Almost all novice rowers make the same mistake within seconds of strapping into a rowing ergometer, says world-class rower Libby Peters, the former associate head coach of the University of Pennsylvania women’s rowing team. As a member of the U.S. National Team, Peters won a bronze medal at the 2008 World Rowing Championships. Needless to say she knows how to use a rowing machine properly.

It’s not entirely intuitive, but with practice, rowing becomes as natural as, say, breathing. And now that it’s no longer a sport reserved for Ivy League athletes, rowing machines have finally found their way into fitness studios throughout the country. From New York’s City Row to high-tech at-home equipment, strokes are becoming as ubiquitous as cycling or running. But perhaps rowing’s greatest appeal is the uniquely low-impact efficiency of the movement.

While providing a great full-body workout, a rower is designed primarily to target your legs—but the most common mistake is that too many people task their arms with all the work, pulling with all their might, says Peters. She recommends rethinking the way you approach the exercise.

“The thing to remember about rowing is, it’s basically like you’re lifting like a heavy load,” says Peters. “When you’re in a boat, the load is you and the boat itself; when you’re on the erg, the load is the resistance being created by the machine.” (I don’t know about you, but this was an “aha!” moment for me when I heard it.)

Below, Peters explains how to fix your rowing form. With practice, the rowing machine promises to become one of your favorite pieces of equipment.


Wondering how to use a rowing machine properly? Learn from a world-class rowing coach

Before you sit down on the sliding seat, make sure the adjust rowing machine’s damper setting. This mechanism, located on the side of the machine, determines the resistance level. Set it to level three, four, or five. Cruising at these lower speeds will keep you from hurting yourself when you’re just getting your sea (land?) legs, according to Peters.

  1. The Finish: To start, strap in your feet, straighten your legs, and clutch the handle so it falls right at your lower ribs (your palms are facing down). Your upper body will lean slightly back at an 11 o’clock position. This position is called “the finish.”
  2. The Catch: To move safely into the catch, slide your body forward until your shins are parallel and your knees are directly over your ankles. Your chest will be touching, or nearly touching, your thighs at the 1 o’clock position. Make sure to keep your upper body from rolling forward.
  3. The Drive: Pay attention! This is the trickiest part. Start by pushing your feet forward to straighten your legs. Once they’re completely flat, pull your body back from the 1 o’clock position to the 11 o’clock position. Finish by pulling the handle into your body while keeping your core tight.

You did it! Peters warns that the whole movement pattern will feel clunky and mechanical at first. Once your body familiarizes itself with the finish, catch, and drive, you can close your eyes and imagine you’re skimming across a placid lake, rather than sweating buckets at the gym.

Try out your new form with a 12-minute rowing workout

“I always recommend starting with intervals,” says Peters. For a quick-hit cardio session, alternate every 60 seconds between slow strokes that focus on strength and proper form (shoot for 16 to 18 strokes per minute), and strokes that are more casual as your active recovery. Go back and forth between the two for 10 to 12 minutes.

“I really like interval workouts for young or new athletes,” she says. “I think you get more out of it by doing higher quality with shorter time or shorter distance.”

Speaking of gym machines that we love, this one gives you a full-body workout in a single move and the secret to giving your booty a boost on the treadmill.

How Long Should You Row on a Rowing Machine?

A lot of readers ask me “how long should you row on a rowing machine?”

I even get the question, “what is the least amount of time I can spend on a rowing machine?”

These are very difficult questions because there really is no right or wrong answer!

Everyone will be different because everyone has different goals and different time frames for achieving these goals.

People also lose weight differently than others. For example, a person who is “very out of shape” will lose weight a lot easier than someone who exercises a few times a week.

All of these factors change how the question is answered and how long you should use a rowing machine.

While I can give you some rough estimates of how long you should row on a rowing machine, I think the best thing to do is go over some questions to ask yourself.

These questions will help point you to how long you should be rowing everyday.

