building stamina. But like with any fitness machine it’s absolutely essential to use it properly and avoid the common mistakes. Here’s what you need to know about your rowing machine workout.

sport, fitness, lifestyle, technology and people concept - woman with trainer working out on exercise bike in gym

sport, fitness, lifestyle, technology and people concept – woman with trainer working out on exercise bike in gym

1. Building Core Strength and Stamina

When rowing machines are used properly, they are a fantastic training tool for building core strength and stamina. For people that struggle to get-up-and-go, using a rowing machine (also known as a cross trainer) 20 minutes a day can boost endurance. Whilst the workouts may feel exhausting at first, the long term benefits of giving you more energy, building stamina and you metabolism are huge.

Because the rowing machine works all your major muscle groups it helps to define your abs and build muscles around the area. Your core strength is one of these targeted groups of muscles and through the low-impact, high intensity workouts offered by the cross trainer it’s possible to get maximum results.

Tip: If you’re looking to build core strength and stamina through a rowing machine, opt for a higher intensity exercise so it isn’t just the cardio you’re working on.  The impact on your abs and core is based on the strength of your rowing so the harder the workout, the better it will work for this area.

2. Toning Arms and Legs

Rowing machines are ideal for both an upper body and lower body workout. Because the machine forces you to ‘row’ the arms are used extensively and muscles in this area will begin to tone (particularly the biceps and forearms).  As you pull, your back muscles help to complete the rowing technique with your shoulder blades retracting together.

The rowing stroke should behind with the legs – the most powerful part of the body, with your back kept straight throughout. As the machine starts to utilise every major muscle group, your arms, back and legs muscles will activate and tone over time.

Tip: If you want to increase the rate of which you build and tone muscle, adjust the rowing machine to create a tighter resistance. With the right workouts and technique, this can help to tone your arms and legs quicker.

3. Strengthening Back Muscles

The benefits of a stronger back and shoulders are great for improving posture and eliminating back pain. Because rowing machines work the back and shoulder muscles, it doesn’t take long for this area to strengthen and better support the rest of your body.

The trapezius in the lower and upper back as well as the rhomboids in your shoulder will receive a great workout. Whilst the cross trainer workout starts with driving through the legs and engaging your quads, your upper body and back muscles are involved at the end of the extension.

Tip: People often make the mistake of driving hard with the legs and keeping the shoulders in front of the hips so that that when the slide stops the rest of the body swings through. This can be hard on the lower back so aim for everything to end at the same time in a fluid motion for best results.

4. Know What Settings to Work

The damper setting (like the gears of a bicycle) should be set for 3-5 for the best workout. Many people make the mistake of setting it to 10, especially athletes, because the higher number gives the impression the workout will be more challenging. Really the challenge lies in the ability to accelerate the flywheel at a lower damper setting as the higher setting will mimic a slow heavy rowboat instead. This will only exhaust your muscles before you’ve had a shot at a proper cardio workout. Keeping it set for 3-5 will give the feeling similar to being on water, like a rowing machine is intended for.

The resistance setting will determine how much energy you use on each stroke. This dial is on the machine’s flywheel and should be high enough to maintain a fast, smooth rowing motion. Setting it too low will give a workout that doesn’t tone or strengthen, whilst setting it too high can result in muscle fatigue and injury.

5. Avoid the Biggest Cross Trainer Mistakes

  • Don’t row with only your arms: Use the power of your legs for each stroke and keep your feet strapped in. Pull through with your back, shoulders and arms for a full body workout.
  • Don’t hunch your back during strokes: Keep your back straight and sit tall with a straight posture to avoid damage. Keep your core engaged to help with the potions and put your spine in neutral.
  • Don’t ignore the stroke rate: Stroke rates build a better workout and determine how hard you’re pulling. To focus on the power of spinning the flywheel, think of a rowing ratio of 1 beat for every 2 beats you travel up the slide. For example: A good target stroke, measured in strokes per minute) will range between 24-30.
  • Don’t ignore the foot strap: It should be fastened so your feet feel very secure. This can make a massive difference when it comes to pushing your legs for power.

Author Bio

This article is written by Jayde Ferguson who recommends Orbit Fitness – the largest supplier of fitness equipment and cross trainers in Perth. You can catch Jayde on Google+ to discuss this piece.