Rowing might seem like a pastime that's only reserved for preppy college students or Olympians, but it's actually a surprisingly accessible, low-impact cardio workout. It's easy to learn the proper form for rowing — and you don't need a boat to do it.
Indoor rowing machines, or "ergs," are designed with a seat on a rail that travels back and forth, to simulate rowing on a boat, says Annie Mulgrew, program director at CityRow in New York City. On the machine itself, there's a monitor with two metrics that you'll need to keep track of while you row: speed, measured in strokes per minute (or SPM), and split time, which is a ratio of how many meters you can row in a period of time, and represents your stroke intensity, Mulgrew says.
There's an art to rowing on a machine, and once you figure out the form it can feel as meditative as cruising through actual water.
"There's a common misconception that rowing is an upper-body focused exercise," Mulgrew says. "In actuality, rowing is a full-body exercise, in which the majority of the stroke or movement is powered by the lower body." Ahead, you'll find step-by-step instructions for how to use a rowing machine, according to Mulgrew and Dre Mihaylo, a manager at Row House. And once you have it mastered, there are two beginner workouts you can try on your own.