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The Best Rowing Workouts

It’s gym time! What’s your go-to workout at the gym? Are you a free weights kind of guy? Do you hop on the treadmill or the bike for a bit? Generally speaking when most people go to the gym, they have a set plan for their workout. And if not a set plan, then most have at least preferred machines. Some would count themselves as hamster wheel runners, other are dead set on the bike. Some gym goers are only to use the machines when the weather outside is not conducive to outdoor biking and running. However, how many gym goers are actually there for the rowing machines? We would venture to guess that number is not very high. And this is a mistake. A pretty big one at that. For one, the rowing machine is not something that can be replicated outside or anywhere else for that matter. Unless you have a boat. A rowboat. That’s what makes the rowing machines so special. It’s truly a workout that you can’t get anywhere else. And the benefits are so great, that it’s a workout you shouldn’t be ignoring. 

So, what are the benefits of the rowing machine? Well, let’s begin by discussing the cardio benefits first. Because that’s what rowing does, it works your cardio. 

What are the Benefits of a Cardio Workout?

Cardio is great because it helps the body to burn fat and calories, which in turn helps with weight loss. It also increases your lung capacity and helps to make the heart stronger so that pumping blood is not as difficult. This can be felt by how easy or hard it is to catch your breath while working out. By increasing your cardio abilities, you will also reduce your risk of heart attacks, lower your cholesterol and lower your blood pressure. Doing consistent cardio workouts will also lower your risks of developing diseases such as diabetes and cancer. 

The most popular high-intensity workouts that have as a goal to burn fat as well as the longer, slower workouts to improve endurance are almost always done on either a treadmill or a stationary bike. However, this is only because most people don’t know about or understand the benefits of the rowing machine. 

The rowing machine is the only one that can truly work your upper body all while providing the same cardio benefits as the treadmill and stationary bike. It is hard work though. Unlike other machines, the rowing machine does not allow for slow speeds or minimal resistance. It’s very much an all or nothing workout. And make no mistake, this is a good thing! Because it is all or nothing, it can really help make big improvements to your cardiovascular fitness levels and body composition because of how it builds muscle and burns fat. 

What are the Benefits of the Rowing Machine?

Step one is to ensure that you have mastered the correct form on the rower. In order to do that, you’ll need someone to show you the correct form and spot you, those first few times. After you’ve mastered it and can do it properly on your own, then the benefits will start to come. 

The rower provides a large amount of room for cross-over benefits. Working on the rower will help improve your weight lifting abilities, your aerobic fitness, it will build endurance and speed. Because 85% of your muscles are working while rowing, you will also build size, strength and power. 

To add to all this, you also get constant feedback from the rower. Each machine has a display setting that tells you if you are consistently moving towards your fitness and session objectives. No other machine can do that! 

How to Use the Rowing Machine 

Rowing Goals

In order to use the rower properly and safely, each stroke must be efficient and effective. You must with good posture. No rounding of the shoulders or the back. Start by sitting up straight and keeping everything in alignment. 

The Stroke: A Combination of the Drive and the Recovering

Each stroke is divided into two parts: the drive and the recovery. The drive is the working portion of the stroke, while the recovery is the resting portion of the stroke. When resting, you are preparing for the next drive.   

The drive begins by pushing your feet down and straightening your legs. Be sure to keep your arms straight and grip the handle firmly. When your legs are almost fully straight, drive your elbows back to bend your arms and bring the handle powerfully towards your chest. At the end of the drive your torso should be leaning back slightly with your elbows behind your body. The recovery portion begins as soon as you reverse the movement back to the start, bending your knees and sliding the seat back towards your heels. 

Various Rowing Machine Workouts -Here are some of the best ones:

Now let’s look at various types of rowing machine workouts. These are workouts that can be used in the same session or over multiple sessions. Like any workout, the more you do them, the better your results will be and the faster you will see those said results. 

The Best Workout to Improve Row Repeats

Start by putting the damper setting at 10, then position yourself correctly and safely on the rower. Make sure that your feet are securely fastened and you have an overhand grip on the bar.

