Fitness

The indoor rower… Easily the most neglected – and effective – piece of equipment at the gym. Olympian and World Rowing Champion Kirsten Macdonald makes a case for not only the machine, but the actual boat too.

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Here, the insane body benefits of using the rowing machine (and rowing in general).

You’ll get all the gains

“Rowing builds the endurance side of fitness as well as the strength side,” says Macdonald. “You can row at a lower heart rate and intensity for a long time to burn fat and build the endurance base or you can do a high-intensity workout for a shorter period of time.” And because you’re rowing as fast as you can go, it makes for an incredibly tough ride with maximum muscle burn. Consider making time for rowing on the water: a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that it burnt more calories than the machine.

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You’ll be more flexible

If you’ve always struggled to touch your toes, you may benefit from rowing. “Being able to bend over with straight legs while keeping your back straight is an essential movement in rowing,” says Macdonald. “It sounds simple, but even rowers at high levels struggle with this. Rowers have very strong backs to hold the load, but a big aspect that is often missed is being flexible in the hamstrings.” To supplement, MacDonald also does yoga.

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It has a low injury risk

“Rowing is really good in developing muscle strength and fitness without having a huge load on the joints – it’s very low impact,” says Macdonald. A study by Ohio University found that rowers use oxygen more efficiently than other athletes – which in turn means muscle recovery is boosted. It’s also ace for maintaining bone density, something that naturally declines as you age.

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You’ll be all-over toned

You’d be forgiven for thinking the star muscles of the show are in your arms and back. But most of the power is from the drive in your thighs and core. “Rowing is also a great full-body workout,” says MacDonald. “You can get extremely fit and toned through rowing because it works all the muscles in the body without over-developing any particular muscle.” More proof: according to physiologists, one rowing race (two kilometres) is equivalent to playing back-to-back basketball games, in terms of the physical strain.

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