For many, the thought of cardio, not even the act of doing it, is exhausting. Cardio however, is an extremely beneficial form of exercise.
Enter the rowing machine, a great full body alternative to the treadmill or bike. When performed properly, a workout on the erg, burns calories, improves posture, increases strength and endurance and melts fat away. It has the distinction of being both an aerobic and an anaerobic exercise. However, many don’t use it because it’s unfamiliar territory. So here are four steps to help get you started. The catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery.
The Catch This refers to your starting position, the catch is where good form begins. Sit on the sliding seat with legs securely fastened in the the foot straps. Hold the bar of the rowing machine with your palms down and your thumbs pointing towards each other. Shins should be an almost 90 degree angle to the floor and heels should be planted. Tighten your core and straighten your spine as much as possible, imagine a foam roller being held against your back.
#2: The Drive
The order of muscle recruitment is very important here: first legs, back second, and then arms third.
From your starting position on the catch, drive through your feet keeping your heels grounded until your legs are almost straight. Keep your back very straight and your core tight and engaged. Make sure that the handle stays at the same level.
Once the knees are almost extended, use your hips as a fulcrum to extend the torso and engage the extensor muscles of the back. The torso should remain straight with the core tight, as your whole body becomes more horizontal. Use your lats to retract the shoulder blades and move your arms into extension as pull your the bar towards you. The handle should continue in it’s horizontal trajectory, not moving up or down.
Now that the legs and back have provided the lion’s share of force, you should be in a position with extended knees and hips. Keep using the lats and now recruit the arms to pull the bar towards your upper abdominal muscles.
#3: The Finish
At this point your knees and hips should be extended, shoulders blades retracted, arms flexed with the bar held against your upper abdominal muscles.
#4: The Recovery
At this point the order reverses, first arms, then back and then legs. This is a chance to recover from the drive, take a deep breath and gather your strength for the next drive. Your arms start the recovery as they straighten the bar is moved back towards the flywheel, then the shoulder blades protract as the back stays erect and the entire torso moves forward from the hips like the eccentric portion of a romanian deadlift, when the hamstrings are at their longest stretch point then the knees bend and the seat moves forward towards the flywheel as the heels stay grounded and the back stays straight with a tight core. The bar stays in its straight horizontal trajectory as the seat moves to the ‘catching’ position.
It’s easy to rush through these steps when starting a rowing session. To get in the zone, start with just the arms, then incorporate arms and back and then arms, back and legs all together.
Controlled movements are the key to an effective rowing machine workout. Concentrate on your timing of each step, keep a rhythm and adjust from there. Start with 10 minutes, and then work your way up into more challenging workouts. Enjoy!