There are a (almost) countless benefits of rowing. Indoor rowing is hands down one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain strength, or simply want to improve your conditioning, rowing is a great way to improve your fitness.
Plus, rowing blows running, and every other form of cardiovascular exercise, out of the water. More on that below.
We’ll dig into the benefits of rowing:
1. Effective Aerobic Exercise
Rowing is one of the most effective forms of cardiovascular (i.e. aerobic) exercise. This type of exercise works your lungs and heart and provides a myriad of health benefits, including: weight loss, increased endurance, and a stronger immune system.
Remember, aerobic exercise is exercise that require oxygen, that’s why you get out of breath. Rowing is excellent for building your cardiovascular base and conditioning.
Having a stronger aerobic base is key for overall health and fitness.
2. Low Impact (and Safe for your Joints)
Traditional cardio workouts, like jogging, produce a large amount of wear and tear on your body. Repeatedly striking the ground with your foot can cause micro-trauma to your shins and joints.While this is ok in small amounts, too much high impact training can cause injury.
Unlike running, using a rowing machine has zero impact on your joints. Your body simply slides back and forth on the rowing machine. All of the benefits with none of the impact. That’s a win-win combination!
Switch to rowing and reduce your downtime while you get more fit.
3. Burn Calories (and reduce belly fat)
Compared to other cardio machines, rowing is one of the best types of exercise for burning calories. It’s estimated that one hour or rowing will burn around 800 calories. To give you context, walking for one hour will burn about 230 calories. That means that rowing burns around 4 times MORE calories!
I put together a handy article to track how many calories that you burn while rowing.
As a note, if you burn more calories than you consume, your body will start to utilize its own bodyfat for fuel. This is how rowing can help you to lose weight (1).
4. Build Lean Muscle Mass
Rowing works your entire body, from your lower body to your upper body. You could make the argument that it works every muscle in your body! Unlike traditional cardio exercises (like running or biking) rowing actually helps to build muscle.
With rowing, you have to pull with your arms/back and extend your legs, these muscle contractions will stimulate the muscles and lead to muscle growth (2).
As a note, this will not lead to Hulk-like muscles. Since rowing is a high rep, low resistance exercise, it will help to build fine, detailed muscle. So don’t expect to looked bulked out after rowing a few times.
5. Improve Posture
Along with the muscle building benefits mentioned in the previous point, rowing helps to reinforce good posture and positioning. When you pull the handle on a rowing machine, it forces you to have your spine straightened and aligned perfectly.
This reinforces good spinal position with your body and will help to improve your overall posture.
Also, as mentioned before, your body will start to build new muscle tissue, especially the little muscles in your back that help to build good posture. Oh, and did I mention that it’s scientifically proven that people with good posture are perceived as sexier?
6. Low Skill Exercise (and easy to learn!)
Rowing certainly has its nuances and special techniques, but overall, it’s fairly easy to learn how to row. You don’t need to have a special instructor teach you, you can simply watch a few videos on technique, or read a few articles, and you should be good to go.
Also, if you have a camera on your phone, you can always video yourself and re-watch it later to see your form. This will allow you to make any needed techniques changes.
It’s also very difficult to injure yourself on a rower, so chalk that up as another benefit!
With a rower, one piece of equipment is your entire workout. Compared to all of the latest gizmos and gadgets, when you purchase a rowing machine, once you have it, it’s all you need to get in an effective workout.
While rowing machines aren’t cheap (at least the good ones aren’t), they will save you money in the long run. For under $1,000 dollars, you can get a top of the line indoor rowing machine.
Compare that to personal training sessions, which can start at $50 for a half-hour session. Or a regular gym membership, which often costs upwards of $100 a month.
A good rower, like a Concept 2 Model D (our top pick) will last for 10+ years and millions of meters rowed. Buying one of these machines and rowing at home will save you money, and time!
