When you're craving a cardio fix, you probably beeline for the treadmill or elliptical.
When you're craving a cardio fix, you probably beeline for the treadmill or elliptical. We're going to go ahead and guess that the old-school rowing machine in the corner isn’t getting much love from you.
But, in the words of the Notorious BIG, it's time to bring that old thing back, says Gretchen Raddatz, a rowing coach at the boutique rowing studio Row House in New York City. "A rower is easier on your joints because there’s no impact, but you can burn so many calories," she says.
That's because it engages all of your muscles, from arms to core to legs, which gets your heart rate up to the maximum. It’s pretty much the ultimate full-body workout.
To find out how to harness all that fat-shredding power, we grilled Raddatz about the best strategies for your own rowing machine workout. Check out these tips, and prepare to slay your next row.
If you want to fire up your core, it’s key to maintain proper alignment. "Sit as tall as you can—avoid rounding your back, lift your chest, gaze out in front of you, and don’t drop your head," says Raddatz. "This way, you’ll keep your airways open and the workout will be more effective."
By driving your legs into the heelrest with each stroke, you'll work more of the big muscles in your lower half (like that booty), which will help you burn more calories. "The connection with your feet is what gives you power and speeds up calorie burn," says Raddatz. About 50 percent of your effort should come from your stems, 30 percent through your core and back, and 20 percent via your arms.
After your warmup, mix in three sets of what Row House calls power strokes. "These are fast, hard strokes that explode back," says Raddatz. While your rhythm should stay the same throughout the interval, you'll push harder with your feet and pull harder with your core and arms to row faster.
Do 10 power strokes at a 24 strokes per minute rate, followed by 10 recovery strokes. You can find your strokes per minute or SPM on the rowing machine's screen. Do a second set at 26 strokes per minute, another recovery, and one final set at 28 strokes per minute.
Start rowing at a low speed of 22 strokes per minute, and go up one stroke every 30 to 60 seconds until you reach 30 strokes per minute. "This gets you up to quicker paces, which increases calorie burn," Raddatz says. "You’ll move from an aerobic zone to a sprint-style anaerobic zone." Once you hit 30, reverse course and head back down the ladder, until you reach 22 strokes per minute.
On the other end of the spectrum, slow and steady endurance workouts can also supercharge calorie burn, says Raddatz. She says that working at 85 percent of your max heart rate, or hard enough that you can't say more than a couple of words at a time, for a longer period of time can help you burn loads of calories.
To get those calorie-crushing benefits, row at medium intensity (24 to 26 strokes per minute) for eight minutes, maintaining a consistent pace. For even more burn, top off this endurance workout with the ladder drill or power stroke intervals above.
To keep your body guessing, a.k.a. kept it in peak fat-burning mode, try mixing up your training with shorter high-intensity interval session some days and longer endurance-style rows on others, says Raddatz. Since rowing combines both strength and cardio training, it's super efficient, she says. "Your workout on the rower doesn't need to be long workout to be a good one."