Training your heart and cardiovascular system is, hands down, the most effective way to add years to your life. Here’s where your rowing machine comes in.


According to the CDC, the leading cause of death is cardiovascular disease. There are several terms that get thrown around in this area, so let’s just list them out and get them out of the way:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • heart disease
  • coronary heart disease
  • coronary artery disease
  • peripheral artery disease

The umbrella term is cardiovascular disease, and these are all smaller issues that describe variations. There is a variety of problems that can occur with your heart and blood vessels. Plaque could build up in your arteries and inhibit blood flow. This can happen to the blood vessels that supply the heart and end up starving it of nutrients and oxygen.

So if the leading cause of death is cardiovascular disease, then the obvious way to go about preventing or even fixing these problems is do to cardiovascular exercise.

Sounds almost too simple, right?

What Is Cardiovascular Exercise?

Cardio = heart.

Vascular = blood vessels.

Cardiovascular exercise stresses your heart and trains it to work harder and be more efficient. A well-trained runner will have a very low resting heart rate because their heart is very efficient.

The simplicity of cardiovascular exercise is to do some form of repetitive movement that forces your heart to work harder. Examples would be walking, running, swimming, rowing or other sports, such as soccer, tennis or basketball.

Why Rowing?

The benefit of rowing vs running or cycling is that it utilizes your upper body in addition to your lower body.

It is also a low-impact exercise.

The low-impact nature of it works for those who aren’t already fit young people and may need to start on an easy gradient. Even running is sometimes too much of a gradient for an average person. Especially considering that your average American is overweight.

So most people are in need of an easy gradient. Rowing fits the bill and I have started many, many people out on the rowing machine.

In my twenty years of training, I have seen people of all ages and fitness levels. I haven’t gone wrong by starting them out on a rowing machine.

You can track how much work you do in many different ways, whether it is by distance, calories burned, number of pulls, etc. So it is easy to set goals and make sure that my clients see their progress.

My clients see their progress in the amount of work they do and how they feel afterwards. That counts for a lot. There is an art to getting someone to stick to an exercise program.

How Increased Circulation Prolongs Your Life and Prevents Health Problems

Your health is closely tied to your circulatory system.

If any area of your body has restricted blood flow, it begins to atrophy and die off. Sounds extreme, but that’s what happens. It’s like cutting off the food supply from a military unit out in the field. It will stop them dead in their tracks.

The benefit of rowing (and any cardiovascular exercise) is that you increase the resources that reach all parts of your body. A main purpose of blood is to carry oxygen and nutrients to those tissues in need. Boosting that activity does nothing but help your health.

Posture, Posture, Posture

Everyone’s posture sucks. Only slightly exaggerating here.

Lifestyles of sitting poorly at computers, sleeping on our sides, looking down at our phones and the physical toll of various jobs have most people bent forward.

Everywhere I go, I am the posture Nazi. I’m not annoying and I get thanked for it, but it is somewhat of an epidemic. Rowing fixes posture.

Rowing makes us use the exact muscles that will fix bad posture. If I could put the world on a rowing machine, I would! I feel so passionate about this. There are so many beautiful people out there except their posture sucks. I see a girl with thousands of dollars in her hair, clothes, nails, skin care, etc., but she’s bent over like an old hag!

Fixing your own posture is more than a worthwhile fitness goal. Most people see it as a “proper society” kind of thing. I see improper posture as a health concern and fixing it as a fitness achievement.

Getting Started

The reason rowing isn’t more popular is that there is a bit of technique involved. There is also a small period of time that rowing just doesn’t feel good because those muscles in your upper back aren’t developed.

I’ve dedicated a lot of time working out my coaching methods. Here is a video that gives good, easy to assimilate information:

You can always have your form reviewed by a fitness trainer who knows his business. Film yourself and compare it to several videos.

While it is possible to hurt yourself, the risk of injury on this machine is low for most of the population.

The Concept 2 Rower is the best rower I have used. Its simplicity is what steals the deal here.

They have fancy ones with see through plastic and water inside and fancy graphics. They have very simple ones that creak. I find that this is a happy medium between the two ends of the spectrum.

