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Is a Rowing Machine a Good Exercise?

written by: KJ • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/29/2010

Is a rowing machine a good exercise? Yes! Rowing machines offer one of the best cardiovascular exercises because they are low-impact but still engage upper and lower body muscles. They are good choices for people with injuries and when used with intervals, they burn fat and boost metabolism.

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    The Benefits of Using Rowing Machines

    Rowing machines simulate the rowing motion while in a watercraft. Many muscles in the upper and lower body muscles are engaged when performing these movements and a workout can be tough. In fact, the most often overlooked aspect of rowing machines is the serious leg work involved. The combination of upper and lower body activity makes the rowing machine an excellent cardiovascular exercise.

    Image Credit

    U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Kevin T. Murray Jr.

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    Rowing Machines Engage Upper and Lower Body Muscles Groups

    At first glance, it may seem like a rowing machine only engages the upper body. However, most machines include working the legs with a pushing motion along with the rowing movement of the arms. Engaging all the large muscle groups in the upper body make this machine a better choice than a stationary bicycle or elliptical because the body is moving more muscles and burning more calories at the same time. Rowing machines engage the latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids, shoulders, trapezius, rhomboids, quadriceps and hamstrings.

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    Rowing Machines Offer Low-Impact Exercise

    Rowing machines are one of the easiest machines to use because they don't put stress on the joints. The added risk of injury or strain decreases on a rowing machine because there is no pressure on joints such as knee and ankles. Because of this fact, rowing can be beneficial for those who are also dealing with injuries.

    Rowing machines might be low-impact but this does not mean that they are easy or that they don’t burn calories. In fact, rowing machines are one of the top machines for burning calories because they use so many muscles groups. A man weighing 175 pounds can expect to burn approximately 430 calories during 45 minutes of moderate rowing and a women weighing 135 will burn approximately 330.

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    Cardiovascular Exercise

    Rowing machines are more of a cardiovascular activity than a muscle building activity because to build muscle, you must increase the amount of weight you work with during the workout. While you can adjust the tension on a rowing machine, doing so will only strengthen your muscles rather than increase their size.

    That being said, the rowing machine offers an excellent way to burn fat and raise your metabolism. It strengthens your heart muscles as well as the rest of your muscles. The good news is this kind of exercise lowers the risk of heart disease.

    One of the best ways to exercise with a rowing machine is to use intervals when working out. Intervals of one-to two-minute high intensity movements along with three to five minutes of moderate intensity movements gives the body an intense workout. Think of this as an equivalant to sprinting for one minute and jogging for three or five minutes. You want to push yourself hard when you are at the high intensity level and stay close to your maximum target heart range to burn the most calories.