The sport of rowing is nothing new, but it hasn’t gotten much mainstream love in quite some time. That was until Claire Underwood on House of Cards put a rowing machine in the basement for her husband Frank. She’s an avid runner, using the sport to escape her twisted reality and keep in fighting shape, but Frank, well, he likes video games. He humors her and tags along on a run occasionally, but not often enough for Claire’s liking.
So now, at the end of a particularly manipulative day, you’ll see the next POTUS retreat to the basement for an explosive workout.
No really, it may look like you’re just sitting there, but rowing is an incredibly beneficial workout. “Rowing is definitely a full body exercise. “It’s a lot of arms, back, legs, core, and glutes,” Enell learned from Mary Whipple, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. rowing team.
Not only can you achieve a total body workout by rowing, but you can also tackle cardio. “Rowing on the Concept II rowing machine is pure cardio while developing muscle strength,” she said. This is the machine most gyms have, and she recommends it for a good beginner rowing workout.
If time is a burden, always working against your fitness goals, then this sport is an ideal solution.
Rowing has grown in popularity in the last year or so thanks in part to the rise of CrossFit and House of Cards’ domination of American TVs. The results are not only keeping everyone in shape, but it’s cooling off the spin cycle boom.
“Spinning isn’t dead, but it has been put on notice,” Jay Blahnik, a southern California trainer and group-fitness adviser, told Details magazine.
Rowing is better at strengthening the upper back than spinning “because it forces you to straighten and open up your body, whereas in Spin classes you sit hunched over in the same position you tend to sit in at your desk, so you’re not activating those muscles, thereby weakening them,” explained Shape Magazine.
Mary explained that while rowing you’re mostly working the quads, glutes, core, lats (latissimus dorsi, the broadest muscle in the back), and deltoids. You’re not, however, specifically working your shoulders. She told us that’s a big misconception about rowing.
In fact, Mary told us if you’re rowing properly, you’ll primarily tone your legs and core. “Your back will get defined, but the goal is not to use your arms that much, just for follow through.” That’s because when you row, you draw all of your power through the legs.
Mary and her fellow rowers do a lot to cross-train for their sport. “Rowers on the Women’s National Team use the rowing machine to increase their cardio to perform better on the water,” she said. As stated before, the sport is “pure cardio” and provides a “serious burn.”
Cross-training also includes a focus on weights, doing work like squats, leg presses, RDLs (Romanian deadlifts), and hamstring curls. And she says there’s a lot core work too, fine tuning and developing those tiny stabilizing muscles through the core, ribs, and obliques. This ensures the rower has the strength to perform, but more importantly avoid injury.
And don’t forget your Enell! “Good support is just as important in a rowing class as it is in running or Spin class,” reminded Enell Ambassador Jennifer Sader. “Because your whole body is engaged, your whole body will be moving. You need to bring the rowing handle under your chest, which will be easier if your chest isn’t bouncing all over the place.”
Maybe binge-watching Netflix shows wouldn’t be so bad if you could do it from the seat of a rowing machine?