The Best High-Intensity, Low-Impact Rowing Workouts to Melt Body Fat

By engaging in lung-busting, muscle-burning bursts of physical activity with little time to recover, your

By engaging in lung-busting, muscle-burning bursts of physical activity with little time to recover, your body more efficiently melts fat. It’s called high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and odds are you’ve been incorporating it into your fitness regimen for years now. But as you get older, those years of playing college football, pounding the pavement, and popping into workout classes take a heavy toll on your joints. To save your hips, knees, and low back, it pays to shift some of your HIIT workouts to high-intensity, low-impact training (HILIT).

“Rowgatta is NYC’s first high-intensity, low-impact training (HILIT) bootcamp class,” says co-founder Kenny Rosenzweig, NASM-CPT. “HILIT delivers the benefits of high-intensity interval training—including efficient calorie burn and increased metabolic rates, and reduced heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar—in a low-impact environment that prevents injury and promotes longevity.”


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Instead of cranking out rounds of burpees and box jumps, you engage in joint-friendly exercises. You can use a variety of machines, like the ski erg, Pilates reformer, and resistance bike. Though the rower is one of the most effective ways to perform HILIT workouts because it taxes your whole body and multiple energy systems without trashing your joints.

“To improve rowing form, focus on driving with your legs and going harder rather than faster—60-70 percent of the power in your stroke should come from your legs rather than your arms and upper body,” Rosenzweig says. Here are five high-intensity, low-impact training routines to try on your own, if you can’t make it to a Rowgatta class in NYC.

Rowgatta
Rowgatta studio in NYC Courtesy Image

1. An All-Around Chipper

How to do it: Complete the workout, in the order provided, as quickly as possible in 20 minutes (AMRAP, aka as many rounds as possible). The number of rounds completed is your score. Try to beat your high score each time.

30-cal Row
50 Air Squats
15-cal Row
40 Situps
15-cal Row
30 Pushups
15-cal Row
20 Burpees
15-cal Row

2. Waffles and Lunges

How to do it: Complete the workout, in the order provided, as quickly as possible in 20 minutes (AMRAP, aka as many rounds as possible). The number of rounds completed is your score. Try to beat your high score each time.

20-cal Row
30 Air Squats
30 Mountain Climbers (60 total)
30 Alternating Lunges

3. Shoulder Burn

How to do it: Complete the workout, in the order provided, as quickly as possible in 20 minutes (AMRAP, aka as many rounds as possible). The number of rounds completed is your score. Try to beat your high score each time. Select a weight(s) that’s challenging but sustainable for several rounds.

25-cal Row
30 Plank Shoulder Taps
20 Overhead Press (light weight)
10 Plank Row (light weight)

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4. Core Burner

How do it: Complete the workout, in the order provided, as quickly as possible in 20 minutes (AMRAP, aka as many rounds as possible). The number of rounds completed is your score. Try to beat your high score each time. Push the pace on the erg: These are short, hard sprints.

10-cal Row
20 Pushups
10-cal Row
20 Knee Tucks (place feet on the seat of the rower)
10-cal Row
20 Situps

5. Steep Incline

Complete the workout, in the order provided, as quickly as possible in 20 minutes. Push the pace on the erg and recover during the built-in rest. The number of rounds completed is your score. Try to beat your high score each time.

15-cal Row
30-second rest
30-cal Row
60-second rest
45-cal Row
90-second rest
60-cal Row
2-minute rest
90-cal Row
3-minute rest
120-cal Row

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