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Rowing Machines in Comparison to Other Cardio

author image Suzy Kerr
Suzy Kerr graduated from Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. She completed her Master's degree in Nutrition Sciences, also at the University of Georgia. Suzy has been a successful health, fitness and nutrition writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in various print and online publications.
Rowing Machines in Comparison to Other Cardio
A man and woman are using rowing machines. Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

When it comes to exercise, a variety of options let you create a diverse workout. One of the most common pieces of equipment among athletes is the rowing machine, a combination exercise machine that helps you build strength while getting a cardiovascular workout. Rowing machines have some advantages and disadvantages, compared to other forms of cardio, that you should consider when creating a workout plan.

Combination Machine Benefits

A combination machine is any exercise equipment that combines muscle building resistance and cardiovascular elements, such as elevated heart rate. A rowing machine is a combination machine that mimics the muscles used when you row a boat. It strengthens and conditions major muscle groups like shoulders, arms, back, core, legs and glutes. It is low-impact and places little stress on your body.

Rowing Machine Workouts

The rowing machine helps you burn calories at a high rate during your workout, and it helps you continue burning calories long after you're done. This is because of the added resistance from the flywheel that your muscles must adjust to, increasing your muscle activation. The set-up of a rowing machine also allows you to practice HIIT -- high intensity interval training -- a type of workout that uses intense bursts of activity followed by periods of less-intense activity. HIIT benefits those who want a quick, efficient, calorie-burning workout. To begin, warm-up at a steady pace for three to five minutes. Set your resistance to low and row at a moderate pace for 60 seconds. Next, pick up the pace -- focusing on pulling the handles and driving your legs -- for the next 20 seconds. Repeat eight to 10 times, and then cool down for a few minutes for a complete workout.

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Rowing vs. Treadmills and Ellipticals

A 125-pound person walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 3.5 mph burns around 120 calories. However, walking or running on treadmills put stress on your ankles, knees and hips, which can be quite painful. Ellipticals are similar to treadmills by mimicking the motions you go through as you walk and run; however, your movements are much more fluid -- you move with the machine instead of on it. A 125-pound person working out at a moderate pace on an elliptical for 30 minutes will burn around 270 calories. It is a suitable machine for toning your body, but you won't gain muscle mass. Rowing vigorously, a 125-pound person who works for 30 minutes will burn around 255 calories. Rowing puts less stress on your joints and builds muscle mass while working your heart and improving your cardiovascular health.

Rowing vs. Sports

A rowing machine is an excellent training tool for athletes no matter what sport they play because it works the whole body regardless of the caloric burn. A 125-pound dancer can burn anywhere from 90 to 180 calories in a 30-minute dance session, which is not as much as he could burn on a rowing machine, and dancing is harder on joints. The same dancer can play badminton for 30 minutes to burn 135 calories, softball to burn 150 calories or go hiking to burn 180 calories; all are great cardiovascular exercises, but the risk of injury is much higher, and the sports don't necessarily provide a full-body strength workout. On a rowing machine, you are sitting comfortably, low to the ground, and you go at your own pace, not the pace of the game.

Rowing Machines vs. Stationary Bikes

Stationary bikes are easy on your joints because you're not making hard contact with the ground, and all of your motions are fluid. While bikes do burn calories, they only work your leg muscles and your heart. If you are 125 pounds and you bike for 30 minutes at 12 to 13 miles per hour, you'll burn about 240 calories. You'll still have to come up with a high-intensity routine to be able to incorporate other muscle groups. You will still burn more calories performing a lower-intensity workout on a rowing machine, and you will also get a full-body strength workout rowing, as opposed to just building strength in your legs.

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