I can also give you some rough estimates of the type of results to expect from rowing different amounts of times.

What Are Your Rowing Machine Goals?

Outlining and writing down your rowing machine goals is going to be the most important factor to determine your rowing time.

Not having goals before you start to exercise is like walking around blind. You should have specific goals and try to follow the SMART goals guidelines.

A good goal may be, “I want to lose 16 lbs. in 2 months. I will lose 2 lbs. per week and weigh myself every Sunday morning”.

You can use your goals to work backwards into how long you should row on a rowing machine.

How Many Calories Do You Want to Burn?

If you have a specific amount of weight you want to lose, this can help you back into a time per day to spend on the rowing machine.

Let’s take the previous example of losing 16 lbs. in 2 months. This means you want to lose 2 lbs. per week.

There are 3,500 calories in 1 lb., so to lose 2 lbs. per week you would need to lose 7,000 calories a week (3,500 x 2).

You can divide 7,000 calories by 7 days and conclude you need to burn 1,000 calories per day.

So your goal of losing 2 lbs. a week (16 lbs. in 2 months) would require you to create a 1,000 calorie deficit per day.

Now rowing is not the only way to achieve this 1,000 calorie deficit. You can also cut calories by making healthy eating choices!

Just switching your breakfast from a bagel with cream cheese and a cappuccino to a banana and black coffee can cut out over 300 calories!

If you plan to cut out 500 calories from eating healthy, you then only have to row until you burn 500 calories. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on some factors like age, weight, heart rate and rowing intensity.

I have a great article on burning calories with a rowing machine that you can read for more details.

Rowing can also help boost your metabolism to burn more calories throughout the day. So you may only need to burn 400 calories from rowing and an extra 100 from your increased metabolic rate from exercise!

Having a weight loss goal and working backwards is a great way to estimate how long you should be using a rowing machine each day.

Hopefully you were able to follow this example and it wasn’t too confusing! If you have a specific situation please leave me a comment below.

What Cardiovascular Benefits Do You Want?

Some people aren’t interested in seeing numbers drop on a scale but instead want better cardiovascular health.

I recently had an email asking “I want to improve my cardio on a rowing machine, how long to see results?”

I had to reply asking, “what type of cardiovascular benefits do you want!?”

Rowing can be used for aerobic exercise (long & slow) and anaerobic exercise (short & fast).

So you can really receive every cardiovascular benefit from rowing. It all depends on your goals, workouts, and how long you want to spend rowing.

Rowing Machine for Anaerobic

If you are looking to improve your anaerobic conditioning, then you will need to spend less time on the rowing machine. Workouts will generally be higher intensity for shorter amounts of time.

Anaerobic exercises can last anywhere between 5-20 minutes.

Doing sprints and high intensity interval training are the best workouts for anaerobic conditioning.

Rowing Machine for Aerobic

If you are looking to improve your aerobic conditioning, then rowing times will generally be longer. I usually perform my steady-state workouts between 45 minutes – 90 minutes.

Intensity and heart-rate will be much lower so you can last the full duration.

No matter what your goal (anaerobic vs. aerobic), you should always mix in different workouts. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can greatly improve your anaerobic conditioning and vice versa.

Do You Want to Build Muscle While Rowing?

Some people may ask “how long should you row on a rowing machine to build muscle?”

Again, it is a difficult question to answer but I can point you in a good general direction.

First, I will say rowing is more of a cardio workout than strength building exercise. To gain a lot of muscle, you will need to supplement rowing with weight training.

If you just want to build lean muscle and become “shredded” or “ripped”, then a rowing machine can achieve this.

The best way to gain lean muscle is to perform HIIT exercises (high intensity interval training). These exercises are very short and intense. They help to “shock” and breakdown your muscle fibers which leads to growth.

Great rowing HIIT exercises can be rowing for 20 seconds as hard as possible, followed by 20 seconds of rest. You then repeat this as many times as you can. Total workout time will be less than 10 minutes.

