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Q's about rowing machines (cardio workouts)...
Old 12-01-2007, 12:08 PM   #1
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Q's about rowing machines (cardio workouts)...

Have any of you used rowing machines for cardio workouts?

Earlier this year I had an knee repair that left me with a thin layer of 'scar-cartilage' in place of the nice big chunk of gristle you typically find on the end of a chicken-leg (my apologies for the medical terms).

So that means running is out, and that I should also limit my tme on my dual-action elliptical machine. I've got an Airdyne exercise bike that is even easier on the knee (less weight-bearing than the elliptical) but it makes my a$$ hurt if I do a lot of it. Beats me why that is, but I think I might have the warranty card around here somewhere, and might check and see if the seat is still covered after 20 years.

While at my local exercise equipment store scoping out better exercise bike seats I tried a wind-resistance rowing machine. I think this might be a nice device to alternate with the exercise bike & elliptical, but wonder if it wouldn't aggravate issues with my lower back. (Spondylolithisis, if you're into that sort of thing)

So please use the space below to share any experience you might have with rowing machines.

tanks.

Cb
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Old 12-01-2007, 12:16 PM   #2
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Have any of you used rowing machines for cardio workouts?

Earlier this year I had an knee repair that left me with a thin layer of 'scar-cartilage' in place of the nice big chunk of gristle you typically find on the end of a chicken-leg (my apologies for the medical terms).

So that means running is out, and that I should also limit my tme on my dual-action elliptical machine. I've got an Airdyne exercise bike that is even easier on the knee (less weight-bearing than the elliptical) but it makes my a$$ hurt if I do a lot of it. Beats me why that is, but I think I might have the warranty card around here somewhere, and might check and see if the seat is still covered after 20 years.

While at my local exercise equipment store scoping out better exercise bike seats I tried a wind-resistance rowing machine. I think this might be a nice device to alternate with the exercise bike & elliptical, but wonder if it wouldn't aggravate issues with my lower back. (Spondylolithisis, if you're into that sort of thing)

So please use the space below to share any experience you might have with rowing machines.

tanks.

Cb
A rowing machine sounds nice if it doesn't mess up your lower back and sore a$$, and it seems to me that it could conceivably aggravate either.

I get bored easily with treadmill and I too have the sore a$$ problem with my exercycle. At my gym, I do a few minutes each on the treadmill, elliptical, and indoor track, but I love the weight machines. I have found that (due to my enthusiasm), I seem to get cardio benefits as well as strength when working out with weights. Another thing you could consider if you belong to a gym, is swimming (since most of them have pools). Swimming is great cardio and it is easy on the joints.
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Old 12-01-2007, 12:29 PM   #3
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DW and I have been exercising for decades. We have the Concept 2 rowing ergometer. It is the only device worth buying and gives a real workout. This is what competitive rowers use to train. You need to learn proper technique but it is not hard. The machine is fairly priced for the quality you get. We have had ours for over 10 years with no problems.
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Old 12-01-2007, 12:34 PM   #4
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I have a piston model Tunturi that I got at a used sporting goods store for under $50. Works great. It's never caused my back or butt to get sore. I usually use it 30 minutes at a time, and have some CDs that I've put together that have just the right tempo for rowing in time with the music. I'm not saying it isn't boring, but it's no worse than other types of exercise equipment.

I've used multi-thousand dollar rowing machines at a gym, and mine is just as nice to use.
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Old 12-01-2007, 01:02 PM   #5
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I use the rowing machines at my gym maybe once a week. I think that it is a great exercise but for some reason I become "bored" with it and not other aerobic exercise. I love 2-4 hour bike rides and 1-2 hour runs outside and I usually enjoy or at least tolerate 30-60 minute sessions on the ellipical trainers or stairclimbers indoors and usually don't notice the time but on the rowing machine I'm looking at my watch after 5 minutes ready to get off. It does work your upper body more that other aerobic exercises.

