By Erica Moe
What exercise works your total body, burns tons of calories, includes cardio and strength simultaneously and eliminates most injuries? This is not a trick question. The answer is — wait for it — rowing!
Boutique rowing facilities have popped up in LA and New York, with classes priced upward of $30 per hour. “You’re using everything between your shoulders and your feet — legs, glutes, arms and your whole torso,” explains Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of Exercise Science at Auburn University. Rowing works nearly 85 percent of the muscles in your body, making it a more effective full-body workout than cardio or spinning alone, which typically focus on just half the body.
Don’t want to aggravate an old injury? No problem! The rower is a non-impact exercise that can accommodate all fitness levels. It has even less impact than walking. It is also non-weight bearing, so joints get to take a break from the traditional wear and tear.
A word of caution: Initially, the activity is so intense that after five to 10 minutes, your muscles are going to burn and your form will start to break down. Combat this by starting with 30-second intervals. Alternate bouts of rowing with a set of body-weight exercise like squats or pushups. Repeat nine more times. Work toward increasing the interval length.
What is it?
From a distance, sitting on a rower may seem similar to sitting on the sofa with your feet up. However, don’t let the seated position fool you. Take a closer look and notice that this rhythmic activity can work your brain, too. The rowing stroke can be broken down into four parts: catch, drive, finish and recovery. Focusing on form and combining the four parts of the stroke into one fluid motion make it a mental workout, as well. Additionally, rowing gives your posture a boost. Rowing helps counter all the effects of sitting at a desk by opening the chest and strengthening the back.
How is it done?
Bend your knees until shins are vertical. Extend your arms to grab the handle. Keep your back straight and arms engaged. Press through your heels as you straighten your legs. Think, “legs, midsection, arms.” Most of your power should come from your legs. To reverse, think, “arms, midsection, legs.” No need to rush this part. Focus on form first. Start slowly and speed up as the motion becomes easier to you.
Where is it?
Feel free to take it to the open water with several rowing clubs in San Diego. But no pressure to have equipment, an entire crew or sunscreen, you can find at least one rower in most fitness facilities. Mission Valley YMCA has the new Rower GX from LifeFitness. It is belt-driven and has water resistance, which gives it a smooth feel compared to other chain-driven air resistance rowers.
Amp it up! Try the Row and Strength class at the Toby Wells YMCA from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Nov. 12; $15.
—Erica Moe, M.S. is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist who writes on behalf of the Mission Valley YMCA where she is fitness director.