Want to Burn Fat and Build Muscle Without Even Standing Up? Meet the Rowing Machine

Photographer: Kat Borchart
POPSUGAR Photography | Kat Borchart
POPSUGAR Photography | Kat Borchart

Want to get strong? Want to burn fat? How about doing both from the comfort of your butt? Yes! You can! Building muscle and burning fat at the same time almost seems too good to be true, but it's a reality. You can row, row, row yourself right into your dream physique on one simple machine — the rowing machine.

Sarah Chadwell, NASM-CPT, told POPSUGAR, "Spending just 30-60 minutes of 'seat time' on the 'ole ergometer, aka rowing machine, will work virtually all the muscles in your upper and lower body and increase your cardiovascular conditioning. That's not all! You're also going to rapidly burn calories, which equals fat loss!"

Want Firm, Lean, Muscular Legs? Sit and Row!

The rowing machine is commonly mistaken as solely an upper-body workout. It does require upper-body work, but your legs and hips carry the real burden on this machine. They are your power generators! Because of the constant pushing and pulling required by your legs to create momentum and move against resistance, you can build glorious glutes, quadriceps, and hamstring muscles.

Want a Toned Upper Body? Sit and Row!

What other muscles are taxed? Your chest, back, shoulders, traps, biceps, and triceps all play an important role in completing the "stroke." The handle is attached to a cable that you pull in a constant motion similar to rowing a boat. The resistance you pull against requires the activation of nearly all your upper-body muscles.

Want a Sexy, Flat Stomach? Sit and Row!

Let's not leave out abs. While rowing, you will be bracing your body and pulling with everything you've got including your almighty core. Both your internal and external obliques and rectus abdominis (your abs that show outwardly) will be working to stabilize your body, and you will continuously draw power from your core as you pull.

More Muscle = More Fat Burn

Chadwell stated, "People who are more muscular burn more calories even while they are at rest. So, why hit the treadmill to burn fat when you can build your physique and burn fat at the same time? The rower is a win-win!"

With all the muscle recruiting and muscle building you will achieve get with rowing, you'll also get a metabolism boost. Just think — even when you're sitting on your butt at work you are going to be burning fat throughout the day.

Technique Is Everything

"Technique is of the utmost importance when you row," according to Chadwell. "Proper form puts emphasis on the muscles you're trying to work, makes your workout efficient, and prevents injury just like when you lift."

Therefore, proper form is the first step in speeding up your results. If you're a visual learner, watch this video on proper rowing technique.

Don't Resist the Resistance

Every row machine has a resistance mechanism that allows you to increase and decrease the amount of force you pull against. Obviously, the greater the resistance, the more difficult the workout will be, but also the greater the burn.

When you first begin rowing, focus on nailing your technique. Once you build some endurance and body speed, then focus on making your workout a little more difficult each week by upping the intensity through resistance. The fat will melt right off.

High-Intensity Intervals Are Your New Best Friend

As you know, interval training is alternating bouts of high- and low-intensity work. High-intensity workouts are the holy grail for quick fat-burning progress. Rowing workouts can easily be changed from steady-state, endurance-type workouts into HIIT workouts.

All you have to do is either up the resistance or row at your maximum speed for timed intervals (or both, depending on your fitness level). For example, go all out for 30 seconds and then slow down to a moderate pace for 60 seconds to recover. Continue this pattern for 10-15 minutes.

"Check for the fish game. The rowers I have used have a game in the preset workouts where you have to move your fish up and down to avoid being eaten by other fish. It's a great HIIT interval workout and it's fun because you're focused more on the game than how hard you're breathing," said Chadwell.

The Bottom Line on Rowing

Rowing machines provide the ultimate low-impact, full-body aerobic exercise for everyone at any fitness level. Instead of running on a revolving rubber band, change your cardio style. Take a seat on a rower. You'll see fabulous changes in your body as you build muscle and burn fat all in the same 30 minutes of your "cardio" time.