Rowing & Strength Workout
Earlier this year I discovered the magic of the row machine. It always seemed a little intimidating to me, hanging out in the corner of the cardio area of the gym, rarely being used. How do I even do it right? Will I look like an idiot if I try it out? Eventually I got over myself, watched a few YouTube videos on proper form, and tried it out. I don’t want to say it was life-changing, but it was pretty awesome.
I want you to try it out too, if you haven’t already!
The Benefits of Rowing
Rowing is a fantastic cardiovascular workout; however, it’s so much more than cardio alone.
Envision yourself on a rower right now and think of all the muscles the action of rowing requires.
- Lower body. You use your legs for powerful pushes during each stroke, primarily utilizing your hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes.
- Core. As the force moves from your lower to upper body, you need to activate your core in order to keep your midsection strong and your back from collapsing forward.
- Upper body. The upper back and shoulder muscles help draw the handle in towards your midsection. The biceps and triceps play a part in this action as well.
As you can see, it’s a full-body workout and a cardio workout. Here are a few other benefits too:
- Low impact
- Great method for cross-training
- Torches calories
- Uses push and pull motions
- It’s fun!
If you are new to rowing you’ll want to make sure you have proper form so that you can move efficiently, avoid injury, and get the most of your time on the machine. Watch this tutorial to learn about proper form. You can find more tips on technique at HowToRow.com. If you still feel a little unsure after watching the videos, ask a trainer at your gym to give you a quick in-person tutorial. Don’t be scared to ask for help - that’s what the trainers are there for!
Even if you have rowed quite a bit, it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek at the videos for a little refresher.
In this workout we switch between rowing intervals and strength exercises through a series of 5 circuits. Each circuit starts with rowing where the distances build in a pyramid fashion - beginning with 200m, working up to 600m, then decreasing back to 200m. You should treat these intervals as if you were doing 200m, 400m, and 600m sprints on the track. AKA, go fast.
Doing intervals like this on a regular basis (1x/week) will help increase your aerobic threshold, allowing you to do more work with less oxygen. Basically, a healthy dose of interval training will help you run faster and who doesn’t want that?!
Here is a general guideline for time goals:
- 200m = 1 minute or less
- 400m = 2 minutes or less
- 600m = 3 minutes or less
Maybe you can do much better or maybe you need a little more time. The above is just good starting point to aim for until you know what your body can do. Try to keep the 200m interval in the last circuit as fast as (or faster) than the 200m in the first circuit. Meaning, don’t completely empty the tank in the first few intervals.
The second part of the circuits are strength exercises. You’ll do 15 reps of each exercise, hitting core, legs, biceps, and shoulders. All you need is a pair of dumbbells. Don’t rush through them. Perform these exercises with slow, controlled motions while drawing attention to the muscles you are working. For example, when doing the plank rows, concentrate on holding your core tight while contracting your back muscles to complete the row. Or, when doing biceps curls, really focus in on those biceps. This will help give you the maximum results for your efforts.
Make sure to read the exercise cues below in case you’re unfamiliar with any of the exercises.
Once you go through all 5 circuits take a 2-minute rest then go through all the circuits one more time.
It’ll be fun, I promise.
Assume plank (pushup) position with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. Stabilizing your body, raise the right dumbbell up to your side until it reaches your ribs. Lower back down to the ground. Repeat with the left arm. This is one rep. Do 15 reps total.
Alternating Forward Lunges
Stand with your feet facing forward and take a step forward with your right foot. Lower into a lunge, making sure that your right knee does not go past your right toe. Push down through your right heel, engage your glutes, and rise back up to standing position. Repeat this with the left foot forward. This is one rep. Do 15 reps total.
Hold dumbbells shoulder width apart with arms at sides, palms facing forward. Raise dumbbells, keeping upper arms stationary, until they reach shoulder level. Lower back to starting position. This is one rep. Do 15 reps total.
Side Plank Hip Dips
Lie on your left side with your feet stacked on top of each other. Prop yourself up on your left elbow, making sure it is directly below your left shoulder. Your body should be in a straight line from your right shoulder to your feet. Using your obliques, lower your hip down then raise it back up, keeping your upper body still. This is one rep. Do 15 reps total.
Squat to Shoulder Press
Holding a pair of dumbbells, stand with feet hip-width distance apart, toes pointing forward. Put your dumbbells at shoulder level and lower into a squat by bending your knees and flexing your hips, keeping your back straight and your knees behind your toes. Lower until your hamstring are parallel to the ground. As your rise, press your dumbbells up overhead until your arms are fully extended. Lower back down to a squat while also lowering your arms to shoulder level. This is one rep. Do 15 reps total.
Rowing is a great way to cross-train, whether you are training for a race or focusing on becoming a stronger, faster runner. It is low impact cardio that works many muscle groups and will get your heart pumping. The rowing intervals in this workout with work your power and speed, translating to faster running over time.
Pairing the rowing with strength training exercises will help build your muscle tone to keep your body strong and injury-free. Strength training also helps increase metabolism, allowing you to continue to burn calories hours after the workout is over.
And did I mention that it’ll be fun?!