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You don’t have to be a competitive rower to reap the benefits of rowing.

Get this: Rowing machines, also known as ergometers or ergs, use up to 86 percent of your muscles. This, in turn, helps endurance, strengthens, and tones the muscles. Rowing even provides some surprising benefits for your heart and lungs.

This article takes a look at six benefits of rowing.

It’s a common misconception that rowing only works the arms. In reality, rowing is a full-body workout that uses 86 percent of the muscles.

According to the American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA), the rowing stroke is comprised of 65 to 75 percent leg work and 25 to 35 percent upper body work.

The major muscle groups it targets are the:

  • upper back
  • pecs
  • arms
  • abdominal muscles
  • obliques

Rowing is also known to strengthen the leg muscles, including the:

  • quadriceps
  • calves
  • glutes

The leg muscles are primarily engaged during the drive part of the stroke, or when pushing off the foot stretcher.

As long as you have access to an ergometer, you can add rowing to your exercise routine.

This exercise has also been deemed safe for people with low vision and those who are blind.

A 2015 study including 24 people with low vision found that rowing 5 days a week for 6 weeks led to a significant decrease in fat mass and total body fat percent. Additionally, the participants lowered their cholesterol levels, and their back strength and trunk flexion increased significantly.

Rowing burns serious calories without putting added stress on your joints. It allows you to control the movement and pace, and is a great exercise to turn to for active recovery.

It’s sometimes recommended as an exercise option for people with early stages of osteoarthritis.

A 2014 study of 24 people over 8 weeks found that joint torques, or rotations, in the elbow, shoulder, lumbar, and knee improved by 30 percent.

The same can’t be said for high-impact exercises, such as running or plyometrics.

There’s a mind-body connection with rowing.

While you might find the most calming benefits by rowing outside on the water, you can still achieve some level of this indoors.

This comes from the smooth, gliding motion you can create on the ergometer, and the repetitive movements that allow the mind to go on autopilot.

This involves the four phases of the row stroke, which includes the:

  • catch
  • drive
  • finish
  • recovery

Rowing also releases endorphins, which are those feel-good hormones that reduce stress.

As a cardio exercise, rowing strengthens the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart, blood vessels, and blood. It’s responsible for transporting important materials, such as nutrients and oxygen, throughout the body.

Since rowing is such an intense workout, the heart has to work hard to transport more blood to the body. This can improve heart strength.

This may be beneficial for those who have or could be at risk of heart problems.

When it comes to exercise machines at the gym, you may overlook the rowing machine at first.

However, this may quickly diminish once you compare it to different exercise machines, such as the treadmill and the elliptical.

For example, the treadmill focuses mainly on the lower body, while the ergometer provides a full-body workout. While the rowing machine and elliptical both work the upper and lower half of the body, the rowing machine also works the abs with each stroke.

There are other important differences to note as well, especially when it comes to owning a machine. Since a rowing machine can be folded up, you can stow it away when you’re not using it. This is a real benefit for those living in tiny spaces.

Also, if you live in a condo or apartment where people are below you, a rowing machine is much quieter than a treadmill.

Rowing machines also tend to be more affordable than treadmills.

Shopping for a rowing machine

For a rowing machine with a solid build that also looks nice, creates a soothing sound as you work, and can be folded up, check out WaterRowers online.

If you’re looking for a standard cable rowing machine, such as those often found at the gym, you can shop for one online. These machines are available at different price points.

According to Harvard Health, a 125-pound person can burn 255 calories in 30 minutes of a vigorous rowing workout. A 155-pound person can burn 316 calories, while a 185-pound person can burn 377.

In comparison, a 125-pound person can burn 270 calories in 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer, while a 155-pound can burn 355 calories, and a 185-pound person can burn 400.

If you combine daily rowing with a healthy, balanced diet, this a great way to be active or stay in shape.

You don’t have to be a competitive rower to try this workout. These tips can help you get the most out of your time on the rowing machine.

Consider this for good technique

Bad posture, such as rounded shoulders, or incorrect form can lead to injury or strain.

Low back pain is a common concern for many rowers. Research from 2015 found that 25 to 81 percent of injuries reported by male rowers were in the low back.

A common cause of low back pain is not engaging the abdominal muscles during each stroke. When this happens, the lower spine is forced to overcompensate for weak abdominal muscles.

Another common mistake is pushing with the legs and leaning back at the same time. It’s important to keep these movements separate: Push with the legs first, lean back with the abdominals tight, and then pull your arms back toward you.

Don’t overexert yourself when you’re first starting out

To help make rowing a habit, be sure to stop exercising when you’re too tired to maintain proper form. Experts advise against completing a strenuous rowing session after you’ve already tired your arms from another intense workout.

It’s also not recommended to undertake things such as high-load weightlifting sessions before completing a high-intensity workout on a rowing machine.

Rowing isn’t just for the outdoors.

A rowing machine, or ergometer, lets you reap the benefits of a rowing workout indoors. Rowing has many benefits, such as helping you build endurance and strengthen your body. Research even shows that it can improve heart health.

When compared to other exercise machines, such as a treadmill or elliptical, the ergometer packs a mean punch. If you’re new to rowing or any fitness routine, talk to your doctor first to get the all-clear before you begin.