Second for second, indoor rowing is one of the best ways to torch fat, build muscle, and forge stamina.
Sprint 500 meters — a popular CrossFit test — and you’ll strengthen your back, hamstrings, and glutes, and redline your engine in two minutes. But not everyone rows the right way, says Ian Creighton, coach and general manager of Brick New York. “Pull with your hamstrings,” he says.
Use his tips and this program from coach Ryan Thompson of RowFit, a rowing-focused gym, to amp up your training. If you’re a veteran rower, you can work to cut more than 10 seconds off your 500-meter time. Novices, aim to finish under 2 minutes to start.
First, you’ll need to learn the right way to row, so Brick New York’s Ian Creighton breaks the proper form down. To begin, adjust the rower damper to 6 or 7.
Sit with your torso leaned forward at a one-o’clock angle, knees bent, shins as vertical as possible. Your arms should be straight, your shoulders level, and the seat should be close to your heels. CrossFitters call this the “catch” position.
Press through your heels and use your legs to forcefully start a stroke. Once your legs are fully extended and your torso is perpendicular to the ground, explosively pull the handle toward your sternum. Focus on keeping the handle’s chain straight. Then hinge at your hips to lean your torso back to the ten- o’clock position. The handle should be just below your ribs.
Before doing anything, fully straighten your arms. Then shift your torso forward. Finish by bending your knees, allowing the seat to slide back toward the start position. Immediately begin another row stroke.
The 500 Meter Master Workout
You’ll do three weekly half-hour sessions for three weeks. Open each with a 2-round warmup.
- 10 inchworms
Start standing, put your hands on the floor, walk them out until you’re in pushup position, then reverse. Do 10.
Squat low, place your elbows on the insides of your knees, and gently push your knees open. Stand.
Finish warming up with a relaxed 500-meter row.
- Focus: Row as hard as you can while still focusing on good technique and efficiency.
- Workout: Row 200 meters as quickly as possible, then rest 1 minute. Do 6 rounds.
- Focus: Don’t stop moving. By mixing rowing with body-weight exercises, you’ll develop strength and aerobic capacity.
- Workout: Row 200 meters. Get off the rower. Do 3 pushups, 6 situps, and 9 squats. Complete 8 rounds, aiming to finish as quickly as possible.
- Focus: Gradually increase total strokes per minute. (You’ll see this on the rower’s main screen.) Your 500-meter split should also progress.
- Workout: Row for 10 minutes. During the last 5, aim to increase your stroke rate by 2 each minute. Rest 5 minutes, then repeat.
- Focus: Improve your overall conditioning by using Tabata intervals: 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest.
- Workout: Do 1 Tabata of each move: row for distance, pushup, situp, squat, alternating lunge. Do 6 rounds. Rest 1 minute between each.
- Focus: Set the rower damper to 10 and make each stroke as powerful as possible. Aim for less than 22 strokes a minute.
- Workout: Row for 30 seconds; rest 30 seconds. Row for 1 minute, rest for 1 minute. Do a 90-90 interval, then row for 2 minutes. Rest 5 minutes, then repeat.
- Focus: Go hard and fast while still focusing on perfect technique and rowing with a smooth rhythm.
- Workout: Row 250 meters, then rest 30 seconds. Do 6 rounds.
- Focus: Ready your body for your test. Row at a sustainable but hard pace.
- Workout: Row 500 meters, then rest 4 minutes. Do 4 rounds. Monitor stroke rate. Aim for 22 strokes a minute the first round, 24 in the second, 26 in the third, and 28 in the fourth.
- Focus: This is your final push. Go as hard as you can during the work periods.
- Workout: Survive 5 rounds of this 4-exercise circuit workout. Do each exercise for 45 seconds, resting 15 seconds: row for distance, alternating lunge, box jump, wall ball.
- Focus: Pick up the intensity by increasing your stroke rate.
- Workout: Row for two 10-minute rounds. Rest 5 minutes between. During the final 5 minutes of each round, try to up your stroke rate by 2 per minute. Shoot for 22 strokes in the first minute; finish with 30 in the last.