Indoor Rowing for Fitness

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Manjuanth TP demoing the indoor rowing equipment
Manjuanth TP demoing the indoor rowing equipment

Indoor rowing is fast becoming a great choice as far as cardio workouts are concerned because of the holistic benefits and full body workouts that it offers. In fact the charm of rowing is that it is associated with boating – an activity that is most loved when you are outdoors. So indoor rowing really is an enviable combination of fitness and fun.

Holistic Regimen

Indoor Rowing is becoming popular as a fitness trend primarily as it is the perfect exercise for people having different body types and fitness levels, ranging from beginners to professional athletes. Though it is a low impact cardio, it demands a lot of endurance. “Myth suggests that it is only an upper body workout but actually, it works on all the nine major muscle groups: quads, hamstring, glutes, lats, shoulders, triceps and biceps, back and most importantly, the core muscles,” explains Prosenjit Biswas, Fitness Manager, Skulpt. Something that Manjunath T.P., Founder, Power Zone Gym, Bangalore concurs with. “We introduced indoor rowing about four years back in our gym as an alternative form of cardio equipment. What makes indoor rowing special is that it gives an overall body workout including thighs, abs, back and arms. It is like a combination of weight training and cardio regimen. In fact it burns calories and also helps build strength. Also this is an equipment that anyone can use – from a newcomer to a seasoned gym goer and practicing for 10-15 minutes on a daily basis will give you good results,” he explained. Debjyoti Dasgupta, a 29 year old marketing professional who trains at Power World Gyms in Bangalore says, “indoor rowing is one of the best workouts that works your entire body. The best part is, a 45-60 minutes rowing session can offer you a huge calorie burn, strengthens you core, shapes your back, legs, and almost the entire body. I have seen tremendous improvement in my overall structure once I included indoor rowing in my workout regime.”


Advantage Rowing

The primary advantage of indoor rowing stems from the fact that while it works on a large number of muscle groups, making it a total body workout, it is also a low impact cardio workout which means that chances of injury are very less. Again, this is a very simple form of exercise, which does not need much practice and it works on improving the cardio vascular system that is heart and lung capacity. “It serves as a better alternative to the more popular cardio machines such as treadmill and is a fun activity so it is likely that it will be used more and help aid increased fitness too. Rowing machines come in a compact form and all the benefits of rowing as a sport can be achieved through this machine,” says Biswas who has been offering rowing since 2014. Over the years especially after Crossfit revolution indoor rowing has become a popular mode of cardiovascular training. “It uses totally different muscle groups (that is the upper body) than most of the cardio equipment that primarily work on the legs (treadmill / bikes / arc trainers to a major extent). It uses muscles of upper body (pulling muscles at the back of your shoulder) that gives a magnificent workout above the torso, pulls back your shoulder blades and realigns your spine. Bodybuilders, weight lifters, runners and cyclists also use it on a cross training day,” says Gagan Arora, Reebok Master Trainer based in Delhi who has been offering indoor water rowing machines from the past two years. However, most people still use treadmills and spin bikes more than rowers simply because rowing machines drain biceps and other arm muscles quickly and this is why they are less trained than legs. Indoor rowing has become more popular these days due to the fresh look the rowing machines have got with focus on making the workout of high intensity, though low impact workout that give amazing benefits. “Rowing, though one of the most underrated exercises has been redefined with a hoard of benefits as it uses 60 percent of your lower body and 40 percent of upper body in a 45 minutes long session. It benefits the core, legs and arms in the way you might have never thought about. Moreover, it benefits your entire body,” avers Amaresh Ojha, CEO & Founder, Gympik, a fitness discovery platform.

Rehabilitation Matters

The idea of having rowing machines is also to offer a cross training equipment as a means of rehabilitation. “My endurance athletes who run and cycle a lot find rowing an excellent way to rehabilitate. If someone is injured in the knee or ankle and cannot take the load of walking he/she can get his / her dose of cardiovascular training by rowing for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a week. It also helps as it aids in faster recovery of the injury. Also most people today have a hunch back and collapsed shoulders (as they are continually sitting on a desk or behind the steering wheel of their car), so rowing strengthens back and maintains movement harmony in shoulder joint keeping impingement issues at a bay,” adds Arora. Take the case of Ankit Gupta a 36 year old businessman from Delhi  who was suffering from a meniscus tear. “My knee swells when I try to walk for longer and while  I can lift weights and do rehab exercises for my knee, rowing gives me a good warmup and sweats me out without putting much stress on knee and this is why I love it.” Indoor Rowing is considered to be a full-body exercise, and burns double or triple the calories if compared to other workouts like spinning, biking etc. “It helps keep your heart rate high, and on a stronger and faster rowing rate, the calorie burns become even more. A 45 minutes long rowing session, not only strengthens your core, legs and arms, but also improves your posture, works your entire body, burns calories up to 600 and is also easy on your joints,” adds Ojha.

Adding Value

Indoor rowing requires a push movement with your lower body as well as pull  movement with your upper body, and depending on the way you use the machine it can be used as a low intensity cardio workout, a full body explosive workout or a HIIT workout, all in one piece of equipment. Avinash Mansukhani, Fitness Influencer and Programmer based in Mumbai says, “it is great for a warm up as opposed to doing a quick run or elliptical that prominently warms up the lower body,  rowing warms up the whole body. It is a low impact machine as while running, hiking, jogging or interval training there is a lot of strain on joints like your knees or ankles, or even your lower back for that matter. Rowing eliminates all these risks. Depending on your goals, a rowing machine can be used to perform steady state low intensity cardio, explosive muscle strengthening or high intensity interval training. For prolonged cardio workouts, rowing burns the most calories per hour over the treadmill, stationary bike or walking. The only two to probably outdo the rowing machine is skipping or burpees. But both of these are really difficult to maintain for long cardio sessions.” Incidentally Mansukhani personally started rowing about four years back and started involving it in his clients programming as soon as he started programming. “I involve it in their workout in the following three ways. All the warm ups start with rowing. I normally end each workout for my clients with a short HIIT/conditioning workout, and for most of their upper body days its rowing sprints combined with another movement. For fat loss clients who have a cardio day or for athletes who use active recovery, I prescribe low intensity rowing as its easy on the muscles leaving them fine to work out the next day and not having to deal with tight calves and aching joints.” After all Mansukhani himself had a lower back spasm a couple of months ago that prevented him from doing cardio or lifts for about 2-3 weeks. “I used this time to row and swim every alternate day, as these were the only two forms of exercise where I could get work my entire body.” Now that is exactly why indoor rowing has an edge – so go ahead and steer your way to a fitter you!

This story appeared in the March 2018 issue of Smartlife Magazine here:

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