November 6, 2015 Zhou Jia

Why rowing is the new spinning

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The latest trend spreading across the US in the past few years is for rowing classes to be taking the place of spinning classes. The reason why? Rowing is just a better all-round form of exercise.

Why compare these two activities in the first place? Both are forms of cardiovascular exercise which simulate outdoor activities i.e. rowing and cycling, using machines which can be put indoors i.e. ergometers and stationary bikes. Both are non-impact and therefore avoid some of the problems associated with running. And both can be done either individually or, as tends to be more popular these days, in a class format with a thumping beat in the background and an instructor barking out encouragement/instructions.

There the similarities end. The reason why exercise scientists are touting rowing as the superior mode of exercise is because it is a full body workout which therefore burns more energy and gets your heart and lungs working harder. Unlike cycling which is pretty much a lower body exercise, rowing involves using the upper and lower body together. As Garrett Roberts, an exercise physiologist, puts it “Each rep is essentially a leg press, a dead lift, and a row. And because you’re working every muscle group in your body, your heart rate is elevated.”

That’s why when a buddy recently asked me for advice on what type of stationary bike they should get for a home gym, my immediate response was – forget the bike, just get a rowing machine instead.

Besides the science, the trend has been helped in no small amount by the fact that several Hollywood stars – Jason Statham and Zac Efron included, have explicitly mentioned rowing as a core part of their workout routines. Looking for a way to up the ante on your workouts this year? Try rowing.