Indoor rowing is the new spinning

Long relegated to the dust-collecting corners of gyms across the nation, the rowing machine is making a comeback. After a much-needed upgrade in technology and style (notably the WaterRower with affixed water tanks meant to simulate true rowing conditions on water, while machines carved from wood and oil-finished are best sellers), this unsung hero of the fitness world has become the weapon du jour among the hard bodies of Hollywood—Jason Statham, Zac Efron, and Josh Hutcherson are devotees. It’s also finding its way to your health club’s most prized piece of real estate: the fitness-class studio. Those in the know say it’s set to become the hip, new king of cardio

Over in the USA there’s a huge migration from spin to rowing, with gyms in (inevitably) Beverly Hills, new York and a host of other cities adding a slew of new row-based classes. Spinning isn’t dead, but it has been put on notice. And that’s going to happen on this side of the pond also

The similarities between the two disciplines are many—both involve stationary machines that ape outdoor exercises, pump-you-up instructors, thumping music, peer pressure to keep pace, and a workout that leaves you sweat-soaked and serenely sore-muscled. But when it comes to achieving body-sculpting benefits, indoor rowing is in a class of its own. A 50-minute rowing class can burn up to 1,200 calories, twice as many as spinning. Every stroke requires you to work your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs, obliques, pecs, biceps, triceps, deltoids, upper back, and lats

Each rep is essentially a leg press, a dead lift, and a row. And because you’re working every muscle group in your body, your heart rate is elevated. In addition, you need to establish a more complex rhythm than pedalling. In short, with one low-maintenance workout, in a group setting or on your own, you’ll get the statuesque body of an authentic rower. Just prepare to get hooked—many class aficionados are working their way up toward rowing outdoors

Add up all the benefits and it’s no wonder more and more of us are stepping off the stationary bike and strapping into a rower. You can be getting so much more out of your workout in the same amount of time

In the UK look out for ShockWave classes at Equinox gyms, and the 50 minute Crew classes by Concept 2 at gyms nationwide

If you can’t find a class nearby, try these solo workouts on the rowing machine at your local gym :

Warm-Up Drill: Single-Hand Stroke

Most people pull too soon. To help break the habit, try this quick warm-up drill: Hold the center of the handle with one hand and row. You’ll soon see how important the legs and a firm torso are to your drive. Try for 10 strokes with each hand. Also do this drill before a group class, to get loose

Beginner: Tempo Row

Every rowing machine displays speed, distance, and your average time to complete 500 metres (your 500-metre split time). Go as hard as you can for one minute and note your average 500-metre split time. Add 20 seconds to that time—this will be your pace. Try to hold that pace for 10 minutes. That’s one. Rest three minutes and repeat

Intermediate: Stroke-Count Pyramid

Row 10 strokes easy, then 10 strokes hard. Repeat this pattern, increasing in 10-stroke intervals until you are rowing 50 strokes easy, 50 strokes hard. Go down the ‘pyramid’ until you are back to the starting set

Advanced: Intense Intervals

Try four 500-metre intervals without rest. Row the first 500 metres at 50 percent of your maximum effort. On your second 500, increase to 75 percent of your max. On the third, ramp up to 95 percent—you should be nearly out of juice by the end of this leg. Row your final 500 meters as hard as you can—but maintain good form

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