One of the underrated advantages of treadmills and bikes is that they attempt to replicate something with which most people are already familiar—walking, running, or biking. The barriers to entry are low, and the task of planning and completing a workout is a little more intuitive, since most people know what those activities feel like. Those heuristics are out the door with a rowing machine, though. Do you just... pull? How far? How hard? And why does it insist on measuring distance in meters? We asked Caley Crawford, the Director of Education at Row House, for tips on getting started so that, hopefully, your experience doesn't end with you throwing your hands up in frustration and crawling back to the elliptical room. 

Charlotte Hollings is a successful Masters rower with a deep commitment to the sport. Charlotte spent five years on the USRowing National Team (1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1994), during which she won a Silver Medal (World Championships, 1985) and a Gold Medal (1994), both in the lightweight four. She started rowing in 1978 at TC Williams High School (Alexandria, Virginia) and then rowed four years at the University of Virginia when it was a club program. She has coached at Stanford University, Boston University and Cornell University. In 2001, she started Calm Waters Rowing (a full-service sculling camp) with her husband, John. She will be rowing Bow #1 in the Women's Grand Master Singles (age 50+) at this year's Head Of The Charles Regatta Continue Reading ›
As previously discussed, the rowing machine’s big advantage is that it provides more than just a cardio workout. It can definitely help you build muscle and lose weight. Compared to a treadmill, the rowing machine works most of your body. It will really hit your shoulders, core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, arms and back effectively while being low impact thus reducing the stress on your joints. Bigger muscles need more energy and will burn fat to get it, which of course leads to healthy weight loss.
I don't know how this machine compares to others. I have no idea. Here's what I know: I've had treadmills and elliptical machines, weight benches and several exercise appliances from infomercials. They all work exactly like they should if you use the equipment on a consistent basis. That's where the problem comes in. I would always give up eventually and the machine would sit in the corner, covered with my laundry, laughing at me. I bought this rower without ever even trying one at the gym because I was desperate to do something (and I voted for Frank Underwood). This was the one machine I was not only able to stick with, but I now eagerly look forward to using. It started a chain reaction that changed everything. You know those incredible before/after transformation pictures you see on weight loss shows? I'm one of those guys now. Rowing is like a 'secret' in the fitness world in the way there is so little emphasis. However, in terms of results, it is so much more efficient. It works your upper and lower body at the same time, huge cardio/fat burner and builds muscle like crazy. I'm glad I'm in on the secret too.

Olympic rowers and experienced collegiate crews make the rowing stroke look easy and pretty darn effortless. But make no mistake, the rowing stroke is nuanced, complex, and can take years to master on the water. Luckily for those of you at the gym, the erg is a far simpler machine that can be perfected with some basic knowledge of technique and a little bit of practice. 


The frame is beyond durable and is designed for absorbing sound and vibration. There’s no creaking or other sounds that you might expect from wood components. It has a low center of gravity that keeps the rower in place while exerting full rowing power. The polycarbonate water tank is equally durable and practically indestructible. The Classic Rower doesn’t have any moving parts that can wear out, or belts and pulleys that need to be maintained.
Rowing has long been recognized as the perfect aerobic pursuit, with naturally smooth and flowing movements that don't tax the joints but do boost the heart rate. Now you can take your rowing experience to the next level with the WaterRower Classic rowing machine. Using the same principles that govern the dynamics of a boat in water, the WaterRower Classic is outfitted with a "water flywheel" that consists of two paddles in an enclosed tank of water that provide smooth, quiet resistance, just like the paddles in an actual body of water. As a result, the machine has no moving parts that can wear out over time (even the recoil belt and pulleys don't require lubricating or maintaining). More significantly, the water tank and flywheel create a self-regulating resistance system that eliminates the need for a motor. As with real rowing, when you paddle faster, the increased drag provides more resistance. When you paddle slower, the resistance is less intense. The only limit to how fast you can row is your strength and your ability to overcome drag. And unlike conventional rowing machines, which tend to be jerky and jarring, the WaterRower Classic is remarkably smooth and fluid.
There is much to love about the WaterRower--and I do love it--but I would echo others' comments that although the seat rolls solidly and smoothly on the wood rails, the seat itself is very hard (I use a gel seat pad I bought for my hard fiberglass kayak seat), and the footpads are in need up rethinking and upgrading--the cheap plastic doesn't let you row in socks or barefoot and is not really worthy of a machine that is otherwise a stunning piece of engineering and a beautiful one as well. As one other person noted about his machine, my machine made a clicking noise on the return stroke, so I had to adjust the wheel underneath the top rail that connects to the footpad and pull it away gently from where it was rubbing against another component. Also, be warned: the instruction booklet is in the DVD case. I did not see the little sticker on the case telling me that, thinking I'd wait to watch the DVD until after I'd assembled it. But WaterRower has a copy of the assembly instructions on their website, along with a video (I found the written ones better and easier to follow), so I was able to assemble it with no difficulty.
Here’s a secret, because the rowing machine provides an intense full body workout, the exercise burns a high amount of calories not only during the actual activity but also for a period after you’ve stopped. This is known as the “after-burn effect”. Essentially, you’ve worked your body so hard that it is forced to keep burning calories and fat even when you’re not rowing. The scientific jargon for this is “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or “EPOC” for short. But all you need to know is that if you’re doing an intense rowing workout, the benefits continue after you’re done. How great is that?