The other thing that I would watch is the stress on you knees. The interior angle between your thigh and calf on the recovery is very small and that could stress your knee. It's not the impact stress like running but I would still recommend starting out slow and building up gradually over time.

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Old 12-01-2007, 01:19 PM   #6
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I also have an inexpensive air resistance rowing machine, which I like alot. For me it is a much lighter cardio workout, but I like that it works upper body too, where exercise cycles are just moving legs. My experience is that there is a fair amount of knee movement and you might want to see if that is acceptable for what you are trying to accomplish. Also, I agree with the boredom factor. I find that rowing is harder to stay engaged with than many other machines, so I use it sometimes, but would have trouble doing it exclusively. Have you considered swimming? That might work for what you want to shield your knee.
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Old 12-01-2007, 01:55 PM   #7
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I rowed lightweights in college, and have used a Concept 2 for a long time. I got a hand me down from my son, but now only use the machines in a gym as I can't spare the space. These are great for intervals especially. The only trouble is that long distance or long duration rowing can get tiring on the back and butt, as rowing as it is actually practiced outdoors is more a sprint to middle distance affair, not grinding on and on.

The other problem is what others have mentioned-boredom. Unlike a treadmill, you can't just get on, turn it on, and get going under pain of falling off the end. You have to will yourself to keep it up.

As far as quality, they are very good. Visit the website, some folks get really hooked and participate in contests, races, etc. Some of these people are in very very good shape. I think it really appeals to a methodical personality that enjoys measuring things, keeping records, noting incremental improvements, etc. There is a good electronic readout with computer connections. You can even race others in real time using a web connection.

Personally, I canít keep up the usage because of boredom. Lately my favorite fitness activity is hill walking; often with a weighted pack. But it sounds like that may not work for you with your orthopedic condition. If it would work, it is great. You get a lot of fitness almost painlessly.
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Old 12-01-2007, 03:02 PM   #8
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Thanks for the replies. I think I'll research them a bit more and start watching Craigslist.

I know swimming would probably be the ideal form of aerobic exercise for me, and I swam competitively throughout grade school and high school, but I don't have access to a pool for cheap. I'm also far more inclined to actually exercise at home - when I worked I joined the company fitness center but went only a few times. I do far better owning exercise equipment & using it while watching music DVD's at whatever hour of the day or night it suits me.

The location of the knee cartilage lesion I had the procedure for was worst at about 3-4 degrees from full lockout. During my rehab I was pretty comfortable through the entire range of motion until I approached full extension, and even now when I carry a heavy load I keep my knees bent and walk like a gorilla.

So on the Airdyne exercise bike I keep the seat a bit lower than recommended to keep the knee bent decently at the bottom of the stroke, and I make an effort to keep a bit more bend than is natural on the elliptical also. I like the fact that both of those devices involve the arms to an extent, and think a rowing machine would be a nice addition, because it involves the arms as well as some back muscles. I'm all for diversification in aerobic workouts.

I figure if I buy one off Craigslist and find that it aggraviates my lower back I could sell it for similar money.

Cb
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:32 PM   #9
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The location of the knee cartilage lesion I had the procedure for was worst at about 3-4 degrees from full lockout. During my rehab I was pretty comfortable through the entire range of motion until I approached full extension, and even now when I carry a heavy load I keep my knees bent and walk like a gorilla.

and think a rowing machine would be a nice addition, because it involves the arms as well as some back muscles. Cb
If you can get some "free guest" passes, or maybe free tour at a local gym, I'd suggest going and trying some of the rowing machines. It concerns me you say your don't like to extend your knees fully. I don't use rowing machines myself, but think part of the motion (besides the arm motions) is "pushing" yourself backwards as you have planted your feet against a fixed plate---in other words, you may extend your legs close to straight out.

Or if you can make the tours of garage sales, or the local Goodwill store, find some rowing machines for sale, and sit down and try the motion. There likely is more than one way to build a rowing machine, so some types may work better for you than others.

