The Best At-Home Workout? Rowing. Here’s Why

Pete Donohoe

What are some of the best workouts you can do at home? If you’re looking to make at-home cardio workouts a regular thing in the coming months, which workouts will give you the best bang for your buck? 

In this article, we’ll go over some tips on how to get the best at-home workout you can, why at-home workouts are important, and why rowing might be an exercise to consider adding into your routine.

What constitutes “best at-home workout,” anyway?

The reality is that there is no “best” at-home workout because our health, fitness, and mobility goals vary greatly.

What we do know is that at-home workouts have become more popular than ever, particularly since quarantine restrictions have been in place. For many of us, learning to work out at home went from being a novelty to an absolute necessity.

That’s not the only reason there’s been an at-home workout boom. Over the years a few other trends have made effective at-home workouts an attractive option for athletes and non-athletes alike.

At-home workout video content is easier than ever to find

Gone are the days of having to thumb through a notebook of past programs to get your next workout idea. Video technology has improved tremendously over the years; it’s easier than ever to find new workout ideas that feature instructors demonstrating movements and doing a workout with you. In recent years, live streaming workouts have taken the fitness world by storm, and it’s motivating to know you can join via your TV, computer or phone and workout alongside an instructor in real time.

A great at-home workout works your whole body

If you have the time, patience, and equipment to isolate different muscle groups on different days, hats off to you! For many of us, however, we need an efficient workout that keeps us strong, lights up muscles all across the body, and puts time back in our day. 

At-home workout options that recruit muscles from throughout your body will get your heart pumping and provide a more effective cardio burn.

A great at-home workout gives you the chance to connect with others 

Just because you’re working out at home doesn’t mean you have to be alone! The arrival of technology like livestreaming and smart households has made it easier than ever before to tap into a live group experience without ever walking out the front door. There’s just something about working out with other people that gets us going, and in fact, we don’t even need to physically be in the same room as others to glean these benefits. 

This motivation gain that comes from working out with others is scientifically proven. It’s called the Köhler Effect, and it brings out our competitive spirit and feelings of being on a team.

Suffice it to say, at-home workouts are becoming increasingly popular. In our humble opinion, however, one workout solution stands tall over others when it comes to overall health, well-being, total body engagement, and cardio, and that is indoor rowing. Here’s why.

Why rowing might be the best at-home workout for you

Rowing is one of the few activities that is both engaging for the whole body and a low impact exercise. 

Why care about muscle engagement? Here’s a two-paragraph crash course in exercise physiology: The more muscle fibers you engage and recruit in your body, the more productive your workout becomes. Unlike many other forms of cardio, rowing engages 86% of your muscles - nearly every muscle in your body.

In weight training, rows are used to activate back muscles. But a true rowing workout is actually a full-body experience; research has shown 30 minutes of rowing can be as effective as ninety minutes of cycling. Since rowing is low-impact, it’s also a great way to get your cardio on without risking joint damage or joint pain over time. To round out a full-body experience, this is why we supplement rows with on the mat workouts at Hydrow.

So there’s the technical reason rowing is awesome. But what about, ya know, all those reasons that have to do with life? Here are 4 of our favorite reasons why rowing is the best at-home workout you can find.

4 reasons to row at home

#1: Rowing is good for busy lifestyles

Consider how much time it takes to actually go to the gym or a class at a studio. You drive through sometimes-unpredictable traffic, wait for your turn to use machines or equipment, or remain held hostage in a class because the instructor isn’t watching the clock and holds you over.

Then, if you want to take a shower afterward at the studio, you tack on an extra 25 minutes in case you have to wait in line. Tack on 10 more minutes because you can’t stop sweating, so a shower is somewhat pointless unless you actually wait long enough to cool down. The time really adds up! Do you really have two hours for a workout that may or may not meet your needs?

So you decide to work out at home. But to get all the equipment, set everything up every time, and dream up boot camp drills or circuits that keep you motivated end up taking just as much time to put together. Yes?

A nice perk of indoor rowing and other all-in-one workout machines is that you don’t have to mess with lots of different equipment or setup. No moving kettlebells around for your circuits, no racking and storing weights, and no random additional equipment. Just set it up and go - you’re all set! 

Shameless plug: Hydrow’s footprint is 24” x 33” when stored using the upright storage kit.

#2: Rowing is safe and effective for different body types

Haven’t worked out in years? No problem. Training for your next big athletic adventure? We got you. 

Since indoor rowing is low-impact, it scales up or down to meet the needs of the athlete, no matter what level of conditioning they’re at. If you’re just getting started, just as with any new exercise regimen, you’ll want to ease in and adapt to working muscles in your body that have been dormant for a while… or possibly forever. 

Want to kick up the intensity? Relax your shoulders, keep your neck loose, and strap your feet in for the long haul. 20 minutes a day is more than enough to get the job done on an indoor rowing machine, and as you build up your endurance you’ll be able to explore greater distances and different workout formats.

#3: Rowing is great for getting into the zone

Hop on and tune out. Research has found that rewarding exercise activity has a mesmerizing effect and helps us get into flow state, that magical zone in which our worries float away and things just feel easy. This flow state is actually easier to achieve when we’re doing something engaging or challenging, because it forces your mind to have a singular focus.

Why care about this? For many people, the best part about a healthy habit isn’t more energy, a trimmer waistline, or better sleep. It’s about having a way to disconnect from the stresses and responsibilities of everyday life.  Whether you like interval-style workouts that provide variety, or just want to zone out at one steady pace, exercises that center around a repeating movement are more likely to help you find your flow.

#4: Rowing torches fat without torching your joints

High-Intensity Interval Training, also known as HIIT, is relatively easy to achieve on an indoor rowing machine. Other popular types of HIIT workouts include plyometrics (Jumping or explosive movements), indoor cycling, outdoor sprints, or other all-out efforts.

The problem that often comes up with HIIT workouts is that high intensity can also mean high impact for your joints. Talk to anyone who has experienced chronic joint pain: It’s not fun and can even have an adverse effect on everyday life. We want to build and maintain a healthy body so we can have energy all day long and play with the kids, but if our joints are killing us from our workouts, we can’t really reap those benefits.

As you look for the best at-home workout program that meets your needs, take the amount of impact a workout has into consideration. Will doing this multiple times a week shock your body over time and lead to aching, nagging pains? If the answer is yes, it may not be worth it. Consider incorporating indoor rowing to get the exercise or cross-training you need. Shredding is for athletes and maybe mozzarella cheese, not your joints.

So now you have a better idea of how indoor rowing can fit into your at-home workout regimen. But what muscles does a rowing workout actually target? And how will you know you’re working the right muscle groups and getting the most out of your workout?

To discover what actually happens in your body while you row, check out the next blog in our indoor rowing series: Rowing Machine Benefits: What actually happens during your rowing workout.