Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rowing Total Body Strength Workout

Today's workout was a combination of power, strength, and endurance using the rowing machine.  

I'll admit, until about a year and a half ago, I was intimidated by the rowing machine.  I remember seeing guys on the rowing machines in the CCRB (the filthy gym at Michigan) during my undergrad days and thinking to myself, "That must be a machine that only tough people can work out on."  I didn't know how to use it.  I didn't know what an appropriate workout would be on it.  I didn't even really know what muscles it would exercise.

All that changed when I bought a deal for RowZone, a local indoor rowing studio in Philadelphia.  I was so nervous for my first class.  The instructor taught me how to strap my feet in, how to adjust the machine resistance and program, and most important the proper body form.  

Good technique is critical to ensuring that you are getting the most out of the exercise (reaching your full range of motion, being efficient in your energy expenditure) and that you don't get injured.


Rowing is like the domino effect.  You can't move onto the next step until the one preceding it has been set in motion.  Proper form means that you don't pull with your arms before you push with your legs.  You don't reverse the motion by leaning forward first, you release your arms first.  There is a rhythmic order to follow.  Once you get the hang of it, it feels natural.  It's like the rolling waves in an ocean.  

Rowing is a great total body exercise that combines power, strength, and endurance.  In particular, rowing is excellent for your back muscles to help you build good posture, and your glutes, hamstrings, and quads (hello tight tushy).  Not to mention your abs have to stay engaged and your arms have to pull... all while you're getting your cardio kick.  Yeah, it's a pretty good workout.

By the end of my first RowZone class, I was thrilled that I had found a great new workout.  It's been over a year since I've been back to RowZone (I used up my deal, moved apartments, and have a gym in my apartment complex that I use instead), but I've taken the skills with me.  I'm fortunate that the gym in our apartment complex has a rowing machine, so I'm putting it to good use!  Today, I chose to do a combination of rowing inter-mixed with strength exercises.  You can think of the bursts of rowing as intervals.  The power strokes will build your explosiveness.  The 1000 m for time will build your endurance.  I'm still sore from a chest/tricep workout I did with Nick a few days ago, so I avoided my normal push-ups and such.  This was today's workout:


Further explanation of a few of the exercises:

Power Stroke: 1 rowing stroke as powerful as possible.  Explode through your legs and rip that cord.
Recovery Stroke: Take a break.  Go slow and breathe.
Fire Hydrants: These are a goodie from back in my gymnastics days.  Rest on your hands and knees.  Left your left leg directly out to the side, keeping your knee bent to 90 degrees (count 2 seconds).  Extend your left leg straight, keeping it directly to your side as parallel to the ground as you can get it (count 2 seconds).  Rotate your hip as you bring your straight extended leg directly behind you (count 2 seconds).  Bend your knee and bring it back to the starting position.  Repeat this 10 times and then do your other leg.  This is a glute killer!
     Make it easier: Repeat the first step without moving on to extending your leg or rotating it behind you.
     Make it harder: More reps.  No pauses between reps.  Keep your leg straight from the beginning.
Leg Curls with Stability Ball: I've written about this exercise before.  See the explanation here.
     Make it easier: Balance in a bridge position with both heels resting on the ball, raising your hips high.
     Make it harder: One leg?  
Plank Hip Taps: Assume a plank position on your elbows.  Keeping your core engaged, tap your right hip to the ground and then your left hip.  Keep repeating.
     Make it easier: Hold a plank position, no taps.
     Make it harder: Simultaneously lift a leg.
Toe Touches: Lie on your back with your legs extended straight up into the air.  Crunch up and touch your toes.  
     Make it easier: Bend your legs.
     Make it harder: Simultaneously lift your hips to engage more of your lower abs.

You know it's a good workout when as you're walking toward the rowing machine to wipe it down when you've finished some guy says, "You are sure looking at that machine with a lot of disdain" and someone else comments, "You're hurting me, stop it."  

Turns out, I was right.  The rowing machine is a machine that only tough people can work out on.  

But you know what?

You are tough.  

Get off your butt and get moving!

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