Row, Row, Row to Get Fit Like Frank Underwood (It’s Better Than Spinning!)

frank underwood rowing

Oh, boy. House of Cards is back this week, and who isn’t excited? The extremely popular television show premiered on Netflix two years ago, and even though we got a brief flirtation with a third season, our long wait is finally over. Though we all appreciate the entertainment value in House of Cards (or any Netflixbinge-worthy show), we have to at least mention Frank Underwood’s stellar shape.

In the first season of House of Cards, Frank’s wife Claire buys him a rowing machine, to which he replies, “It looks positively medieval, doesn’t it?”. He isn’t as avid a runner as she is, and she wants him to stay fit so the two of them can continue their Napoleon-esque takeover of D.C.

Claire is certainly a healthy fitness inspiration, but her reign of influence has caused a boost in the popularity of rowing since a machine moved into her basement, and it is no wonder why. Rowing is a tremendously beneficial activity to add to your fitness routine.

“Rowing is awesome because it pulls double duty,” explained DietsInReview’s Kelly Turner, a personal trainer and fitness journalist. “It’s an amazing cardiovascular workout, but the motion and resistance of the rowing machine also counts as strength training.”

Though running on its own and rowing (like in a boat, not on a machine) on its own are both excellent workout options, being able to pack a one-two-maybe-even-three punch to your workout is excellent. The high-intensity workout is a great time saver that’s also an explosive option for building muscles. Turner explains that rowing is great for when you are short on time because combining cardio and strength training gives you an effective workout in less time, like the popular HIIT-style workouts.

Claire and Frank make it look good, but for those of us who are new to rowing, make sure you exercise proper form! Turner recommends pushing through your legs until they are extended without locking your knees. Your shoulder blades should squeeze tight, but your elbows need to stay tucked in. Though reading form-friendly exercise moves is not the most helpful, it will all come together as you practice. Start with a trainer for maximum safety and effectiveness.

Though rowing is a great way to exercise, and a fresh way to mix up your usual routine, Frank and Claire combine rowing with running, which certainly adds to the impact. Though the television characters (and the actors that play them) look awesome, Turner recommends pairing a rowing routine with a strength training workout “for the muscles it doesn’t hit: abs, bis and tris, and some squats and lunges for good measure.” Consider strength training that hits your neglected muscles for an absolutely full-body workout.

Even in real life, rowing is giving the ever-popular spinning trend a run for its money. Shape Magazine has reported that, largely due to CrossFit’s popularity, rowing has become the exercise of choice for former spinners. Jay Blahnik, personal trainer and fitness adviser, has noticed a big “migration from spin to rowing.” Blahnik mention in Shape that spinning is “not dead,” but that rowing has certainly taken over. Across Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and New Jersey, studios that are committed to rowing (like those good ol’ spin classes) have been showing up. What are we waiting for? Row away!

Also Read: 

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US Rower Mary Whipple Defends the Gold with a Vegetarian Diet and Her Pre-Race Ritual

5 Non-Crunch Ways to Build Your Core (and Not Kill Your Neck)

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