Either before or after my HIIT exercises I like to do some supplemental exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and kettlebells.

I wrote an article outlining all the muscles used while rowing you can check out.

I also wrote an article explaining how kettlebells and rowing machines are the perfect match!

In my opinion, this is the best way to build lean muscle from rowing and this is how I got into the best shape of my life!

What is the Time Frame For Your Goals?

Having different time frames for your goals can also drastically effect the amount of time you need to spend on the rowing machine, especially for weight loss goals.

If you take the previously example of losing 16 lbs. in 2 months, we calculated you may need to row anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour per day.

However, if you expanded your time frame to 4 months you may only need to spend 15 minutes per day on the rowing machine! You could also use the rowing machine for 30 minutes every other day.

A lot easier to manage!

Giving yourself enough time to achieve your goals is always important. The more time you have, the less stress you will have and the easier it will be to make adjustments to your workout plans.

How Much Time Do You Have to Exercise?

While it is easy to say you must spend 90 minutes a day exercising, I understand that people are busy!

It can be helpful to first figure out how much time a day you have for exercising.

If you have less than an hour a day I recommend auditing all your activities and finding activities that can be removed from your schedule.

This includes things like Facebook, emails, Netflix, reading, TV, etc.. Anything that doesn’t involve your core goals for your family, job, or health should be taken out of your schedule!

If you have a favorite show you like to watch, then watch it while rowing!

I promise you there is always time to exercise. You just have to make it a priority.

Once you figure out how much time you have to workout, I suggest adding it to your schedule and making it a necessary part of your routine.

Building a habit of exercising everyday is the best way to make sure you won’t fail reaching your goal.

What is the Least Amount of Time You Can Row?

I actually get this question a lot! Many readers want to know the least amount of time they can spend on a rowing machine to see results.

First off, I think this is a bad attitude and outlook to have before starting to exercise. You shouldn’t be looking for the easy way out but instead you should create a goal and figuring out the amount of work/time you need to achieve this goal!

However, I believe a person can row for 15-20 minutes per day and start seeing results in a few weeks.

Rowing for 15-20 minutes everyday can help a person lose about 0.5 lbs. per week or more depending on their current state of health.

The more “out of shape” you are, the easier and faster you will be able to lose weight.

You can also start eating a very healthy diet on top of rowing 20 minutes a day and begin seeing very amazing results!

Hopefully after reading through some of the questions you have a better idea of how long you should row on a rowing machine.

In a nutshell, it comes down to what are your goals and what is the time frame for completing them?

Below I will break down some different rowing machine times per day and goals you can achieve by doing them.

Rowing Machine 15 Minutes a Day

If you use a rowing machine 15 minutes a day and you are trying to lose weight, you will need a longer time frame for your goals.

Rowing 15 minutes a day can burn about 150-300 calories depending on the intensity levels.

This means you can lose 0.5 lbs. per week without dieting. So to lose 10 lbs. you would need a time frame of 20 weeks!

However, rowing 15 minutes a day can often lead to losing more than 0.5 lbs. a week because your body’s metabolism will increase, which will lead to more calories burned overall.

You can also add a healthy diet to lose another 1 lb. per week on top of your rowing machine weight loss.

Rowing intensely for 15 minutes a day can also greatly improve anaerobic conditioning and help build lean muscle.

Rowing Machine 30 Minutes a Day

If you use a rowing machine 30 minutes a day you should be able to lose 1 lb. a week.

I think losing 1 lb. a week is the healthiest way to lose weight and also keep the weight off. I often see many people lose a lot more, but I feel they have a higher chance of putting weight back on due to the weight loss not being sustainable.

A lot of factors come into play while losing weight. A person who is very overweight can easily lose more than 1 lb. a week rowing for 30 minutes a day!

Using a rowing machine 30 minutes a day can also help to improve anaerobic and aerobic conditioning. Most people will see lean muscle development in their core, legs, arms, back, and chest.