But, by all means, get the one that you will use. If you want to try a few out, go to gyms around your town and utilize the customary “free day trial pass” to check out the equipment. I think any CrossFit gym would let you in for a $15 pass and probably teach you proper rowing technique on top of it.

Workout Variety

I’ve only been talking about the use of this rower for cardiovascular exercise. But there are other ways to use this baby in some fun workouts. Ever heard of anaerobic exercise?

Anaerobic exercise is exercise that is very intense and doesn’t utilize the fat burning metabolic pathway. That pathway uses oxygen and the other pathways don’t, hence the term an- “not” aerobic “air.”

Anaerobic training is very intense and of short duration. It is not to be done without a thorough and proper warm up. That goes for any type of high intensity training. Write this on the wall: The more intense the workout, the more thorough of a warm up is needed.

Warm ups are done so that you don’t injure yourself. I’ve seen a friend start a sprinting workout without warming up and within 10 minutes he pulled a muscle.

Please don’t skimp on warm ups.

Example Workouts

One of the simplest variations, which I do regularly, is a 500 meter row on the machine. This is done after a thorough warm up and at full effort. The machine can be set to count down from 500 meters and starts as soon as you start pulling. Track your best times, compete with friends. It’s a damn good time!

Another one is to pair rowing up with push ups or sit ups. I like to row 1,000 meters, then do X amount of push ups. Four or five rounds of that will make a pretty good workout, especially if you do it as fast as you can and time yourself. Compare your times to see how much you are improving.

One hellish workout (if you like torture) is to pair up lunges with rowing. I set up my rower, row a specific amount (sometimes 500m, other times 1,500m) and then lunge a set distance away from the rower and then right back. Pick a number of rounds to do and time yourself. Even if you just go slowly the first time, you’ll have something to compare it to next time.

Then start stacking variations up like:
500m row
50 push ups
100 lunges
Run around the block
3 rounds of the above

I have had no single piece of exercise equipment at home that I use as much as my rowing machine.

It’s Not Just a Rower

This is not a sales pitch to only do rowing for the rest of your life, even though it does have the potential to significantly extend your time on this planet.

Look, I’m going to be honest with you. Through many years of working with people, I have found that gimmicks work. If it is cool, new, neat, shiny and fashionable, then people will tend to get exercising more.

I always encourage people to invest in new exercise clothes that fit and that they want to wear. If you want to put your exercise clothes on, then you’ll get to the gym. If you get to the gym, you’ll exercise. If you exercise, you’ll be happier, live a fuller life and give more to your family and community.

But it all starts with fancy exercise clothes.

It is kind of a similar thing with getting a rower. It adds another weapon to your exercise armory. Another way to spice up your exercise life and give you that extra push to get started.

I’m not saying this to downplay what I said before. But I will say that anything that gets you going to the gym is an investment worth making.

At one point in my life I noticed that my personal workout attendance was directly correlated to whether or not I had a pre-workout supplement on hand. So I spent 20 dollars on some powder and drastically improved my own exercise scene.

So many people are 20 dollars away from good gym attendance. What’s your reason?


From my point of view, having spent 20 years in gyms, I see a ton of potential in people.

It usually goes to the tune of “If he stood up straighter, he would have more of a presence and charisma when teaching his workshops” or “She would have a very elegant walk, but her hips are tight and messing up her gait” or “How do I get that woman interested in losing her first 50 pounds?”

In efforts to keep clients coming, I have tried all manner of reasoning, tricks, gimmicks, games, etc. to get the person to get their butts in the gym. I’ve tried all sorts of stuff from instituting rewards and penalties systems, to giving bonus sessions and even down to cleaning and disinfecting every machine and weight before someone touched it. It was my goal to see what made them tick and how to nail this down so it wasn’t so much guesswork.

The end result is that everyone is different and even individuals change from day to day. What gets Tommy to come in today won’t necessarily work tomorrow.

But what will always work is having a variety of options. A variety of machines to look at and choose from and say: “It’s not a running day, but I can do a bit of rowing.” Or if it is raining outside and you’ve got a rowing machine at home, you can say: “I’ll just listen to my audiobook and row for half an hour.”

I must be honest and say that I’ll do most anything to get people exercising. I don’t care what age or color or shape or education level you have or are or belong to.

And I can say with certainty that they all could benefit from some rowing.

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