I'd do this before spending the dough sight-unseen on Craig'slist stuff.
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:40 PM   #10
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It concerns me you say your don't like to extend your knees fully. I don't use rowing machines myself, but think part of the motion (besides the arm motions) is "pushing" yourself backwards as you have planted your feet against a fixed plate---in other words, you may extend your legs close to straight out.
That is pretty much the essence of rowing. Huge amount of your power comes from the final push to lockout, as your arms start forward and your back bends forward to prepare for the next stroke. I don't think it would be any fun at all without that part.

Look on youtube under kettlebell- some of those exercises are great for the whole body, and no lockout required. They can be fun too. And a kettlebell is cheap, or you can use a dumb-bell.

Ha
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:57 PM   #11
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I've got an Airdyne exercise bike that is even easier on the knee (less weight-bearing than the elliptical) but it makes my a$$ hurt if I do a lot of it. Beats me why that is, but I think I might have the warranty card around here somewhere, and might check and see if the seat is still covered after 20 years.

While at my local exercise equipment store scoping out better exercise bike seats I tried a wind-resistance rowing machine.
Did you try out a recumbent bike? We have one and my butt tolerates it much better than a regular bike Nu-Steps (recumbent stepper) are also nice, and I believe you can adjust the seat so that you don't have to extend the knee fully. However, I think they come with a high price tag.
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Old 12-01-2007, 07:17 PM   #12
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...If you can get some "free guest" passes, or maybe free tour at a local gym, I'd suggest going and trying some of the rowing machines. It concerns me you say your don't like to extend your knees fully. I don't use rowing machines myself, but think part of the motion (besides the arm motions) is "pushing" yourself backwards as you have planted your feet against a fixed plate---in other words, you may extend your legs close to straight out...
I had the salesman demonstrate the movement to see if he went to full lock-out, and when he didn't I figured it might work for me. I spent about 3 minutes in it today wearing jeans, going from a pretty good (>90 degree) bend to near-straight.

I just Googled "rowing machine video" and the competitive rowers do appear to be going to full-lockout. The videos of gym-rats show them stopping a bit shy of straight like the store dood and I were doing. None of them pivot back at the waist like I was today though...

The guys at that shop let you do a full workout if you're interested. I think I'll stop down some weekday in shorts & a tee and do about 20 minutes.

As I look at the videos of 'proper' technique used by the competitive rowers it seems to me like my bad knee would be seeing something less than half my bodyweight at the top of the stroke...even on a good pull (a force I could maintain for 30 minutes) I'd be amazed if the loading on the strap approaches 190lbs - my grip was getting weak at 20 reps with a 190lbs when I was doing deadlifts & dumbells squats before my surgery, so I don't think I'd be apt to use similar forces for a prolonged workout.

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Old 12-01-2007, 11:24 PM   #13
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The guys at that shop let you do a full workout if you're interested. I think I'll stop down some weekday in shorts & a tee and do about 20 minutes.

Cb
Seems the wisest course of action. Maybe you could explain your concerns and they might let you have 2 freebie tryouts a day or so apart. Then you could see if you feel sore after the second time. If not, then you can be pretty confident about the rower machines.

You mentioned earlier the elliptical machines, and I am surprised you weren't too hot about them. They are one of my favorites because I don;t get all the jarring/pounding one gets from jogging or running the treadmill even.

Wondered too how long since your knee surgery. Are your limitations likely longterm, or is this something you need to gradually work your way back from and out of? I'm no doctor or physical therapist, but am curious in case I get to the parts replacement stage.
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Old 12-02-2007, 12:24 AM   #14
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...You mentioned earlier the elliptical machines, and I am surprised you weren't too hot about them. They are one of my favorites because I don;t get all the jarring/pounding one gets from jogging or running the treadmill even.