Rowing Machine 90 Minutes a Day

Using a rowing machine 90 minutes a day is for serious rowers or people really driven to lose weight.

Rowing for 90 minutes can burn over 1,000 calories per session which adds up to losing 2 lbs. a week from rowing alone.

Using a rowing machine 90 minutes a day will also give your metabolism a huge boost so you may even lose up to 3-4 lbs. a week depending on your current weight and health.

Couple this with a healthy diet and you are on your way to seeing results fast!

Rowing for 90 minutes a day is an excellent aerobic exercise and is great for any long distance training. People who use the rowing machine 90 minutes a day will become lean and very “cut”.

I have read many testimonials of people rowing for 60 – 90 minutes a day and having huge success! The Concept2 website has some examples of people losing over 100 lbs. in 5 months just from rowing!

Check out some of these amazing rowing machine before and after photos!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, figuring out how long you should row on a rowing machine is not an easy task.

You should first set SMART goals and make sure to have a time frame listed.

From there, you can work backwards into how long you should be rowing everyday and for how many days a week.

Giving yourself more time to achieve your goals always makes achieving the goal a little easier and your workout times a little shorter. It is much easier to row for 20 minutes a day rather than 60 minutes a day!

I know life can be busy but making exercise a priority is the key to leading a healthy life. We only have one body, so it is a good idea to put our health very high on our priority list!

If you need help finding a rowing machine you can fill out my questionnaire and I’ll select the best model for you!

You can also check out my bestselling Concept2 Model D Rower Review. The best rowing machine for weight loss and overall exercise.

If you have specific questions about how long to row on a rowing machine or how long to see results, please leave them in the comment section below.

Each person’s goals are specific and will have a specific answer. I’m always glad to help 🙂

Photo: Pond5

Not sure how to work out on a rowing machine without looking like a total fish out of water? It’s easy to make mistakes when using a rower, officially known as an “ergometer,” the first couple of times. But you’d be crazy to avoid the machine altogether out of sheer embarrassment. Rowing can burn up to 800 calories an hour and is extremely effective in working your whole body from head to toe. Quads, hamstrings, , abdominals, arms, shoulders and calves are all used in the rowing stroke. Depending on how you train, you can increase your aerobic fitness or focus on building muscle strength and explosive power.

RELATED: 3 Rowing Machine Cardio Workouts for Strength and Endurance

Rowing’s efficiency and effectiveness, plus its reputation for being a low-impact workout for all ages and body types, has made it increasingly popular in gyms and fitness studios across the U.S. CrossFitters are getting on board with rowing, too. Numerous boxes incorporate the rower into WODs (Workout of the Day), and there are several CrossFit Games rowing events.

Row Like A Pro: Technique 101

“Learning to row has often been made way too complicated and intimidating,” says Josh Crosby, rowing world champion and co-creator of the IndoRow machine and ShockWave, an Equinox class that combines rowing with circuit training. To simplify the exercise and help you learn the stroke, Crosby and Patrick Larcom, head coach at Renegade Rowing and coach at CrossFit Boston, share the lowdown on the best ways to correct common newbie mistakes. Use these expert tips to confidently strap in and get your heart racing!

RELATED: The Low-Impact Workout That Will Make You Sweat

Mistake #1: Forgetting to check the damper setting.

Lots of newbies will sit down and not adjust the damper setting, the lever on the side of the air-resistant flywheel on a Concept II rower. If the lever is on a higher setting, the rowing machine will feel more like a heavy rowboat and might exhaust your muscles too early in the workout.

The fix: Practice your form before you set your sights high. “The damper setting is like gears on a bicycle,” says Larcom. The higher the gear, the heavier the feel on the body. He recommends starting somewhere between a three and a five, if you’re new to rowing. (It’s most similar to the feel of being on water.)

Mistake #2: Rowing with only your arms.

