The rowing craze is quickly catching on around the nation, with some even calling it the “new spinning.” And while the rower may not replace your indoor bike completely, there’s good reason people are starting to gravitate toward this full-body workout that hits about 85 percent of your muscles when done correctly. “Rowing is high intensity yet low impact, so it’s safe and smart for your body,” says Helaine Knapp, founder and CEO of New York City’s CityRow, where intervals on an WaterRower are broken up with strength exercises on a mat. “Plus, anyone can do it—people are surprised at how quickly they get in the groove in their first class.”
Here's why people are loving it:
Rowing just might be the most efficient exercise ever. "With each stroke, pretty much every part of the body is used," says Stella Lucia Volpe, an exercise physiologist and professor of nutrition sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia and an avid rower. And it may let you skip crunches—for good. "A big part of rowing is core strength," she adds. "People think it's all arms, but rowing is much more legs and core."
CityRow founder and CEO Helaine Knapp decided to line a loft with rowing machines after losing weight and making her own body "tight" with a rowing machine at her local gym. She hired a team of fitness pros to create a 50-minute high-intensity interval-training workout (which alternates between the rower and the mat), and opened CityRow last January. Classes often wait list only.
Similar to indoor cyclists, rowers are meant to stay in sync with one another, as they would if they were gliding across the water. However, unlike Spinning's call for 95 percent legs and 5 percent upper body, the rowing ratio is more along the lines of 60 percent legs and 40 percent upper body. CityRow's mantra ("legs! core! arms!") is repeated again and again throughout each 30- to 60-second sprint.
"Rowing is a full-body exercise, and it keeps the heart rate elevated," says Garrett Roberts, an exercise physiologist and personal trainer who founded GoRow Studios in Hoboken, New Jersey. "But then it's leg press after leg press and row after row, so there's a huge strength-training component to it too."
Which is why you'll get a svelte physique faster. "Rowing burns two to three times the amount of calories of Spinning," explains Roberts. "Unlike a bike, which only has resistance in one direction, rowing has resistance in both directions—forward and back—making you much stronger and increase the rate at which you burn calories."
Find it: At gyms, independent studios, and some CrossFit boxes