Wondered too how long since your knee surgery. Are your limitations likely longterm, or is this something you need to gradually work your way back from and out of? I'm no doctor or physical therapist, but am curious in case I get to the parts replacement stage.
We bought a nice dual-action elliptical about 4 years ago. I think they're great, I just don't want to spend anywhere near as much time on it after my surgery.

My surgery was in April - I had an ACL replaced (after tearing it 20 yrs ago) and had a procedure called abrasion arthroplasty done to address the absence of cartilage in a 3 sq cm area on the end of my femur, like this one:



A-A is essentially grinding the end of the bone to draw blood, which should then scab over leaving a thin layer of 'scar cartilage'. The doc says it will likely continue to heal and improve for year or so, then gradually deteriorate, and it's very likely that I'll need additional procedures in the future to address knee discomfort when I get back to a bone-on-bone situation.

In the meantime he's encouraged me to resume normal activities, with the understanding that running and jumping would greatly accelerate the deterioration of the scar-cartilage layer, elliptical use less so, stationary biking or outdoor biking on level ground even less, lying motionless in my own filth even less.....

I'm pretty sure I'll need a knee replacement someday...I'd just like to put it off as long as possible because they only last 15-20 years only two replacements are feasible with current technology.

On the other hand I really need regular exercise to keep my weight and cholesterol levels in check, not to mention staying in decent shape. If I don't exercise regularly I feel like an old man and my jeans leave red grooves across my belly.

I've started taking a 'circuit-training' approach to me weightlifting - in the past I'd do 1 or 2 sets of each exercise, weighting for failure at 12-15 reps, taking 3+ minute rests in between. After rehabbing my knee I read a bit and discovered that if I lighten the weight and raise reps slightly I can get from exercise to exercise in under 2 minutes, hitting most of the exercises twice, staying in the aerobic zone for the entire ~40 minutes.

I wear a knee brace when I lift and avoid weighting the bad knee heavily, doing things like overhead presses while seated. On leg presses I stop shy of full extension.

I'm splitting my time between the elliptical and Airdyne on non-weight days and on extra bonus-round weight-day cardio sessions when I'm feeling fat (like right now). If I buy a rower I'll be able to split my cardio workouts into thirds, with my upper body doing a bit more of the work.

Cb
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Old 12-02-2007, 05:11 AM   #15
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My surgery was in April - I had an ACL replaced (after tearing it 20 yrs ago) and had a procedure called abrasion arthroplasty done to address the absence of cartilage in a 3 sq cm area on the end of my femur, like this one:


Was the original injury from weiight training?

Ha
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Old 12-02-2007, 09:23 AM   #16
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Was the original injury from weiight training?

Ha
No, I landed badly while exiting a dirtbike from the rear some 20 years ago and tore the ACL. Turns out I had one of the last old school docs in Cincy who didn't believe in ACL reconstruction do the repair, a work-around that tightens up the joint for only a few years. My new doc says that after that i was running around on a pretty wobbly knee for ~18 years, wearing away the cartilage. In March of this year I fell about one foot while clearing storm-damaged branches from a tree and thumped straight into the ground with my knee at full lockout, which shredded what little femoral chondyl remained.

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Old 12-02-2007, 09:55 AM   #17
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I've started taking a 'circuit-training' approach to me weightlifting - in the past I'd do 1 or 2 sets of each exercise, weighting for failure at 12-15 reps, taking 3+ minute rests in between. After rehabbing my knee I read a bit and discovered that if I lighten the weight and raise reps slightly I can get from exercise to exercise in under 2 minutes, hitting most of the exercises twice, staying in the aerobic zone for the entire ~40 minutes.
As I mentioned above I get some cardio benefit from my weightlifting, but I don't do conventional circuit training.

Have you tried doing 2 sets of 10 on each machine, weighted for failure at maybe 10-12 reps on most of them, with shorter rest periods between sets (I don't time it so I don't know exactly, but I go by what my muscles are telling me, and usually the last rep on the second set is the last I have in me) and going directly to the next machine? That challenges me, gets my heart rate up nicely, keeps it there and has increased my strength a lot at the same time.

