Last weekend, my wife and I went to the new Row House Fitness location near Winter Park, Florida. Today I will give you my honest review about row house fitness, how effective was this class, and if I will be back there, or not (please remember that I’ve tried one location, so I don’t know if row house workouts are the same everywhere).
As a whole, the row house fitness class is worth it because it’s the first-ever group fitness workout that combines indoor rowing and strength training in the fitness studio together with the music. With each class, the instructor encourages everyone to row in sync with the beat.
I will also touch on should you use row house fitness if you have lower back pain and/or other mobility restrictions.
What Is Row House Fitness?
Overall, row house fitness is a franchise boutique gym that’s owned by Xponential Fitness, the largest fitness franchisor of boutique fitness brands. Apart from row house fitness, the company also owns other brands like Pure Barre, CycleBar, ClubPilates, StretchLab, YogaSix, and more.
The company started in 2014 in New York City with the idea of creating a group fitness indoor rowing class. Today, the franchise has over 100 studios and over 300 licensed locations throughout the United States and Canada.
The difference between Row House Fitness and other indoor rowing studios is that Row House uses the concept of a team effort. Each boutique studio has a massive flat-screen TV that summarizes everyone’s power output and displays it at the end of the session.
Rowing in a team-oriented environment makes you feel like you row in a boat in the middle of the ocean (literally).
To be frank, I did indoor rowing for a number of years, but this was the first time I’ve done it in group fitness.
Is Row House Fitness Effective?
As a whole, row house fitness is effective because it’s high-intensity interval training that combines strength training and cardio in one session. Every class consists of 4-5 sections that are divided into rowing intervals plus strength, or rowing intervals plus dynamic stretching.
Is row house good for beginners? As a whole, row house fitness is good for beginners because the classes use exercises that are low impact and can be done by people with all levels of fitness. Plus, each group workout is supervised by certified coaches that closely monitor your effort and ensure you’re training at your own pace.
I’m a huge fan of group fitness classes for a number of reasons.
- Mutual support – Row house fitness is like a community event where individuals of all ages and abilities meet in the studio and row together as a part of the team.
- Motivation – Seeing fellow rowers alongside you is not only motivating but also helps to push yourself more. Studies have shown that “social influence can increase physical effort over both short and long durations” (Kilduff, 2014).
- Fun – I always find it more fun and enjoyable in a group versus training alone. Of course, this is an excellent way (especially for beginners) to develop exercise habits and enhance exercise adherence.
- Competition – Row house fitness is a group-based workout that not only makes you feel like you’re part of the team but also increases competitiveness with others (at least it did for me). Higher sports competitiveness levels are positively related to intrinsic motivation and higher adherence (Frederick, 2003).
NOTE: Feeling competitive with others can definitively help to ramp up the workout intensity, but it also can have negative effects.
Exercise at high intensity while breathing hard can impact the ability to keep good posture and position during rowing (more on that next).
Who Is Row House Not Good For?
In general, row house fitness is not a good idea for people with lower back pain or mobility problems that don’t have a full understanding of safe and effective rowing biomechanics. Rowing as a sport is considered one of the most demanding endurance sports.
It requires technical skills, motor coordination, adequate strength, and stamina. This means you need to be able not only to maintain the error-free position in your head, spine, and shoulders but also have the ability to correctly sequence the movement.
Repetitive cyclic action of rowing can result in a 10-fold increase in exposure to low back pain. Plus, studies have shown that “94% of rowers showed hypermobility of the lumbar spine, and this correlated strongly with the incidence of low back pain” (Howell, 1984).
Here’s how it works.
- During row house workouts, the person spends around 70% of the time in a flexed “slouched” lumbar spine position.
- During the rowing stroke, the magnitude of the forces on the lumbar spine is 3919 N for men and 3330 N for women (the peak compressive loads are even higher, around 6066 N for men and 5031 N for women).
- That combination of flexion and compressive loading on the lumbar spine has been identified as a mechanism for injury to the lumbar spine structures (Adams, 1995).
Now watch this.
The row house fitness class takes between 30 to 45 minutes, with over 50% time you spend in the rower. This equals approximately 450 cycles of flexion per session.
Dr. T. H. Hansson from the Sahlgren Hospital in Goteborg in Sweden has documented the effect of cyclical loading on the seventeen human lumbar motion segments with axial compression to simulate rigorous activity.
(they took the human spine and with the in vitro method assessed how much repetitive loading the lumbar spine segments can receive before they get damaged).
The results have shown that “damage can occur to lumbar vertebrae over a few hundred cycles of repetitive motion” (Hansson et al. 1987).
Of course, row house fitness does have coaches that ensure everyone’s form is correct. However, I can tell you from my experience that once you start introducing speed, timing, and metabolic demand (breathing hard), people start falling apart.
Plus, during my row house workout, I’ve noticed that coaches mainly encouraged and motivated others rather than ensuring nobody is internally rotating their shoulders or rounding the upper back.
(it’s almost impossible for one coach to monitor all 20 people at the same time).
Row House Workout
Overall, row house fitness is a bootcamp-style full-body workout that combines cardio intervals on the rower together with strength training on the floor using weights, bodyweight exercises, as well as dynamic stretches. Each session lasts between 30 to 45 minutes.
Each row house workout includes a 3-5 minute warm-up, 2-3 minute cool down, and 35 minutes of interval training.
There are 5 types of row house workouts:
- Signature – Row House Signature workout is the most popular class. It includes 5 segments (3 indoor rowing and 2 resistance training). This class is suitable for all levels as the pace is easy to moderate.
