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Why Indoor Rowing Might Be Your Next Favorite Workout

It isn't just another fitness trend
by Viella Galvez | Aug 27, 2017
Most Popular

We may live in an island nation, but we Filipinos are not rowers. Despite rowing being an age-old sport, thanks to our Castilian conquerors, we won’t ever know what rowing “crew” in university would be like. Add to that the sad state (or should we say, smell) of our waterways don’t make rowing a pleasant sport to engage in.

Imagine The Social Network’s Winklevoss twins rowing in the Pasig river.

So when you’ve got stinky and unhygienic venues, coupled with hot, humid, wet, and windy weather, on very bad days, your only option (aside from spending a lot time waiting for perfect weather conditions) is to row indoors.

If you’ve got a gym membership, chances are there’s a row machine somewhere that you’ve never tried using. And just like every stationary cardio machine, it’s possible that after five minutes that felt like an eternity, you headed back to the populated rows of treadmills and elliptical machines (to watch some TV).

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Homer knows.

For the unmotivated, there’s the group rowing class, and it’s been available in Manila by way of indoor row and spin studio, Saddle Row. The country’s (yep, you read that right) ONLY indoor rowing studio has been providing safe, effective workouts to its clients from their little outpost in Serendra, Bonifacio Global City.

FHM spoke to one of Saddle Row’s instructors, Lester Lagos, and found out why indoor rowing isn’t just another fitness trend, and why (and more importantly, how) you should be using the row machine at your gym.

Why rowing could be good for you

Most people see rowing as a cardiovascular workout; it’s definitely going to leave you gasping for breath from exertion. But we forget that since rowers have to propel a boat down a body of water, it means there’s got to be a strength (and endurance!) component to the workout as well.

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And without a doubt, rowing is a low-impact (at least not as much as running), full-body exercise that can help you strengthen BOTH your heart and your skeletal muscles (which means the meat around your bones, silly). And if you only knew how to maximize the machine’s potential, there’s a big chance it’s the only equipment you’ll need at home.

How To Row Properly

Chances are though, if you’ve tried using a rower for the first time, and without assistance, then you’ve probably seen that the thing doesn’t exactly come with instructions.

Cute, but no.

Lester helped us break down the rowing stroke in a neat little GIF:

Indoor Rowing 101

A former dragon boat rower, long-time chlorine and open water competitive swimmer and triathlete, Lester was also born hard of hearing. He overcame the disadvantages that came with his impairment at a young age while living in Singapore with his family, and upon moving back to Manila, was inspired to start teaching fitness 5 years ago.

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Now teaching at Saddle Row for almost 2 years, Lester shares, “I’ve learnt useful things from being a rowing instructor. Like me, my students are from different walks of life, and as a teacher I love to help them get out of their comfort zones whenever they take a class. I believe encouragement is the best way to help them find the right balance of patience and passion so they can also persevere in fitness and sports.”

The Rowing Stroke: Catch, Drive, Finish, Recovery

1) Catch

The starting position. Achieve the correct posture by straightening your body and contracting your abdominals as you sit with knees bent, holding the bar gently with the palms facing down.

2) Drive

Drive your feet against the pedals and straighten legs, pulling the bar horizontally toward you.

3) Finish

When legs are completely extended, keep shoulders down and pull the bar back, holding it against your upper abdominals.

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4) Recovery

Extend your arms and move your body forward, knees bending as the rower seat moves to the catch position from 11:00 to 1:00.

It’s pretty simple: The legs push first, the arms pull next, and on the way back, the arms straighten before the legs bend to slide the seat of the rower back to the starting position. Tip: Let your hands go past your knees before you bend them!

How To Make Rowing Fun

Now, any machine would be boring if you could only do one exercise with it. Thankfully, this doesn’t apply to the rower.

The treadmill just isn’t made for inverted rows.

Take it from Lester: “If you need to challenge your whole body in just 45-min, circuit rowing training does the trick. You’ll quickly get maximum performance through muscle building and toning, along with an intense cardio workout.”

Just like any circuit workout, you don’t need to work too long to get the results you want!

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Lester showed us some of the moves that he teaches to students in Saddle Row’s 45-min Circuit classes.

1) Overhead Squat Pull + Squat Back Pull
You need: a Resistance Band
Targets: Back, Core, Shoulders, Triceps, Legs, Glutes
How many: 15 reps

2) Abs Sprint Knee Tuck
You need: A Yoga Mat/Towel
Targets: Abdominals, Hip Flexors, Quads
How many: 15 reps

3) Knee Tuck Crunch
You need: A Yoga Mat/Towel
Targets: Abs, Inner Thighs, Hip Flexors
How many: 15 reps

4) Arm Raise
You need: The row machine
Targets: Shoulders, Tricepts, Lats, Core
How many: 8-12 reps

Beginner? Do the seated version.

Need something more challenging? Try the standing version.

5) Tricep Extension
You need: The row machine
Targets: Triceps, Lats, Shoulders, Core
How many: 8-12 reps

Start off with the basics in this kneeling position...

...or this, for a little more challenge to your stabilizers.

Take things up a notch for your core by standing tall.

6) Jack Knife (Knee on seat for beginner and toe for advanced)
You need: The row machine
Targets: Abs, Shoulders, Lats, Legs
How many: 8-12 reps

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Kneel on the rower seat to give yourself some control.

Challenge your lower body further by going into a full plank.

Do the 6 exercises in this order and finish off by trying to hit 200m on the rower (or better yet, see how far you can go in a minute).

Repeat the whole circuit at least three times, or see how many rounds you can do in 45 minutes!

“Indoor rowing is an excellent form of exercise. It's not just rowing; you are challenging your whole body especially with circuit training. It is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) method where the exercises maximize the volume of work done with little to no rest between sets in a short period of time," Lester explains.

Too lazy to follow this guide on your own? Get yourself to Saddle Row, then.

No wonder it’s Frank Underwood’s home workout of choice.


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