You’ve seen rowers with built upper bodies, so you’re ready to pull the handle with all your might, right? Wrong! Putting too much pressure on your arms, shoulders and back can cause serious injury to your body.

The fix: “Roughly 60 percent of your power should come from pushing with the legs, 20 percent from bracing the core and 20 percent from pulling with the arms,” says Crosby. It’s important to use the power of your legs for each stroke by pushing against the panel (foot stretcher) where your feet are strapped in.

RELATED: 3 Rowing Workouts to Get Strong and Lean

Mistake #3: Mixing up the order of operations.

Firing the arms and legs at the same time might feel like the right thing to do when you sit down. But if you’re all systems go, you’ll put unnecessary strain on your upper body.

GIF: Renegade Rowing’s Pat Larcom on a Concept II

The fix: There’s a three-step process to the rowing stroke. Focus on pushing with the legs first. Next, pivot backward at the hips so your shoulders pass your pelvis (you should be in a slight lay back). Then, pull the arms into your chest. A good target for your hands, according to Larcom, is “where you would bench press or the bottom of the sports bra,” below your ribs. Once your hands are pulled into your chest, reverse the order to go back to starting position, and repeat.

RELATED: 6 Killer Cardio Workouts That Don’t Involve Running

Mistake #4: Hunching your back during the stroke.

If you’ve got a bad habit of rounding your back when concentrating at a desk, odds are good that your body will naturally assume that same position when you sit down at a rower.

The fix: “You want to sit tall with a stacked posture,” says Larcom. He recommends focusing on “turning on” your abdominal muscles, or engaging your core. Also relax your shoulders so they are pulled back and down. Your spine should always be in neutral.

Mistake #5: Banging your butt into your heels or rushing.

You’re in the zone, taking strokes as fast as possible towards your imaginary finish line. Problem is, your seat keeps slamming into the front of the rower and your body is jerking forward uncontrollably.

The fix: To regain control, pay attention to timing of your strokes. According to Crosby, the stroke’s ratio should be a 1:2 count. That means your body should expend lots of energy quickly at the drive, when the legs are pushing and arms are pulling. The second half of the stroke should be more relaxed and controlled. Having a calm and collected recovery will prevent your seat from smashing frantically into the front of the rower.

RELATED: The 10-Minute Rowing Workout This Olympian Swears By

Mistake #6: Shooting your butt out and having to jerk your upper body back.

If your legs are pushing quickly and causing your rear to shoot out ahead of the rest of you, your upper body will have to awkwardly catch up. Doing extra work to jerk your top half around will make your stroke less efficient, and can cause injury.

The fix: “Make sure your abs are turned on, so the hands and feet stay connected,” says Larcom. He stresses that engaging the core is key to smoothly connecting the movements of the upper and lower body. For efficient rowing, you want to be able to stop at any point during the stroke and be in a “strong position.” That means your entire body has a deliberate and controlled posture with key muscles activated.

Originally published March 2014. Updated December 2016. 0 Shares 0 Shares

Does Rowing Count as Cardio?

When cardio day rolls around, your mind probably turns to one of a few options: running, cycling, or using the elliptical. While all great options, most gyms are housing a secret weapon—the rowing machine.

When used correctly, this machine can provide a crazy-good, challenging cardio workout. Here, we break down some of the cardio benefits of rowing.

Why is rowing such good cardio?

Most of us grew up running and biking, so the actual mechanics of the exercise are second nature. Rowing, on the other hand, is usually a new sport, so it’s more challenging. It will require more attention and more effort to get right, especially when you first start, but the cardio benefits of rowing are worth it.

As for the movement itself, rowing is more of a combination exercise—working muscular and cardiovascular endurance. To row, you need to use your upper and lower body almost simultaneously.

It works multiple major muscle groups, like the shoulders, arms, core, and legs, at one time. The required push and pull is fairly unique to stationary machines, and the set up means that you’re getting strength training and cardiovascular training in one low-impact workout.