"This is Lauren Ruck. I met you at the Flagstaff rowing clinic, and had dinner with you at the Ray's. I just wanted to say thanks again for coming out. You did such a wonderful job. The gym was buzzing for days about you and how great a time they had. You are a talented coach, and a great motivator. As a trainer myself I am always watching other coaches to see how they train and interact with a group. You have a wonderful way of engaging the group, keeping everyone's attention, and keeping the mood fun. I think that is the one thing that really stood out about you was the positive way you spoke to everyone. You had a way of being focused yet still light hearted. It was inspiring watching you coach, thank you."

The Challenge AR features an advanced computer monitor providing the rower with measurable performance output, an ergonomically designed seat that rides on precision bearings and rollers for absolute smoothness, an upgraded footboard with advanced heel support, and an innovative soft grip handle to eliminate stress on the hands and wrist during the comfortable, but physical workout.


Velocity Exercise puts a premium on comfort here with a polyurethane molded saddle seat, and magnetic drum resistance contributes to a row machine that is durable, won’t need much or any maintenance, and, as we mentioned does not create much noise in use. This makes it easy to row while watching TV or listening to music. It also means the other people in your home won’t be listening to you workout quite as much. Easy to assemble and store, the Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower CHR-2001 is a good choice for a mid-priced rower.  Click here to read the full review.


