Full-Body Exercises

What I Learned From Taking a Rowing Bootcamp Class

Row your way to greater strength and power at one of NYC's top rowing boutiques.

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Guy-Girl-Rowing-Machine-Side-By-Side
Flamingo Images / Shutterstock
Flamingo Images / Shutterstock
Equipment Yes

Rowing dates back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, but would it have sustained its longevity had Zeus been asked to perform burpees between rounds? What we learned after taking a rowing class At New York City’s Rowgatta: You either row big or row home.

“Are burpees involved?” usually begins any boutique class interrogation, and Arielle Childs, one of the founding coaches at HILIT bootcamp Rowgatta, quickly answered with a resounding yes. As it turned out, adding that bit of higher intensity to a circuit row class helps break up the boredom and also burns some extra calories in addition to the 200 to 400 that rowing would in a half-hour class.

“Anything in large doses may at times become monotonous,” she says. “It’s why our class is broken up into chunks and constantly varies.” Childs taught me quickly that rowing can be spiced up through intensity shifts. In Rowgatta’s case, it was through a timed base pace (think jog) followed by all-out row sprints. The combo had me reminiscing about high school football wind sprints, but this time without becoming hunched over in gut-busting agony.

And despite its low-impact reputation, the full-force push generated by rowing reinforced its place as a power move and not just a cardio accessory. A misconception is that it’s an arm movement, when rowing is more leg and hip drive, almost like a seated deadlift. At least I felt stronger.

“If you want to get the best workout while rowing, focus on power,” Childs says. “So when you row, focus on going harder rather than faster.”

Oh, and about those burpees. Those were lodged in between row rounds, tucked away in a HIIT shift consisting of squats, thrusters, and leg raises in 30-on/30-off intervals. And, quite frankly, after the workout rowing provided, they’re not so bad after all.

If you can’t make it to Rowgatta, try this rowing-inspired circuit workout provided by Childs:

Exercise 1

Rowing Machine How to
Rowing Machine thumbnail
8 sets
90 Seconds reps
-- rest
Row until desired calories have been burnt: Men: 17 Calories, Women: 13 Calories

Exercise 2

Hang Clean You'll need: Barbell How to
Hang Clean thumbnail
2 sets
As many as possible reps
-- rest
For the remaining time of the 90 seconds, perform as many reps as possible for the dumbbell hang clean, then move to the next exercise after each rowing round.

Exercise 3

Thrusters You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Thrusters thumbnail
2 sets
As many as possible reps
-- rest
For the remaining time of the 90 seconds, perform as many reps as possible for the dumbbell hang clean, then move to the next exercise after each rowing round.

Exercise 4

Dumbbell Front Squat You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Front Squat thumbnail
2 sets
As many as possible reps
-- rest
For the remaining time of the 90 seconds, perform as many reps as possible for the dumbbell hang clean, then move to the next exercise after each rowing round.

Exercise 5

Dumbbell Push Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Push Press thumbnail
2 sets
As many as possible reps
-- rest
For the remaining time of the 90 seconds, perform as many reps as possible for the dumbbell hang clean, then move to the next exercise after each rowing round.
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