Long relegated to the dust-collecting corners of gyms across America, the rowing machine is making a comeback. After a much-needed upgrade in technology and style (affixed water tanks simulate true crewing conditions, while machines carved from wood and oil-finished are best sellers), this unsung hero of the fitness world has become the weapon du jour among the hard bodies of Hollywood—Jason Statham, Zac Efron, and Josh Hutcherson are devotees. It's also finding its way to your health club's most prized piece of real estate: the fitness-class studio. Those in the know say it's set to become the hip, new king of cardio.

"We're seeing a huge migration from spin to rowing," says Jay Blahnik, a Southern California trainer and group-fitness adviser for Equinox, which recently added a slew of new row-based classes in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and New York, among other cities. "Spinning isn't dead, but it has been put on notice."

The similarities between the two disciplines are many—both involve stationary machines that ape outdoor exercises, pump-you-up instructors, thumping music, peer pressure to keep pace, and a workout that leaves you sweat-soaked and serenely sore-muscled. But when it comes to achieving body-sculpting benefits, indoor rowing is in a class of its own. A 50-minute rowing class can burn up to 1,200 calories, twice as many as spinning. Every stroke requires you to work your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs, obliques, pecs, biceps, triceps, deltoids, upper back, and lats. "Each rep is essentially a leg press, a dead lift, and a row. And because you're working every muscle group in your body, your heart rate is elevated," says Garrett Roberts, an exercise physiologist and the founder of GoRow Studios in Hoboken, New Jersey. "Plus, you need to establish a more complex rhythm than pedaling. It's part of the challenge, but once you find that groove it becomes this kind of high." In short, with one low-maintenance workout, in a group setting or on your own, you'll get the statuesque body of an authentic crew rower (think Winklevoss twin minus the whining). Just prepare to get hooked—many class aficionados are working their way up toward rowing outdoors.

Add up all the benefits and it's no wonder more and more guys are stepping off the stationary bike and strapping into a rower. "People are catching on that they could be getting so much more out of their workout in the same amount of time," Roberts says. "I opened my rowing studio to prove that it's more fun and more effective than spinning. It's only a matter of time."

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