- Power – Row House Power workout is the HIIT type of class that includes 8 segments (5 indoor rowing and 3 strength training). The goal of this class is to challenge your aerobic capacity and get you out of breath.
- Full Row – Row House Full Row class is all about rowing. This is a full 45-minute class where you spend almost entirely on the ergometer.
- Restore – Row House Restore workout is the only class that combines indoor rowing with dynamic stretching. It includes 3 rowing segments and 2 stretching segments.
- Foundation – Row House Foundation class is a typical beginners class where there is less intensity on the rower, but you have more time to focus on your form.
Plus, the franchise also offers shorter, 30-minute classes that include the same exercises as the full class, but with fewer segments.
- Express Signature
- Express Power
- Express Full Row
- Express Restore
Is Row House A Good Workout?
Overall, the row house is a good workout for beginners because it combines strength and cardio in one session. This helps to improve your aerobic and anaerobic power, as well as muscular strength and endurance.
The row house workout is its low resistance and high-repetition exercise with a minimum amount of rest, which makes it hard and challenging.
However, row house use only 3 lbs of dumbbells, which is not enough resistance to stimulate muscle growth.
Is row house good for cardio? If you’re looking for a fun cardio workout that is done in the group fitness style environment, a row house is good. Plus, the Row House workout is the first type of class that combines music with indoor rowing.
(it’s kind of like doing SoulCycle or Peloton class, but you row on an ergometer instead of the cycle on the bike).
I love working out with the music, especially when I do cardio. Training while listening to music is been proven to enhance physical performance, reduce perceived exertion, and improve physiological efficiency (Terry et al. 2020).
Here’s how it works.
Listening to music during exercise has been shown to have ergogenic effects, which are similar to caffeine.
(Ergogenic effects mean the ability to enhance performance by affecting the perception of work intensity. For example, it temporarily blocks the perception of fatigue, which leads to better and longer performance).
Dr. Costas Karageorghis from Brunel University London has documented that the “ergogenic effect of music is evident as it improves exercise performance by either delaying fatigue or increasing work capacity. This effect results in higher than expected levels of endurance, power, productivity, or strength” (source).
This means that listening to music helps you train harder, and longer, and experience less muscle soreness after the workout.
Is row house good for building muscle? As a whole, row house fitness is not a good workout to build muscle or strength. The strength training component utilizes only light weights and bodyweight exercises that can burn calories, but they are not optimal for hypertrophy.
Row House Calories Burned
The row house studio does have a large TV screen where they display overall metrics, but you won’t see your calories burned there.
How many calories do you burn at row house? As a whole, you can burn between 500 to 1000 calories at row house fitness, depending on your effort, class type, and duration. The caloric expenditure of rowing was estimated at 36 kcal/min, which is one of the highest energy costs reported for any aerobic-type sport.
You can see how many calories you’ve burned during the row house workout directly from the concept2 rower screen.
I don’t recommend relying on the calorie estimation from the ergometer because Concept2 uses a cookie-cutter formula based on a 175 pound/79.5 kg individual, which is inaccurate for most people.
If you have Apple Watch, you can connect that with the row house ergometer, and have a much more accurate reading.
Here you can see the video from RowAlong Workouts where they explain how to connect the Apple Watch with the rower ergometer.
Is row house good for weight loss? Overall, row house fitness is good for weight because each 45-minute class is a full-body workout that targets over 90% of muscles. This is high-intensity interval training, which means it will elevate your heart rate and burn a significant amount of calories.
How Often Should I Do Row House?
In general, you should do row house fitness 1-3 times per week, depending on your other activities. People who train with weights can use row house as once a week high-calorie burn cardio session, while people who just train with cardio can row 2 to 3 days per week.
The best time to do a row house workout is in the late afternoon or evening because bending stresses on the lumbar spine are three times greater in the morning. This happens because the lumbar discs imbibe fluid from the surrounding tissue overnight when the disc is unloaded.
Studies have shown that “forward bending movements subject the lumbar spine to higher bending stresses in the early morning (about 300% increase for the discs and 80% for the ligaments) compared with later in the day. It is concluded that lumbar discs and ligaments are at greater risk of injury in the early morning” (Adams et al. 1987).
As you can imagine, loading the spine first thing in the morning leaves it vulnerable to injury.
Of course, if your only option is to train in the morning, make sure you warm up the body for at least 10-15 minutes prior to the class.
Can I do row house every day? Overall, a row house workout is high-intensity interval training, which means it should not be done every day. The HIIT workouts elevate heart rate and increase blood lactate concentration, which can lead to neuromuscular fatigue if it’s done without sufficient rest.
Row House Membership
Overall, Row House offers different types of memberships based on how often you want to take classes. Keep in mind that will need to sign a contract that auto-renews each month when you decide to sign up for a membership.
One thing to keep in mind is that row house offers 4-6 classes per day that change from day to day. The time slots are always the same, however, the timetable will vary depending on your location.
Here is the row house fitness class and membership cost breakdown for 2022.
|Row House Membership||Cost|
|4 classes membership||$89/month|
|8 class membership||$149/month|
Some Row House Fitness locations also offer class packages, without the need to sign up for membership.
Can I use my Row House membership at different locations? Overall, row house offers unlimited monthly membership of $179, which allows you to take as many workouts as you want and join the classes from different locations.
Also, keep in mind that the first class is free, so you can join and try before you decide to commit to a monthly subscription.
Who is row house fitness good for? The idea behind the row house is simple. Deliver a high-intensity group fitness workout that is low impact, which means it’s perfect for beginners.
I really enjoyed my workout because apart from the good class I also has a nice experience and meet some interesting people.
The good thing about the Row House fitness was that they use rowers from the American company Concept2, which is famously known for its ergometers.