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Get It Up, Your Heart Rate, That Is: StepMill and Rowing Machine

Thanksgiving is still over two weeks away, and I already feel pressed for time. I came up with a time-saver cardio routine that combines two pieces of cardio equipment that also strengthen different parts of the body. These machines are also always free at the gym, which means no waiting around time. I'm talking about the StepMill and the rowing machine, two of my neglected faves at the gym. The StepMill gets my heart rate up while strengthening my legs, and the rowing machine keeps my heart rate up and strengthens my upper body from the palms of my hands to between my shoulder blades. Talk about doubling up!

I do want to encourage you all to experiment with the StepMill. I know many people find it intimidating, since it looks like an escalator going the opposite. But it is a great way to work your legs. Walking sideways on a StepMill, holding onto the handles of course, works the outsides and insides of the legs wonderfully — which in turn saves you even more time at the gym, since you won't have to strength-train those spots later.

To see this 30-minute workout,


StepMill for 20 minutes

Time Level
0:00-5:00 5.0
5:00-10:00 6
10:00-15:00 7
15:00-17:00 6.0
17:00-19:00 6.0
Switch sides
19:00-20:00 5.0

Rowing Machine for 10 minutes
Set damper to a point between 4 and 5

Time Strokes per minute
0:00-5:00 25-28
5:00-6:00 35-40
7:00-8:00 25-28
8:00-9:00 30-35
9:00-10:00 20-25

I followed this workout with some donkey kicks for my hamstrings and some ab work on the captain's chair. I stretched my legs and my upper back and went home to a lovely dinner made by my hubby. Sorry, dinner is not included with this workout.


Join The Conversation
Madamesoybean Madamesoybean 8 years
I row. If you are rowing correctly the action is actually 80% legs. If you are rowing incorrectly, you're getting an "upper body workout" and hurting your back. Good form will allow you to save $$$ and skip the step...unless it's your thing and you enjoy the variety.
Laurenh987 Laurenh987 8 years
I agree, I feel like the StepMill is better than the treadmill. It really kicks your butt. Again, all of the rowing feedback is good to know!
misfitgirl misfitgirl 8 years
OMG...I tried this tonight! It destroyed me, haha. I just started eating more strictly and working out more regularly again (this is day three), so I'm a little out-of-shape. Funnily enough, when I got to the gym someone was on the one StepMill, but happily he was gone by the time I had changed clothes. I have only ever done the StepMill for 11 minutes ( level increase per minute for half the time and then back down). So this was a big difference. Sadly, I only made it 15 minutes...I just had to stop. I'm not sure that I've ever sweat so much in my life...I almost panicked when I realized that I didn't actually know how to stop the machine! So then I did 20 minutes on the recumbant bike to recover. Then I tried rowing, which I've only done maybe once or twice. Thank you for advising the change in damper, because it was on 10 when I sat down and I wouldn't even have known to change it. I think that I did OK...I had a hard time following the changes in the rows per minute, so I ended up doing around a low 30ish pace for 15 minutes instead of 10. I think my form was pretty good (maybe not perfect)...I feel it in the backs of my arms and sort of where the shoulders meet the torso (like when you do chest exercises), so hopfully that's good. I finished up with 20 minutes on the elliptical. I don't like spazzy workouts like this (I know it's recommended to switch it up, but I like measurable goals), but I am actually proud of myself for trying to salvage my workout and not being completely defeated.
Fitness Fitness 8 years
Thanks for the rowing feedback. I have always set the damper to be comfortably hard, but injury prevention is key. I will change it the work out and mend my ways.
Flack Flack 8 years
I'm going to echo the above poster - do NOT set the damper that high on an ergometer. I cringed a little reading that it's considered an upper body workout - if used properly, the exercise (which simulates actual on-water rowing) should get 70% of its stroke power from your legs, particularly your hamstrings. As a rowing coach, I see far too many people trying to crank it with their back and arms on the erg with the damper set to 10 (trust me, it's not like increasing resistance on a bike), and that's simply begging for back problems. The order of the stroke should be (from starting 'crouched' at the catch, closest to the wheel): - Extend the legs, keeping the angle of the back static and the arms straight. - Once the legs are extended, the back should swing (not crank) into a very slight layback, focusing a bit of tension on the abs. - Once the 'layback' of the stroke is complete, bring your arms in to around the bottom of your bra and then let them follow the chain so that they're once more straight. - At this point, follow the momentum and bring the back angle back to the where it was at the beginning. - Now, allow your knees to bend and bring you back up to the 'catch', so you're once again crouched. Rowing is a full body workout that's really only rivaled by something like cross country skiing. It's low impact, and can be great for people recovering from injuries, but it has its own inherent dangers. Please, please, please be careful of your back...stress injuries are no fun. If at any point you're finding you need to raise your hands to get over your knees, just focus on the the legs-back-arms, arms-back-legs pattern and you'll be saving yourself a lot of hassle, as well as getting an exponentially more beneficial workout.
Brooke_72 Brooke_72 8 years
Good combo idea. The rowing machine is usally free at my gym but the Stairmill area (7 in a row) are always full during gym "rush hours" (pre work, lunchtime and right after work).
lcterp lcterp 8 years
Just a tip for the rowing machine, make sure that you keep the resistance around 4 or 5, the level that is closest to actual water resistance. Going to high can actually hurt you. Also remember to extend your hands and arms forward before your knees, you don't want your hands to have to lift up over your knees, they should always stay on an even plane. When your legs are extended and you pull your arms back into your body it should be just below your chest and you should be creating a slight crunch with your abs.
TammyO TammyO 8 years
I love the step mill and rowing machine! These two are never occupied at my gym, especially the step mill. I have a feeling most people loathe that step mill, it can be hard on your knees and back though. I find the step mill gets up my heart rate much more than jogging does, then again I'm a crappy runner anyway.
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