Rowing might seem like a pastime that's only reserved for preppy college students or Olympians, but it's actually a surprisingly accessible, low-impact cardio workout. It's easy to learn the proper form for rowing — and you don't need a boat to do it.
Indoor rowing machines, or "ergs," are designed with a seat on a rail that travels back and forth, to simulate rowing on a boat, says Annie Mulgrew, program director at CityRow in New York City. On the machine itself, there's a monitor with two metrics that you'll need to keep track of while you row: speed, measured in strokes per minute (or SPM), and split time, which is a ratio of how many meters you can row in a period of time, and represents your stroke intensity, Mulgrew says.
Most gyms have ergs in the cardio room, and there are even boutique rowing classes popping up, at least in NYC, with CityRow and Row House joining the fitness fray. There's an art to rowing on a machine, and once you figure out the form it can feel as meditative as cruising through actual water.
"There's a common misconception that rowing is an upper-body focused exercise," Mulgrew says. "In actuality, rowing is a full-body exercise, in which the majority of the stroke or movement is powered by the lower body." Ahead, you'll find step-by-step instructions for how to use a rowing machine, according to Mulgrew and Dre Mihaylo, a manager at Row House. And once you have it mastered, there are two beginner workouts you can try on your own.