If you’ve ever been to a gym, it’s highly likely that you will have seen and probably used a cross trainer. You might even have one in your home or know someone who does. Cross trainers are excellent exercise machines for cardio, light toning, and weight loss. Them and treadmills are the go-to options for cardio exercise, leaving another option somewhat in the shadows.
I am of course talking about the humble rowing machine! I know what you might be thinking: humble? Rowing machines are exhausting and elitist! It’s true that people are less likely to try the rowing machine due to being unsure of how it works, or because they are limited by their bodies in some or other way, but rowing machines are excellent for cardio and muscle toning and are definitely worth a shot!
Rowing machines are ideal for you if you’re overweight, want to work your cardiovascular system, or want a full body work out. Building muscle, gaining fitness, and losing weight are all common motivations for rowing. It is also important to keep a lot of variety in your work outs so that your progress does not slow down and eventually stagnate. By introducing the rowing machine into your regime, you are adding an element of surprise to your training which will make your body more susceptible to change.
What’s so Great about Rowing Machines?
- The rowing action works all of your muscle groups in both your upper and lower body, including your arms, legs, and core. If you’re after a workout which will target all areas and help to build muscle tone, then rowing is the activity for you!
- Rowing also helps to improve cardiovascular fitness which will not only stop you from getting out of breath when exerting yourself but will also help you to burn calories and lose weight and improve the condition of your heart and lungs.
- Rowing machines do not always require a power source. Simpler models do not need to be connected to the mains so if you are thinking of buying one for home use, this could be a more efficient and cost-effective option than a high-end cross trainer.
- Rowing machines are much quieter than machines such as treadmills and offer a similar environment for exercising as a good cross trainer. Listen to your music or chat with a gym buddy without being drowned out by groaning and whirring noises.
- Rowing is low impact on joints and hips, and when done vigorously can burn up to 850 calories per hour. Even though the motion might take some getting used to, this definitely makes it worth it!
And the Downsides?
- It can take some time to get used to the rowing action, and attention must be paid to your movements to make sure you’re doing them correctly. Because the handle is connected to the cord which is not rigid, it can move in all directions. Finding the perfect balance can take a few sessions to master.
- If you pull too hard or bend too far forward, you might risk injuring or straining your back. Again, this comes down to concentrating on your movements and making sure you are holding the correct form. This will also help you to get the most out of your training.
- If too much resistance is added too soon, you might find the workout too difficult and become demotivated. Make sure you tailor the session to your personal level and goals.
How Does that Compare with Cross Trainers?
Cross trainers offer many of the same benefits as rowing machines: they are also excellent for cardio workouts and can help you to effectively and safely lose weight and gain fitness. By editing your cross training to include different positions, you can also keep your body on its toes and keep your progress going.
Why are Cross Trainers so Popular?
- They are ideal for beginners as they are simple to use and the motion that comes with cross training is very natural. If you start on a very low resistance, you can easily get into the flow of things and can slowly work your way up.
- There is less risk of injury than with the rowing machine as there is no strenuous bending of the back, and the movement is very fluid. There is no impact on the joints either which makes cross trainers great for rehabilitation purposes as well as exercise.
- Cross trainers can be used with or without use of your arms, making your work out customizable depending on what your goals are. By dropping your arms, you can engage your core and work different groups of muscles.
- Cross training can help the user to improve not only their fitness, but also their posture and balance. If you make sure that your form is consistent and correct, and your back is straight, you will be strengthening your back and leg muscles in such a way that back pain will be reduced, and your posture improved.
- You control the speed at which you pedal which enables you to tailor your session to you. Cross trainers are perfect for high intensity interval training which helps to burn more calories more quickly, so you see the difference in your body after a very short time.
What about the Drawbacks?
- Some people find cross trainers dull or boring as the motion can be very repetitive and simple. If you do not concentrate on varying your routine, you might become complacent or disheartened.
- The onus is on you to put the effort in. Your pedalling and input is what determines the efficacy of the work out which means if you do not try to challenge yourself, you’ll be wasting your time.
Before You Decide…
Effective exercise is all about understanding your own body, your own needs and desires, and that everyone is built differently. What works for one person might not necessarily work for you, so try as many things as possible to find out!