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Walking into a gym with the intention of losing weight is a scary experience for even the most experienced of gym rats. Most of the tension comes from the fear that not knowing what to do will land the person in a tunnel of judgment from their peers at the gym. One of the most overlooked machines in the gym is a machine called an ergometer, or more commonly referred to as an “erg”. This machine simulates what motions a rower uses to propel a boat through the water, similar to how a treadmill mimics the actions of a runner. When an ergometer is used correctly, it proves to be one of the most efficient forms of exercise when it comes to cardiovascular exercise combined with a repetitive lift; but only if performed correctly with proper form.
Before getting started on an erg it is most important to first check what the resistance is set at. The scale on the ergometer can be set on different resistance from 1-10 with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the most difficult. Don’t make the mistake of putting it all the way up to ten thinking that it will result in a better workout, as it will only result in faster muscle fatigue and a shorter workout. The best resistance to put it at is in between the three to four range, as it will mimic the pull of a real oar pulling through the water.
Once the ergometer is set to the correct resistance, it is now important to focus on the form. Despite common misconception, rowing on an ergometer is not as much as a back exercise as it is commonly assumed to be. Instead the emphasis of the exercise is geared towards the legs in the form of a leg drive.
This starts at the first position called the catch. After your feet have been tightened into the foot straps, grab the bar with arms extended forward and knees at a slight bend similar to a horizontal squat. While the body is positioned forward, it is important to note that posture is very important in this exercise and is something to be kept in mind throughout. The butt should be planted firmly on the seat and there should be very minimal bend in the upper or lower back.
Once at the catch and in good posture, the exercise is ready to transition to the next stage called the drive. This refers to the motion that drives the bar back and completes the initial push of the motion. Starting with legs, drive the heels into the bottom of the board and push through with the quads and hamstrings. As the legs extend and the bar begins to drive farther back along with the seat, there will be a point in which the legs can stretch no farther and this is when the back comes into play. Pull the arms and shoulders back with the bar until sitting at a point in which the legs are fully extended and the arms and shoulders are pulled back while still maintaining good posture.
At this point the final position of the exercise has been reached, known as the finish. From this point let the bar slide back over the knees and slide the butt and legs back up into the catch position. And it’s as easy as that. Now just practice good form and start slow, the more you practice the faster you will get.