A Little Bit About the Rower

When you make the decision to “get into shape” or "tighten up" for Summer, do you head straight to the treadmill or elliptical? Does that sound like you?

Well, stop it. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Use the Rower

First of all, running is terrible on your joints over time. Running serves its purpose, and if you love to run, then run! But for most of us, beginners especially, running is not the best choice for fat loss.

Having said that, let’s get back to the rower. You’ve seen them around...every gym has them, and they’re normally not being used. It’s weird and low to the ground, and face it, you’re intimidated. Plus, whenever you do see someone jump on, they don't always last very long so you stay away. But hear me out...it’s an effective piece of machinery!

Rowing works the entire body, especially the posterior chain (hamstrings, back) and core...all the usual weak spots for the "desk jockey". It’s an incredible tool for conditioning and is very low impact for anyone with joint or bone issues.

How do I incorporate rowing into my routine?

There’s no learning curve with this equipment—anyone can jump on and reap the rewards. (Hint: If you are that avid runner, use the rower as a cross-train to aid in recovery so as not to accumulate impact between longer running days.)

Once you’re seated, adjusted in the foot straps, and ready to row...you want to adjust the resistance (it’s usually a lever near the front of the machine) somewhere between 2 and 5. At this level, the resistance is mirroring actual water. As you increase the resistance, you want to slow your stroke because your focus is now on strength. For overall stamina and conditioning, focus on maintaining a high rate of speed and stay in an aerobic state.

The 500m Test

Now try this: go as hard as you can for a total of 500 meters. You’ll find out very quickly your glycolytic conditioning state and overall athleticism as well. I equate the 500m row to a 400 (or 800m) run. It’s not a short enough distance to sprint through the whole thing, but it’s also not long enough to set a pace for yourself. It is brutal. I’ve outlined some benchmarks below so you can see where you fall.

Men:

> 2 min: NEEDS WORK

< 1:45: Good

< 1:30: AWESOME

Women:

> 2:30: NEEDS WORK

< 2:05: Good

< 1:55: AMAZING

Now that you have a standard to strive for, you can get to work. Here are some of my favorite rowing conditioning workouts. Give them a try for a few weeks, re-test, and track your progress!

Power/Speed Focused: The focus here is on getting faster with each set. Recover fully between sets.

Row 250 meters

Rest 1 min

Repeat 5-7x

Row 500 meters (~90% max speed)

Rest 90sec

Row 400 meters

Rest 90 sec

Row 300 meters

Rest 90 sec

Row 200 meters

Rest 1 min

Row 200 meters

Conditioning Focus: The focus here is to stay in an aerobic state. Recover only long enough to get ready for the next set.

Row 2000 meters

(time it, and work to improve it)

Row 100 meters

Rest 15 sec

Row 250 meters

Rest 30 sec

Row 500 meters

Rest 1 min

Row 800 meters

Rest 1:30

Row 1000 meters

Rest 2 min

Row 800 meters

Rest 1:30

Row 500 meters

Rest 1 min

Row 250 meters

Rest 30 sec

Row 100 meters

Total Body Focus:

Row 250 meters

10 Pushups

20 Kettlebell Swings or 10 Goblet Squats

Repeat for as many rounds as you can in 6 min. Increase time by 1 min each week for 4 weeks!

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