Working out at home is a major time saver. Even if you live 10 minutes away from the gym, that’s an extra 20 minutes a day of driving per day (and an hour and a half per week!). Plus you have to wait in lines for other people to finish using the piece of equipment that you want to use… It’s a hassle.
With an at home workout, you won’t have any wasted time. You can work out whenever you have a free minute. Your workout gear also won’t be covered in other people’s sweat (gross!).
And, you won’t have to use nasty gym lockers and showers. It’s hard to beat the convenience of an at-home workout!
9. Low Risk Exercise
One of the top benefits of using a rowing machine is that it’s easy on your joints and muscles. It’s nearly impossible to injure yourself on a rowing machine.
Unlike weight training that can pull you out of position and cause injury, using a rower locks you into a safe position and prevents injury. This makes it a great workout option for those that are new to exercising, or that are getting back into exercise after taking a break.
10. Great For Building Lower Body Strength
One of the top benefits of using a rowing machine is that it builds lower body strength. With each stroke, you have to push hard with your legs.
This works your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus. If you’re looking to build strong, defined legs, then rowing is the right exercise for you!
11. Great For Building Upper Body Strength Too!
While rowing builds stronger legs, it also works your upper body. When you row, you’re forced to pull with your arms and upper back. This will help to build stronger biceps and will help to create more definition in your back.
There’s a slew of upper back muscles, such as the trapezius, rhomboids, rear deltoids, and others…. They all get worked when you use a rowing machine. If you’re looking to build a stronger upper body, rowing is a great option.
13. Rowing Builds Core Strength
When you row, you have to keep your core properly braced. With each stroke, you have to contract your core muscles. This helps to build strong abdominal muscles (aka “abs”).
Think about it, when you row a couple of thousands meters, that mean that you’ve completed hundreds of “strokes” on your rower. Each of those strokes requires you to essentially do a crunch. No wonder rowers tend to have such strong ab muscles!
If you’re interested in learning more about how rowing builds abs, you can read our article on it here.
14. Rowing Strengthens Your Lower Back
Lower back injuries are one of the most common forms of injury. According to researchers about “70% of adults have at least one episode of back pain per year” (3).
When using an indoor rower, with each pull, you’re forced to contract all of the muscles in your lower back. This helps to build a stronger, more resilient lower back.
Since the force that’s applied to your low back when rowing is equal to how hard you pull, you can modulate your row stroke to find a level that works your back (without aggravating it).
15. Great For Brain Health
Rowing is a form of aerobic exercise (or simply “cardio”), which is exercise that raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to your brain. Your increased heart rate is accompanied by harder breathing, depending of course on the intensity of the workout.
According to Psychology Today, this increased breathing pumps extra oxygen into your bloodstream, which delivers more oxygen to your brain. This leads to “neurogenesis”—or the production of new brain neurons—in parts of your brain that control memory retention and critical thinking.
Neurogenesis increases your brain volume and improves function. Plus it’s believed that adding more neurons to your brain helps to buffer against the effects of dementia.
16. Great For Heart Rate Training
Heart rate training is a great way to have a science-backed workout. By strapping on a heart rate monitor, you’re able to collect data on your workout, as well as have instant feedback on how hard your body is working at all times.
Plus, if you get a Polar H10, my top heart rate monitor pick, you can see your heart rate right on the Concept 2 monitor screen. This makes life really easy!
With rowing, since you’re staying in one place, it’s easy to strap on a monitor and train in the exact heart rate zone that you want to hit. This is more difficult when you’re outside running, or doing other doing other cardio activities like swimming.
17. Rowing Is Great For Warming Up Your Muscles
Since using a rowing machine uses just about every muscle in your body, it’s one of the best ways to warm up your muscles before working out.
Doing a quick warmup prior to exercising is important because it helps to increase your body temperature as well as get all of your muscles firing. Research shows that doing a warmup prior to exercise helps to improve performance, and can potentially cut down on injuries.
Thanks for reading, did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below.