Column: Get a great cardio workout without killing yourself

Marty Larson
Marty Larson

I love efficiency. I like to have maximum benefit with as little wear and tear on my body as possible when I work out. That is why I love the rowing machine. Across the board, rowing is one piece of equipment that is a full body workout, but safe and effective for many different populations.

Done properly and with hard effort, it will kick your butt. But it can also be gentle, relaxing and rather therapeutic (we happen to have water rowers simulating actual rowing at Uncommon Age). So depending on your goal, it is a piece of equipment that can be quite versatile.

What’s so great about it is everything about the rowing experience is controlled by the user. The pace is controlled, and the risk of injury is minimal because your knees and feet are aligned. And best yet, you aren’t limited by the equipment. You are able to push yourself at your own pace.

One might ask what rowing has to do with expanding upon your movement skills. The answer is several-fold:

It’s brain friendly. Anything that mimics gait, such as a treadmill or an elliptical machine, can be confusing to the brain. That’s not true for rowing.

Test it out. Perform a range of motion or strength assessment before you get on a treadmill, and again after you get off. Chances are, it will decrease, which means your brain found that activity threatening. The whole point of movement is to get you out of the threat response so we can move more efficiently and without pain. There’s a reason many of us hate treadmills!

Elite athletes are always looking for that extra edge. Addressing the body’s threat response is that extra edge. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to take advantage of that.

Rowing improves heart function. Cardiovascular work is defined by the activation of more than half of the muscles of the body. Rowing is one of those activities, and the positive effects on the heart and oxygen uptake capacity have been measured extensively. The heart can experience very healthy adaptations from rowing.

It’s efficient, low-impact exercise with high results. During the rowing stroke more than 80 percent of your total body muscle mass is activated — legs, hips, back, arms, abs, chest and shoulders are all involved. But the huge benefit is the fact that it is a low-impact activity. When executed properly, the rowing stroke is a very safe motion (instruction is needed), leaving little room for injuries.

It enhances respiratory function. Rowing enhances your lungs’ ability to provide oxygen to the blood, heart and the rest of your body. The positive effects of rowing have been measured extensively. You can expect healthy adaptations to the respiratory system from rowing.

It promotes a healthy body composition. Rowing three to four times per week can easily build and maintain an enviable body composition. While you may have heard that other workouts burn a million calories an hour, those workouts are not sustainable for long, much less an entire hour.

Check out for more information on rowing. P.S., we are having an open house/anniversary party on Friday, Sept. 30, 5:30-8 p.m. Please stop by to check it all out!

Marty Larson is the owner and founder of Uncommon Age, a Stillwater fitness and movement studio dedicated to helping people reach their full potential. Learn more online at