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How To Use a Rowing Machine

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Updated June 10, 2014

Best Rowing Machines
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The rowing machine is an excellent choice for getting a great cardio workout while working the entire body. You work the legs, arms and core while building endurance in the heart and lungs. Many people shy away from rowing machines at the gym, unsure of how to use them or how get a good workout. Just some rowing machine benefits include:
  • It's a no-impact exercise, which is easy on the joints and great cross-training for other activities
  • It works the entire body
  • It's easy to use
  • It take's up less space than other machines, which is great for the home exerciser

Use these tips to get started.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 10-30 Minutes

Here's How:

  1. Adjust Your Machine

    Sit on the rowing machine (the seat should slide back and forth) and place your feet into the foot pedals. The heels should be secure against the back of the pedals with the straps tightened over the top of the feet.

  2. Set Your Resistance

    Some rowers have adjustable resistance while others offer air resistance (the most common at many gyms). With air resistance, the rower has a flywheel on the front of the machine that draws in air as you pull back on the handle. The faster you row, the more resistance you create. If you happen to have a rower with a different type of resistance, set it at a low level if you're a beginner.

  3. Choose Your Workout

    Depending on the machine you're using, you may see a monitor that comes on as you start to move. From there, you can choose a workout based on distance, time or choose from any custom workouts that have been programmed into the machine. If you're not a rower and don't know meters from a hole in the ground, start with a manual setting so you can set your own limits.

  4. Start the Movement - The Catch

    The rowing motion starts with the 'catch.' To begin, hold the handle in a comfortable grip with the palms down. Your knees should be bent and vertical to the floor with the chest close to the thighs. Make sure your back is straight and your abs are engaged. It's easy to hunch forward and round the shoulders in this position, so pay attention to your posture.

  5. The Drive

    During the 'drive,' you push into the foot pedals to extend the legs while rowing the bar in toward the abdominals. Pull the elbows back until they're just past the torso with the handle about an inch from the bellybutton. You may lean back a bit at the end of the movement, but avoid arching or hyperextending the back.

  6. The Finish

    Return back to starting position, bending at the hips rather than hunching the back over the knees.

  7. The Workout

    If you're a beginner, start with about 10 minutes of rowing, gradually adding time each week as you get used to the movement. You can do it alone or add it on at the end of your regular cardio workout.

Tips:

  1. Keep the movement fluid and controlled rather than jerking through each motion.
  2. Push with your legs and avoid hunching forward to protect your back.
  3. Keep a slight bend in the elbows and knees rather than locking the joints at full extension.
  4. If you have back problems, talk to your doctor before trying the rowing machine.

What You Need

  • A rowing machine
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  5. How to Use a Rowing Machine - Step by Step and Tips

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