Rowing is one of the few non-weight bearing sports that exercises all the major muscle groups, including quads, biceps, triceps, lats, glutes and abdominal muscles. The sport also improves cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength. High-performance rowers tend to be tall and muscular: although extra weight does increase the drag on the boat, the larger athletes' increased power tends to be more significant. The increased power is achieved through increased length of leverage on the oar through longer limbs of the athlete. In multi-person boats (2,4, or 8), the lightest person typically rows in the bow seat at the front of the boat.
The large display console allows you to keep track of the calories burned, distance covered, strokes per minute and duration of the workout. The Newport also includes an improved seat roller design for a smoother glide. The ergonomic padded seat will keep you comfortable and encourage longer workouts while the rust-resistant rail system is made to prevent scuffing as you push yourself during an intense session.
"This is Lauren Ruck. I met you at the Flagstaff rowing clinic, and had dinner with you at the Ray's. I just wanted to say thanks again for coming out. You did such a wonderful job. The gym was buzzing for days about you and how great a time they had. You are a talented coach, and a great motivator. As a trainer myself I am always watching other coaches to see how they train and interact with a group. You have a wonderful way of engaging the group, keeping everyone's attention, and keeping the mood fun. I think that is the one thing that really stood out about you was the positive way you spoke to everyone. You had a way of being focused yet still light hearted. It was inspiring watching you coach, thank you."
Rowing is primarily a cardio workout, but it’s also more than that. Your heart rate is absolutely going to be climbing, but unlike a jog in the park, you might also be sore the next day. The rower requires you use your legs more than anything, and as we know, your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings are the biggest, most powerful muscles in your body. But you’re also pulling with your arms, shoulders, abs and engaging your back. That said, you’re not pulling as hard as you might with, say, a seated cable row machine at the gym. You don’t want to hurt your back, but you can engage them and this will help you get those muscles toned.
Rowing events use a systematic nomenclature for the naming of events, so that age, gender, ability and size of boat can all be expressed in a few numbers and letters. The first letter to be used is 'L' or 'Lt' for lightweight. If absent then the crew is open weight. This can be followed by either a 'J' or 'B' to signify junior (under 19 years) or under 23 years respectively. If absent the crew is open age (the letter 'O' is sometimes used). Next is either an 'M' or 'W' to signify if the crew are men or women. Then there is a number to show how many athletes are in the boat (1,2,4 or 8). An 'x' following the number indicates a sculling boat. Finally either a + or – is added to indicate whether the boat is coxed or coxswainless.
Although the oar can be conveniently thought of as a lever with a "fixed" pivot point in the water, the blade moves sideways and sternwards through the water, so that the magnitude of the propulsion force developed is the result of a complex interaction between unsteady fluid mechanics (the water flow around the blade) and solid mechanics and dynamics (the handle force applied to the oar, the oar's inertia and bending characteristic, the acceleration of the boat and so on).
These three machines are the top of the lot for a home gym, with one editor’s note: keep an eye out for the Hydrow, a rowing machine currently on Indiegogo that was funded in just four minutes. I tested one and can attest to the smooth ride and easy to store platform. The pricing on Indiegogo is unparalleled, but you won’t get delivery of the machine until May 2019.
Variability between machines is of small importance if one machine is used consistently for fitness and training, such as in a home gym. It will still provide a sufficiently reliable measure of one's progress. In a competition setting however, equivalence between machines is essential. An example will clarify: Consider the entirely reasonable possibility that the elastic cord of one machine requires 7 pounds of force to stretch, and the elastic cord of another machine requires 6 1/2 pounds of force to stretch. Now suppose that two competitors, one on each of these machines, complete a 2000M race in 8 minutes at an average stroke rate of 30 strokes per minute. The competitor on the machine with the elastic cord tensioned to 7 pounds will need to pull with 1/2 pound more force for the duration of each stroke than the other competitor in order to obtain the same monitored results (since, as explained, only the energy expended to spin the flywheel is measured, not the energy to stretch the elastic cord). If each stroke averages 5 feet in length, and it takes 240 strokes (8X30) to complete the race, the extra work done by the one competitor is equivalent to lifting a 1/2 pound weight through a vertical distance of 1200 feet (5X240), or put another way, the extra work required by this competitor is equivalent to lifting a 10 pound weight through a vertical distance of 60 feet. However, in this example, despite the difference in energy output by the competitors, the monitor displays are the same.
Studios like Orangetheory, CityRow and Equinox all offer classes each week to introduce new users to rowing, as well as help rowing veterans crush their goals. “The rowing machine makes for one of the most efficient workouts, and intervals on the rowing machine are a great workout. If you’ve ever used a rowing machine, you’ll immediately note that you don’t have to do it for hours like you would running or cycling. You can get an incredible workout in 30 minutes,” Bryan Volpenheim, two-time Olympic medalist and previous head coach of the US Men’s National Rowing Team, says. The typical 45-minute workout is non-impact, so unlike running, “it’s low impact so it’s not hard on your joints,” Volpenheim says.
I kayak (ocean and flat water, not river), so I was drawn to the WaterRower over a flywheel type rower (which I have used in gyms) because I wanted to hear the sound of the water, which I miss hearing against the hull of the boat during the winter when I can't get out on the lake. I also like the way the paddles engage in the water; it's a very smooth pull and release, and moving the mass of the water instead of a dialed down tension feels more natural. As someone else also commented, the seat (at least on the wood version) is incredibly smooth and solid; no wobbling at all. I generally listen to music on my Nordic Track ski machine, but with the WaterRower I am content to listen to the sound of the water; working out on this is somehow both energizing and calmingly meditative at the same time. In the event that you want to use it while watching tv (this is one use to which I wanted to put it), it is quiet enough to hear the tv without having to turn it up.
If you're looking at a WaterRower, you're probably also considering the Concept2. They're both great machines, but which you choose depends on your needs. I think the WaterRower is ideal for most people, but not everyone. The WaterRower has a number of advantages vs the Concept 2 - it is quieter, the mechanism up front is lower profile, it has a comfortable seat, it is much better looking, it's easier to stand up when you're not rowing and it's just ... zen-like. There is something about the smoothness of the WaterRower that makes it a joy to use, and because it's quiet you can easily stream your favorite binge-series without cranking the volume too high.
If you feel like your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-went, chances are you may not be getting enough physical activity. Rowing machine workouts may feel exhausting at first, but the long-term benefits of regular exercise will increase your endurance and give you more energy. Because rowing exercise is cardiovascular and works out all your major muscle groups, it’s a step above many other types of workout equipment. With repeated use, you will gain increased stamina and boost your metabolism. More energy means more drive to do the things you love!
Don't let chronic lower back pain deter you from giving the rowing machine a try. Done properly, this is a great exercise for strengthening your back, and as a bonus, it rarely leads to the type of chronic knee, ankle, and foot injuries that can plague runners. If you have a temperamental back, be sure to keep your core braced, and that you're not laying too far back at the conclusion of each stroke. (Here, closer to 11 o'clock than 9 o'clock.)
Storage is also a plus point for the Waterrower series as they are all designed to stand upright with the tank acting as ballast for stability. In this position they only take up around two square feet. Again, great if you are planning on training in the living room. However, if you have small children, I would advise fixing the top to the wall with a hook and strap.
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