A 20-Minute Rowing Workout That Targets Every Muscle

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Rowing is one of the easiest, most efficient ways to jack up your heart rate, go easy on your joints, and get a total-body strength session. To dial up that intensity even more and increase the muscle-building results, New York City studio CityRow designed its SignatureX class, which has gym-goers alternate between sprints on the rower and strength training moves off the machine. We went to Annie Mulgrew, CityRow’s Director of Programming, for this 20-minute lightning version of the class. Perfect if you’re pressed for time at the gym but still want to hit every major muscle group and burn through calories.

 
Vocabulary:
Split time — the time it takes to row 500 meters
Power pull — a full rowing stroke with focus on power, not speed
Sprint — maximum effort for maximum speed
Catch — starting position on the rowing machine; knees bent and arms extended over knees with hands gripping handle
 
1. WARM UP (about 2 minutes)
Moderately row 500 meters. Focus closely on form —  push strongly with the legs, lean back to 45 degrees once legs are straight, then pull the handlebar into the body from the muscles in your upper back. Quickly reverse the motion, releasing the handlebar, pitching the torso forward, then bending knees to come back to starting position. After rowing for 500 meters, check your time. Your split should be under 2 minutes, (close to 1:45 range), and stay consistent throughout the rowing intervals in the workout.

2. ROWING INTERVAL (about 5 minutes)
Find your catch. Perform 10 power pulls (full strokes) then sprint (maximum effort) for 15 seconds; repeat. Now perform 10 power pulls with an underhand grip, then sprint for 15 seconds; repeat. Do this entire sequence one more time.

3. STRENGTH INTERVAL (5 minutes)

  • Get into plank position. Perform a push-up, then open up into a side plank on your right side; return to start to perform another push-up, then open up into a side plank on your left side. Continue for 30 seconds.
  • In plank, alternate bringing your knee to corresponding elbow or tricep for 30 seconds.
  • Put the two previous exercises together. In plank, bring right knee to corresponding elbow or tricep as you perform a push-up, then open to a side plank. Repeat on opposite side. Continue for 30 seconds.
  • Grab a heavy set of dumbbells. With arms straight and weights at your sides, sink into a squat. Holding the squat, do a hammer curl into a shoulder press; stand. Lower weights to your thighs, and with straight legs, hinge forward with a flat back to perform a deadlift. Repeat for 30 seconds.
  • Place hands on the rail of the rower with legs extended, and bend elbows to 90 degrees for tricep dips. Repeat for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the squat-to-deadlift sequence for 30 seconds, then finish with 30 seconds of tricep dips.

4. ROWING + STRENGTH FINISHER (5 minutes)

  • Row 100 meters, keeping split time under 2 minutes. Off rower, perform 10 push-ups.
  • Row 200 meters, keeping split time under 2 minutes. Off rower, perform 15 push-ups.
  • Row 300 meters, keeping split time under 2 minutes. Off rower, perform 20 push-ups.
  • Row 200 meters, keeping split time under 2 minutes. Off rower, perform 15 push-ups.
  • Row 100 meters, keeping split time under 2 minutes. Off rower, perform 10 push-ups.

5. COOL DOWN (2 minutes)

  • Row moderately for one minute.
  • On the machine, straighten legs and hinge forward to stretch hamstrings. Hold for 10 breaths. Stay on machine and bring right ankle to left knee to stretch outer hip. Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on opposite side.
  • Off the machine, step forward with right foot into a runners lunge. Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on opposite side.