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Workout Tryout: CityRow

The Basics

While spinning isn’t going anywhere and organized treadmill classes are picking up speed, rowing has become a serious challenger in the race to find the next hot workout trend. (Just ask any aficionado of CrossFit, where rowing machines are a staple.) CityRow, a year-old studio in Manhattan, deals in it exclusively, expanding the idea of what a hard-charging hybrid cardio session can be.

The Experience

The studio's signature class centers on intervals and keeps things low-impact—both on the sleek Water-Rower machines and off during squats, lunges, planks, push-ups and other moves that edge you out of your comfort zone.

While no prior rowing experience is necessary, there is some technique involved, which our instructor, Beth Lewis (pictured above), walked us through at the beginning of class. The focus is on power—pushing through the entire movement versus pulling willy-nilly—and you realize quickly just how much of a full-body workout rowing really is.

Annie Mulgrew, director of programming at CityRow, points out that the exercise engages 84 percent of a body’s muscles when a stroke is performed properly. “That’s insane!” she says. “Rowing is also great for postural strength, opening up the chest and strengthening the upper back—muscles that are often underdeveloped, especially for people who sit at a desk and hunch over a smart phone all day.”

The Verdict

You will be challenged and tired by the end of class, and the workout's no-impact approach can work well for both pregnant women and new moms alike (we tackled it at 11 weeks post-baby). “I always suggest that pregnant women wear a heart rate monitor so they are aware of how their body is responding to the workout and can scale back when or if necessary,” says Mulgrew. “Depending on how far into their pregnancy they are, various modifications can be provided so that they are able to participate in the class in a way that gives them a great workout but respects their bodies.”

If you can’t make it to CityRow but want to give the rowing machine at your gym a go, Mulgrew suggests alternating between low and high intensities. (Keep the stroke rate at about 30 to 35 strokes per minute and the resistance light.) Try these two variations:

  • • Push hard for 30 seconds while trying to get a split time (the time per 500 meters) under two minutes. Recover for the same amount of time. Pushes and recoveries can be as short as 15 seconds and as long as a minute.
  • • Intersperse one-minute or 100-meter intervals with 30-second to one-minute intervals of exercises off the rower, such as pushups, planks, squats and lunges.

$32 per class; 80 Fifth Ave., 15th fl.; 212-242-4790;

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