Tim Collins is a certified personal trainer based in Omaha. He blogs Thursdays for Livewellnebraska.com. Read more from Tim here.
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For years, my favorite piece of cardio equipment has been the treadmill. As someone who loves to run, it gives me a great workout every time I use it. And while it's an awesome machine for building respiratory fitness, I recently gained respect for another piece of equipment that just might have an edge over the coveted treadmill – the row machine.
They're not as common as your average elliptical or stationary bike. I work at a sizable gym and we only have two. I used to walk by them daily as they collected dust, wondering why we didn't just throw them out. It seemed like most of the members felt the same way.
But several months ago, one of our trainers asked me to go through a workout with him. It consisted of rowing, among other exercises, and was designed to tax the body. The rower was new to me, but he demonstrated the technique and showed me how to use it efficiently.
Our goal was to reach 500 meters – the equivalent of doing so on water – as fast as possible. I was sucking wind the whole time and couldn't believe how exhausted I was after only a minute and 38 seconds.
My first reaction after the workout: Wow, this machine could actually make me strong! In terms of cardio, it's a great heart and lung workout. As far as muscle, row machines work the legs, abs, lats and arms. Your body will get a solid aerobic (long-duration endurance) and anaerobic (short-duration strength and power) workout.
Rowing is now a regular part of my workout regimen, and the same goes for most of my clients.
If you're new to the concept, try rowing for just a few minutes, setting the damper anywhere between 3 and 6. This setting closely mimics actually rowing on water. If you want more resistance, crank it up to 10 when you become more comfortable. Don't feel pressured to go super fast right away. Take it slow and work on perfecting the movement. Your knees, hips and elbows should move simultaneously.
If you end up really liking the machine, try incorporating it into your workout 3 to 4 days a week. You can either choose a distance goal or intensity goal. Pace yourself on the long rows, but go all out if it's a short one.
Keep in mind this workout might not be the best option for people with severe joint problems. Take a look at the video below for an example.