The rowing machine—often referred to as the ‘erg’—has been a staple of CrossFit® boxes since being featured in the inaugural CrossFit games in 2007. For many other fitness enthusiasts, though, this effective exercise trend is newly on their radar. Not only are boutique rowing studios popping up all over the U.S. (like Greenville Indoor Rowing in South Carolina, Row Zone in Philadelphia, Ro Fitness in Texas, and Row House and CITYROW in New York to name a few), but even large chain gyms are putting ergs on their floors.
Why all the hype? Rowing machines are compact, easy-to-use, and offer a rare combo of benefits. Not only is rowing low-impact (meaning it’s easy on your joints), but it also works pretty much all of the major muscle in your body—about 84 percent of them, to be exact.
“The common misconception is that rowing is an upper-body-focused exercise, but it’s really all about engaging your core and pushing hard with your legs,” says Lisa Niren, certified group fitness instructor and CITYROW trainer. “I look at each stroke on the machine as essentially a jump squat and a deadlift because it mimics the actions of both.” Since rowing engages so many of these big muscles, you burn major calories and reap both muscle and cardio benefits.
The average 155-pound person burns 260 calories in half an hour of moderate rowing—but you really amp up the benefits of this workout by incorporating it into high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Combine intervals of rowing with intervals of strength-focused moves off the machine and you’ve got a workout that’s as dynamic as it is challenging.
Try these four HIIT rowing workouts to torch calories, build strength, and improve endurance—all in under an hour.