Chances are your entire cardio life has consisted of alternating stints on the treadmill, elliptical and bike. You probably thought that would be the best way to burn calories, torch fat and increase your overall fitness, right? Wrong. Turns out you should have been rowing. The oft-forgotten rowing machine burns the most amount of calories in the shortest amount of time with the lowest perceived rate of exertion, while being easiest on your precious, carefully-honed body.
It’s not your fault. You didn’t know any better. And why? Well, for two reasons: First, the poor rowing machine is usually cast to the corner like an unwanted stepchild — an afterthought amidst the more high-profile cardio equipment of treadmills, ellipticals and bikes. Not very motivating. And secondly, you most likely don’t know how to use it.
But that’s about to change. New class, ShockWave, is giving the rowing machine the Cinderella moment it deserves. These 30 and 45-minute circuit-style cardio and strength sessions in the coveted group fitness setting are putting the rower front and center in a team environment. Members are broken up into groups and placed at either the rowing or one of 3 strength stations. No one rotates until each rower completes his or her programmed distance on the new, chic wooden-framed Indo-Row machines, which actually use water as your resistance.
“We wanted to be able to introduce a whole group of people to the sport in a way that fits their needs: short and efficient,” says Jay Blahnik, Equinox fitness advisory board member and group fitness instructor who co-created the class with World Champion rower and ultra-endurance athlete Josh Crosby. “Rowing uses 80 percent of your muscle mass and recruits 9 major muscle groups, so you are going to get the most for your minutes,” says Blahnik, “It’s the densest form of cardio you can do.”
That is, if you do it right. “Order is extremely important: Think legs, core, arms on the way out, and arms, core, legs on the way back in,” says Crosby of the proper rowing technique, “About 60 percent of your power should come from your legs, 20 percent from your core and 20 percent from your arms.”
Watch him move through his workout on and off the water in the video above, filmed on the Charles River in Boston (in the ultimate crewing craft, a Resolute 1X) and the iconic Union Boat Club where Crosby, his father and grandfather all rowed. “One of the most effective techniques we used during serious training season was a weights circuit,” says Crosby, “It was 45 seconds as hard as you could go, then a 15 second rest. We would rotate through the stations and just hammer it. That was what I think made us the strongest.”