My goal in life is to work hard and keep it simple. That’s how I was raised. Midwestern roots, man. I also like to keep it simple in the gym. I stick to primarily straightforward cardio, agility, and core workouts. Plus, twice a week I play pickup hoops with other Men’s Health staffers. (Even better cardio.) For strength training, pushups and pull-ups are my secret weapons. Simple.
Now, I’ve seen those rowing machines in every damn gym I’ve been to—and when Frank Underwood uses one on House of Cards. But I didn’t believe the hype, so I never tried it out. (Not the best attitude, I know.) I always thought it was an overly complicated, overly expensive machine that was a waste of time and money—no need for it.
But I was happily wrong. I finally tried it out, and, since, I’ve added different rowing variations to my workouts. I’m glad I did.
Here are four reasons why you should as well.
Rowing is a Great Warm-up
No matter what kind of workout you’re going to do, rowing to warm up is a smart choice. Benefit number one: Rowing really gets my blood flowing before a run. Benefit number two: It’s good before a lift—lighting up my arms, which in turn makes my dumbbell chest presses that much harder (and better).
My favorite warm up:
Bottom line: You’ll get your heart rate up. You’ll get a nice sweat going. And you’ll be pumped for your workout. Win, win, win.
Related: The 5 Rowing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making
Rowing Adds Variation to Your Workout
If you’re a cardio fiend, rowing is the perfect alternative or companion to running or biking. If I want substitute out my normal treadmill routine, rowing helps change up the scenery—with less stress on my joints.
When I don’t want to run, this is one of my go-to endurance rowing workouts:
You can add difficulty by adding more rounds to the ladder, or repeat the same ladder a few different times.
For more rowing workouts that burn fat and build muscle, read this.
Rowing Helps Make You More Explosive
I’ve played hoops since I was a kid. Basketball is a game that requires you to be explosive. Rowing helps me with my conditioning and explosion, working my arms, core, hips, and legs. This can do the same for you competitive racers and athletes out there.
Because rowing is a total-body workout, full-out sprints are a great way to work on your speed and endurance, I found. And, once again, it’s easier on your ankles, knees, and hips. Since I started rowing, I like to add this super simple sprinting challenge to my workout:
Row 100 meters in 30 seconds on the highest difficulty (level 10). An even greater test: Row 150 meters in 30 seconds. My personal best is 153 meters.
Related: The Right Way to Do Rowing Sprints for a Faster Time
Rowing Is a Great Finisher
You might think you’re done with your workout—but you’re not done with your workout until you finish with the rowing machine. It’s an amazing high to complete an already hard workout with a hard rowing finisher.
Here’s a finisher—designed by former Men’s Health fitness director BJ Gaddour—that I use religiously now, one that forces you to push yourself at the end:
House of Cardio
If you’re really looking for a challenge at the end of your workout, try to complete the 2000-meter row in 7 minutes (video below).
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