A rowing machine, often referred to as an “ergometer”, is a device that simulates the motion and exercise of watercraft rowing. It can be used as a form of at-home or gym exercise as well as to train for rowing on the water. The motions executed are very similar to those used in real rowing: the catch, drive, finish, and recovery. It is important to learn from a professional how to use a rowing machine properly, just as it would be important to learn from an expert how to row on a watercraft.1 The two types of rowing machines are the air rowing machine and the water rowing machine. Both styles share some key similarities, including functionality, what muscles are used, and technique. However, there are some differences, including price, which should be taken into consideration. Water rowing machines are more likely to be found at a higher price than air rowers. On the other hand, water rowers tend to make less noise than air rowers. Those who like to keep track of many aspects of their workout might prefer an air rowing machine, which often has more workout details on the monitor. Both styles of machine should be researched thoroughly before a purchase is made for an at-home rowing machine. There are other small differences in the feel and size of each machine that may be factors in the decision.2
Downsides of Using a Rowing Machine
Most downsides with a rowing machine come from improper use. Rowing is a whole body workout and should not be focused solely in the arms. Most of the effort put into the motions should come from the legs. The different actions in the body that make up the motion should be done in their proper order, and not all at once. Proper form, like not hunching the back or rushing, should be kept in mind.3 If these precautions are not taken, the patient will end up developing back pain. Other than physical effects, rowing machines are large pieces of equipment. If one is purchased for the home, the amount of space available and where the rowing machine will be placed should be kept in mind. Rowing machines are not quiet, and continuous use may cause the noise to become annoying, especially in an apartment or small house.4
Rowing Machine Benefits
Using the rowing machine technique can yield many fitness benefits. The rowing machine workout is an aerobic exercise. The endurance that is used to maintain a consistent, proper stroke improves the body’s lung, heart, and circulation performances. Other rowing machine benefits include muscle toning and stress reduction. Most of the major muscle groups in the body are used during the rowing machine workout, which in turn strengthens these muscles. Physical activities cause the brain to release endorphins that improve mood, and cardiovascular workouts, such as the use of a rowing machine, are particularly good at raising endorphin levels. A rowing machine can be purchased for the home if the patient would prefer not to work out at a public gym.5
How Does the Machine Compare to the Real Thing?
When the option of rowing on the water exists, this might make a rowing machine seem like an unnecessary option for some people. The most obvious difference is that the scenery is different inside vs. outside. The outside features dynamic scenery and fresh air, while walls or a television are the most common features when it comes to indoor exercise. However, weather also plays a role in this, and rowing indoors is likely to be more appealing on a rainy day. Rowing on actual water requires balance while an indoor rower does not require the same level of balance or awareness of a possible unplanned swim. While learning how to row on a rowing machine and on the water can be done without lessons, it is strongly advised that the patient seeks the advice of a trainer for safety purposes. A rowing machine is also going to be less expensive when compared to the cost of a boat, oars, and car rack if needed. Rowing on a machine and rowing on the water are two very different experiences.6
If a rowing machine is too expensive or not desired, there are exercises that mimic the motions. A band tied around a sturdy support is used to perform these techniques. The “squat row” is executed by holding the two ends of the bands and lowering the body into a squat position. Then, in one movement, the patient must stand up from the squat while pulling the arms to the sides, level with the chest. Eight rounds, one round consisting of twenty seconds active and ten seconds resting, is a good cardio workout. The “unilateral row” is an exercise achieved by looping the band around one wrist and started in a position where the opposite leg is forward and bent while the other leg is back and slightly bent, with the ball of the foot and toes touching the ground. In one movement, the back foot touches the ground fully while the arm is pulled back to the side at chest level. Four minutes of this exercise, including switching arms, twenty seconds active, ten seconds rest, is another great cardio activity.7