This rowing circuit proves you can get a serious calorie burn and build strength while still going easy on your joints.
Photo: Chris Fanning
Even though it's low-impact, don't let that fool you. This total-body workout will be just as fiercely sweaty and sculpting as your usual high-intensity routine, without the running, jumping, and other jolts. (Same with this at-home low-intensity workout.)
"You are still elevating your heart rate and achieving excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, where your body continues to burn calories after your workout," says Justin Norris, a cofounder of the LIT Method studio in Los Angeles. The difference is that Norris designed this pyramid-style circuit to have zero pounding by using a rowing machine (you can find one in any gym) for speed intervals and joint-friendly bodyweight moves for resistance that correct muscle imbalances and help reduce injury. This combo, Norris says, "will build you, not break you." (Here's how to get the "afterburn" effect in your workout.)
Rowing is the perfect cardio for keeping your workouts low-impact because it still recruits a whopping 86 percent of your muscles, research in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found. (Related: Rowing mistakes you're probably making.) Your power output is distributed varyingly among your legs (60 percent), core (20 percent), and arms (20 percent).
To keep yourself accountable—and your intensity through the roof—race against yourself as you do the row intervals. Try to improve your 300-meter, 200-meter, and then 100-meter rowing times throughout each circuit. Do this workout three times a week on alternate days, Norris says, and aim to crank out more reps of each bodyweight move as you progress.
How it works: You’ll do three circuits that alternate between rowing sprints and body- weight moves for as many reps as possible in one-minute intervals. (With each circuit, the distance of the rowing interval decreases.)
Total Time: up to 30 minutes
Row for 200 meters at a slow and controlled tempo.
2. Upper-Body Circuit
1 minute push-ups
1 minute mountain climbers
1 minute commandos: Start on floor in plank on palms. Lower onto right forearm and then left forearm. Press into right palm and then left palm to return to starting position.
Scale Down: Lower knees to floor during push-ups and commandos.
Scale Up: Add a push-up to each high plank during commandos.
3. Lower-Body Circuit
1 minute air squats
1 minute alternating reverse lunges: Stand with feet together, then step right foot back, lower into a lunge with knees bent at 90 degrees. Press off right foot to return to starting position. Switch sides; repeat. Continue alternating.
1 minute glute bridge: Start lying faceup on floor, knees bent, feet flat. Press into heels to lift hips, forming a straight line from knees to shoulders. Hold for 1 minute.
Scale Down: Perform reverse lungs on one side for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.
Scale Up: Holding bridge lift, alternate driving each knee in toward chest.
4. Core Circuit
1 minute roll-ups: Lie faceup on floor, legs extended and arms behind head, biceps by ears. Lift arms to reach toward ceiling, then slowly roll torso up off floor, reaching forward to touch fingers to toes. Reverse movement to return to starting position, taking 3 seconds to reach floor.
1 minute leg lifts: Lie faceup on floor, legs extended toward ceiling, palms on floor next to hips. Slowly lower straight legs to hover off floor for 3 seconds, stopping when lower back comes off floor. Lift legs to return to starting position.
1 minute forearm plank hold
Scale Down: Perform leg lifts with knees bent at 90-degree angles, lowering toes to tap floor.
Scale Up: Holding forearm plank, drive right knee to right elbow. Switch sides; repeat. Continue alternating.