My heart rate stays up for my one hour workout (about 40-45 minutes of which is devoted to two sets of 10 reps on each of 17 weight machines). I do not spend ANY time standing around waiting for machines or talking to people or sauntering around, obviously, and if I have to wait for the last machine I walk around or pace rather than just standing there. When I am at the gym I am in my zone and focusing on the machines.

I usually begin with stretching and then five minutes each on the indoor track, treadmill, and elliptical, but you would probably have to omit those. I hate doing them but feel I should, and the weight machines are my "reward" to myself for doing them.

I am no expert but what I have been doing has greatly improved my health. Also my strength is markedly improved. At the beginning, I was the weakest person in the world. Now, I use higher weights than other women my age (59), and higher than even most men my age (though nowhere near the high weights of younger men). So I feel I have made wonderful progress very quickly, and my increased strength has helped me out in my daily life a lot. I do my workouts this way because I LIKE to do them this way. It's less boring for me than an hour on a treadmill, and I can see the progress.
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Old 12-02-2007, 11:00 AM   #18
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Have you tried doing 2 sets of 10 on each machine, weighted for failure at maybe 10-12 reps on most of them, with shorter rest periods between sets (I don't time it so I don't know exactly, but I go by what my muscles are telling me, and usually the last rep on the second set is the last I have in me) and going directly to the next machine?
Yes, but I'm not in good enogh shape now to go from exercise to exercise with no rest period. I use a heart rate monitor and go to the next exercise when my HR approaches a lower limit, ~65% of max.

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Old 12-02-2007, 11:42 AM   #19
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In the meantime he's encouraged me to resume normal activities, with the understanding that running and jumping would greatly accelerate the deterioration of the scar-cartilage layer, elliptical use less so, stationary biking or outdoor biking on level ground even less, lying motionless in my own filth even less.....
On the other hand I really need regular exercise to keep my weight and cholesterol levels in check, not to mention staying in decent shape. If I don't exercise regularly I feel like an old man and my jeans leave red grooves across my belly.
Same here. It's a life sentence with no parole.

Here's some other issues to consider:
- Most of the force of rowing comes from the legs and you can really ding up your lower back & shoulders with poor form. I remember seeing the college crew jocks all walk like they were old men after the winter vacation two-a-day workouts.
- If you're exercising with a machine on your own at home, will you be able to beat the boredom? A gym may not be cheap but if it keeps you working out then it's a better deal than a $899 machine that's only been used 23 times. A good gym will keep upgrading to the latest equipment. Besides the social interaction (to say nothing of the scenery) is much better than a DVD player.
- What about tai chi or other martial arts forms? 20 minutes of tae kwon do poomse, performed properly, leaves me aerobic & dripping. It's also something I can do without orthopedic braces because, unlike sparring, you're in control of the timing & degree of the movements and there's nothing too extreme. Dartfish puts out an excellent four-view DVD of poomse and you may be able to find similar ones for other martial arts. Having to focus on the form eliminates the boredom issue.
- Take a look at Jolie Bookspan's "exercise without pain" blog: The Fitness Fixer . She's come back from serious injuries to develop exercises that don't strain the joints or cartilage.
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Old 12-02-2007, 12:30 PM   #20
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No, I landed badly while exiting a dirtbike from the rear some 20 years ago and tore the ACL. Turns out I had one of the last old school docs in Cincy who didn't believe in ACL reconstruction do the repair, a work-around that tightens up the joint for only a few years. My new doc says that after that i was running around on a pretty wobbly knee for ~18 years, wearing away the cartilage. In March of this year I fell about one foot while clearing storm-damaged branches from a tree and thumped straight into the ground with my knee at full lockout, which shredded what little femoral chondyl remained.

Cb
Ouch on both of these injuries. Hope you will be in good shape for a long while now!

Ha
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