This 1800s Cardio Machine Looks Surprisingly Familiar

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By Sarah Klein

old row

In 1861, our exercise options were significantly more limited, compared to our choices today. There were no sold-out SoulCycle classes, no bootcamps in the park, no CrossFit.

But this page from Gustav Ernst’s The Portable Gymnasium shows that at least one of today’s most popular pieces of gym equipment has age-old roots.

In case you don’t quite recognize this old-timey rowing machine, the accompanying description for the movement, from the Wellcome Library’s online archive, makes it clear:
row

Thanks in part to the popularity of CrossFit, rowing machines are popping up not just in major gyms but also in boutique studios, where some even offer rowing-centric classes. Makes sense, considering 30 minutes on the rower can burn nearly 300 calories, according to MyFitnessPal. And unlike most other cardio machines (looking at you, treadmill), rowing also requires equal effort from your upper body — when performed with good form, of course.

When rowing, focus on almost completely straightening the legs — without locking the knees — before pulling the handle to your chest as you squeeze the shoulder blades together, Men’s Health reports. You should be leaning slightly forward at the beginning of the stroke and slightly back at the end, without rounding or hunching the shoulders.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

before

before

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