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The most overlooked—and underrated—cardio machine in the gym just might be the indoor rower. Also known as an ergometer (or “erg” among enthusiasts), the rower offers a high-intensity, full-body burn: A 140-pound woman rowing at a good pace can blast 119 calories in only 15 minutes. “Rowing is multifaceted in its benefits—there is virtually no impact, it can be as intense as you want, and it’s versatile enough for any fitness level,” says Arielle Childs, an instructor at Row House studio in New York City.
Many think of rowing as primarily an upper-body workout, but it actually works the entire body, including your upper back, shoulders, arms, core, glutes, hips, and especially legs. Before you hop on a machine and start pulling, keep in mind that form is the key to getting a good workout and preventing injury. New erg users “tend to pull with their back rather than pushing with their feet, which can lead to back injury,” explains Childs. Newcomers often just go for speed or do the mechanics out of order, both of which compromise results. To stroke, first push off with your legs, then pivot your back, then pull the handle toward your body, bringing it level with the bottom of your sports bra. Follow that order (legs, back, arms) to aid your technique. Then to come back, aka the recovery, reverse that order: Extend your arms, bring your core forward, and then bend your knees into your catch position. “The entire stroke, both the drive and recovery, should be completed in one fluid motion,” Childs says.
FAT-BLASTING ROWING ROUTINE
Once you’ve got your form set, try this total-body burner from Childs. There are no built-in breaks, so just rest as needed.
WARMUP (8 TO 10 MIN.):
Get on the erg and focus on the parts of stroke and recovery to improve technique.
Focus on increasing your stroke rate by taking about 10 to 15 strong strokes at the following pace (strokes per minute): 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20.
Hop off the rower and do the following exercises for 45 seconds each: pushups, squats, crunches, planks.
Pick up the pace and row for 20 seconds (try to maintain a 24 to 26 stroke rate), then recover for 20 seconds; repeat. Then row hard for 40 seconds, with 20 seconds of recovery, two times. Finish with 60 seconds of hard rowing, with a 20-second recovery after each.
Strength moves: Hop off the rower and do the following exercises for 45 seconds each: Side plank left side, side plank right side, V-up, Russian twist.
Go as far as you can in three minutes, aiming for at least 600 meters. (If you pass this number, keep going.) Recover for 60 to 90 seconds, then repeat, trying to add an additional 20 meters to your previous distance. Finish with a few minutes of total-body stretching.