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The Rowing Ergometer Machine

Woman rowing on indoor rowing machine

Rowing is a form of low-impact cardio exercise that has a variety of physical benefits. It can be considered a full-body workout as it involves the use of the abdomen, back, legs, and arms. Many of the major muscle groups are used execute the movements. While the rower rows, muscles get stronger, the cardiovascular system becomes more efficient, calories are expended, and fat burns. People who wish to add rowing to their exercise routine have two options: indoor or outdoor rowing. For those who prefer to exercise indoors, rowing machines called ergometers are available. People can achieve all of the physical benefits of rowing when they use ergometers without having to brave the elements and actually put a boat into the water. This can be advantageous for someone who does not live near water, who does not want to buy or rent a boat, or who prefers the convenience of exercising indoors with a machine on their own schedule. Learn how to use an indoor rowing machine and the benefits of this type of exercise below.


Using an Indoor Rowing Machine

With an ergometer, the rower moves the machine to create motions that resemble rowing on the water. The seat of the machine provides comfortable support for the rower, especially in the lower back area. During the rowing motion, the seat actually shifts forward and backward to facilitate flexing and extension of the knees. The movement also involves the upper body, specifically the shoulders and arms. Throughout the entire stroke, the machine enables fluid motion with enough resistance to burn calories and build muscles.


Mastering use of the ergometer may take practice because the full stroke involves a number of different movements. The “catch” is the process of bending the legs and moving up toward the front of the machine. After the catch, the “drive” involves pushing with the legs, arms, and back. The legs straighten and the arms extend while pulling the handle toward the body. Finishing the drive involves completing this movement by pulling the handle all the way in toward the body, straightening the legs fully, and leaning the upper body back a little. Recovery is the short period when the rower is not moving the handle and it is resting against the chest. With legs outstretched, arms are ready to begin extending away from the body to begin another stroke.


Man Rowing on Indoor Rowing Machine

Benefits of an Indoor Rowing Machine

Some rowers embrace the experience of rowing outdoors, preferring to propel a boat in natural conditions on the water. Indoor rowing with an ergometer has many specific benefits to consider, however. The physical process of rowing an actual boat or an ergometer requires the same type of coordination and strength to execute the movements. But rowing in natural conditions involves some variables that will affect the overall experience. Wind and weather can make the movements more or less difficult, depending on the conditions. In a boat, the rower also must focus on balance to ensure that the boat remains upright. This takes some practice to master. The rower in an actual boat also needs to learn how to use the oars correctly. An athlete can utilize the features of an ergometer to gain strength and conditioning. The machine provides information about calories burned, levels achieved, and speeds attained. Indoor rowing competitions are another popular aspect of this type of rowing. Athletes compete in these competitions for speed over specific distances, measured by the ergometers.



Rowing machines have different features and types of resistance. The four kinds of resistance in ergometers are piston, magnetic, water, and air. Current technology favors air resistance for the best exercise experience; however, cheaper machines might have piston resistance. Rowers who seek to mimic the experience of rowing on the water might choose ergometers with water resistance. For quick resistance adjustments, an ergometer with magnetic or air resistance would be the best choice.


Whatever type of machine you choose, and whatever your rowing ability, an indoor rower will allow you to reap the variety of physical rewards offered by this type of exercise. Want to find out more about the differences between rowing on water and rowing indoors? Check out our comparison of these two key rowing styles.

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