  • Turn the screen on and make sure the time and distance data are clearly visible.
  • Row for five minutes at a comfortable pace, then row for 250m as fast as possible. Never break form to gain speed or repeats. Always maintain proper rowing form both for safety and efficiency.
  • Rest for 60 seconds, then row another 250m at maximum effort.
  • Repeat this pattern for a total of ten all-out 250m rows. 

The Best Workout to Build Endurance

Start with a five-minute warm-up at an easy pace.

  • Row for 20 minutes at the highest level you can consistently maintain. You’ll want to give it all your effort here.
  • Take note of your average stroke rate and average speed at the end. Keeping track of it will help you to improve in the future. 

The Best Workout to Burn Fat

Warm up with a five-minute row at an easy pace.

  • Row as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat this for a total of six rounds, then take a three-minute rest.
  • Repeat this entire set three times.
  • Make sure maintain the same intensity so that you row the same distance each time 

The Best Workout for Time Trial

The goal is to hit 2km.

  • In order to set a solid time during that 2km, row 4x 500m, with one minute of rest in between.
  • Reduce the duration of the rest as you get stronger.
  • The goal is to eventually do the whole 2km in one all-out effort at your best time.

The Best Workout When You are Short on Time: 40" On/20" Off

  • Warm up for 5 minutes.
  • Alternate 40 seconds of hard rowing with 20 seconds of easy rowing for a total of 10 minutes.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes after the workout. 

The Best Quick High Intensity Intervals Workout

  • Warm up for 10 minutes.
  • Row one set of high intensity intervals: 8 x (20 seconds max effort, alternating with 10 seconds easy rowing).
  • Cool down for 5 minutes after the workout. 
  • Repeat for a second set.

The Best Workout to Do with a Partner

First select other exercises that you will alternate with the rowing machine. Here, person #1 uses the rower, while person #2 does the alternate exercises and then they switch. The alternate exercises can be things like push-ups, sit-ups or air squats.

  • Warm up for 10 minutes
  • 5 minutes of rowing and 5 minutes of the alternate exercise and then switch so both partners can warm up both ways.
  • Person 1 rows 500 meters, while Person 2 does the alternate exercise and then switch.
  • Switch places and repeat for a total of 20 minutes or your set workout time.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes after the workout. 

The Best Aerobic Interval Workout: 4 x 4 minutes

  • Warm up for 5-10 minutes.
  • Set the timer for intervals of 4 minutes and a rest time of 2 minutes.
  • Row the first 4 minutes at a moderately intense pace.
  • Increase your effort each interval so that you have used all your energy and are spent by the fourth interval.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes after the workout.

The Best Recovery Workout

  • Warm up at an easy pace for 10 minutes.
  • Start rowing very easily, thinking more about good technique than anything else.
  • Stop and stretch.
  • Start rowing again, focusing on your technique. Every minute, take 10 strokes with a little bit more intensity each time and then ease back down.
  • Continue for about 20 minutes.
  • Cool down and stretch out after the workout. 

If you are still hesitating about trying out the rowing machine, have a quick look at this short list of all the incredible benefits working out with a rowing machine can offer you. 

4 More Benefits to Working Out with a Rowing Machine 

  1. It’s a total body workout! One of the biggest myths about rowing is that it's all upper body. Actually, it’s an amazing full body workout. It’s also low impact and offers killer strength opportunities and a challenging cardio workout. In reality, rowing works nine major muscles groups: quads, hamstrings, glutes, lats, core, shoulder, triceps, back, biceps. Improved posture is another huge benefit you can get rom rowing.
  2. It’s low impact! The reason why rowing is good for rehab is because, it's a much lower impact alternative as compared to other machines and even other sports.
  3. It’s easy to learn! The learning curve is not that huge on this one. The movements themselves are relatively simple. People generally get the basics down in 10-minutes. After that, it’s really just a matter of maintain good form.
  4. You remain in control on each stroke. Resistance is created by how hard you push or pull, so you control the level of your own workout. 

Every gym has a rowing machine, so now that you know the basics and the benefits, try it out next time! Just remember to ask for help on that very first time so that you can learn the proper form in order to be able get the most out of your workouts. Once you start, you will see results quickly. Your muscle tone will improve, your cardio will improve and you will be getting a total body workout each time! 



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