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7 Effective Ways to Burn More Calories using a Rowing Machine

7 Effective Ways to Burn More Calories using a Rowing Machine

When you’re looking to get a solid cardio workout in, chances are the first thing you consider is the treadmill. The second? Probably the elliptical. If you’re really feeling ambitious, you may spend some time on the Stairmaster, but only for a couple of minutes before you break down and finish out your workout on the bike.

One machine you probably never think twice about is the rowing machine. This dusty old contraption sitting in the corner of nearly every gym in America gets zero love from everyday members, when in fact, it’s one of the best ways to lose weight. With the potential to burn over 1000 calories an hour, rowing machines, if done properly, could be your best friend.

So how do you maximize the amount of time on a rower? Here are a few tips that should help.

1. Try Some Intervals

Though mostly reserved for running, intervals are nothing more than a series of sprints interspersed with a short period of slower rows. The constant change in motion allows for your body to rest, while also developing the fast-twitch muscles that give you a great High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout.

Try to shoot for a speed that is slightly higher than your average – around 24 strokes per minute (SPM) – and do ten strokes. Then, do ten recovery strokes at a much slower speed before jumping back up to a slightly higher speed at 26 SPM. Take ten more recovery strokes, then finish off with ten strokes at 28 SPM. Remember to engage your core and use your legs to power through the workout; a bad form will hurt you more than help.

2. Go for Endurance

On the other hand, working out for longer periods of time at a lower rate of intensity is another way to shake up your normal exercise routine while also burning a high rate of calories. Try to maintain a medium intensity (85% of maximum heart rate) for between 7-10 minutes; for the average rower, this should equal about 25 strokes per minute. Take a 5-minute break, and then do another set.

If you want to supercharge this routine, sprinkle in an endurance workout alongside a few sprint intervals or a pyramid routine. This will trick your muscle fibers into working out at different intervals and intensities, making them work harder and burning more calories.

3. Climb the Pyramid

A pyramid routine is exactly as it sounds: you start at a lower intensity for the beginning of the workout, ascend to a higher rate, and then slowly return back to normal. The beginning pace should be intentionally slow – around 22 strokes per minute – while you should go no higher than 30-32 strokes per minute. The whole process should take about 2-3 minutes total and is guaranteed to burn off those stubborn extra calories.

4. Maintain Proper Form

While this may be second nature to many experienced rowers, those who are newbies often struggle with defining the proper form for a rowing workout and especially maintaining it throughout the course of the workout. When exhaustion sets in, they tend to hunch over, bring their shoulders in, and lean towards your feet. When this happens over a long period of time, it’s almost a guaranteed back problem.

Ideally, you want to sit tall in the chair with your back 90 degrees to the floor and bring your arms all the way back to your chest muscle. Not only will this work the right muscles for this exercise (like your back), but it will also keep your airways open and allow you to perform better.

5. Drive the Legs

Your arms should not be the main muscle groups working in a rowing exercise. While your back muscles are fully engaged throughout the manoeuvre, your legs are the main driving force, pulling in and pushing out on the machine. Your leg muscles are some of the largest muscle groups in your body, so engaging them will burn more calories in the time allotted, so focus primarily on working your legs.

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6. Mix it Up

If you’re bored with a particular routine, don’t be afraid to introduce new moves and exercise patterns into the fold. If you’ve found yourself doing mainly endurance workouts, sprinkle in a pyramid workout and finish off with a hard, 30-second sprint. Don’t rely on the dashboard to guide your workout if you can avoid it, customize your own to maximize your own personal efficiency. Of course, if you get on a rower and have no routine, find one to start with.

7. Introduce Other Sports

Though this one may seem counter-intuitive, one of the best ways to get better at the rowing machine is to actually use other equipment besides the rower. Other cardio workouts like the stationary bike will develop your lung capacity, which will inevitably help with your rowing. This type of exercising is called “cross-training,” where you work in complementary exercises in order to increase your overall fitness.

Strength workouts are also a big help to the rower. Since most of the rowing workouts are contained within your legs, by performing squats, deadlift, and leg presses, you’ll strengthen the main muscle groups that are responsible for a great rowing technique. Just don’t forget to work back in the rower: it’s still one of the best overall workouts you can get in the entire gym.

Written by Valentin Bosioc

Valentin Bosioc - wellness specialist, certified personal trainer, certified fitness instructor, celebrity trainer, Musclemania Champion, Ninja Warrior Semifinalist, world wide motivator!

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