Looking for cardio workouts? We’ve got you covered… check out a few sample workouts here.

How does rowing compare to other forms of cardio?

For starters, rowing can burn up to 600-800 calories per hour. Unlike running, rowing is low-impact, making it an ideal cross-training workout.

It’s also really simple to tailor your workout to your fitness level. Compared to other forms of cardio, rowing provides a greater range of muscle work.

It hits just about everything in the upper body and lower body, as well as the core. Few other machines can boast those full body benefits.

What muscles does rowing work?

The big push—called the catch—works your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Those huge leg muscles push repeatedly the whole time you’re rowing, and since those are some of the biggest muscles in your body, you’re burning a ton of calories.

Likewise, working those major muscles means that your body will continue to burn a higher number of calories throughout the day.

Those big pushes also require stabilization, meaning your core comes into play. Without a strong, stabilized core, your body will kind of collapse while you rowing. And when we say core we mean all the muscles in your truck, not just the abdominals.

Thanks to the added pulling motion, your arms and back get in on the action, too. Biceps, triceps, rhomboids, and your chest muscles help reel the handle in and complete the motion.

Just a few minutes on the rowing machine can help loosen up tight back and neck muscles, and warm up your arms rather quickly.

Two-for-One Workout

Rowing is kind of like lifting and running combined—a two-for-one workout. The cardio benefits of rowing alone are huge, but the added strength component makes all the difference. You’ll test your muscular and cardiovascular endurance and strength, making you stronger and more efficient over time.

Aaptiv’s HIIT and cardio workouts are sure to impress. Be sure to check them out today.

Photo: Pond5

If you’re tired of the treadmill, step off that beaten belt and try a more stimulating endurance challenge: rowing workouts.

“If you take the time to learn rowing technique, it’s one of the best exercises you can do for cardio,” says Jack Nunn, former member of the U.S. Under 23 National Team, U.S. Rowing Masters 2013 Athlete of the Year and owner of Roworx, an indoor rowing training facility in Long Beach, CA. The low-to-the-ground, long machine engages your legs, back, core and arms, delivering an intense full-body cardio experience. Best of all? Rowing won’t put as much stress on your knee and hip joints as running does, meaning that this type of training is ideal for people of all ages, sizes and walks of life.

RELATED: 3 Strength Workouts You Can Do on a Rowing Machine

Whether you’re ready to vary your gym routine or to row with more confidence during your next CrossFit WOD, we’ve got expert tips on how to maximize your rowing potential, plus three workouts that can torch up to 700 calories each, says Nunn.

Rowing: The Basics

While most people think rowing requires mostly upper-body strength, it’s actually all about the legs, says Nunn. Like a golf swing, the legs and hips do most of the work for creating power during a rowing stroke. In fact, the movement is similar to an explosive power clean in weightlifting that uses your entire body. You begin driving with your legs, engage the muscles in your back and core, and then follow through with your arms, explains Nunn.

RELATED: 6 Rowing Machine Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

The Set-Up

Just like any piece of gym equipment, it’s best to get acquainted with how the rowing machine functions before you go full speed ahead into a workout. Nunn recommends that beginners do three things when they sit down on a Concept 2 rowing machine.

  1. Adjust the foot straps. “Make sure the strap goes across the ball of your foot,” says Nunn. If your feet are placed too high, your legs will also be placed too high, meaning you won’t be taking full strokes. The improper leg position will set you up for an awkward and inefficient stroke. Adjust the foot stretcher where you rest your feet either up or down a few pegs if the fabric strap isn’t lying in the correct spot.
  2. Check the damper setting. Located on the right side of the circular flywheel on a Concept 2 machine, the damper setting is a plastic lever that controls how much air is in the flywheel. Setting the damper to 10 will feel like rowing a heavy boat and will require the most “work” per stroke, while setting it to zero will feel like rowing a sleek, light boat and will require less energy per stroke. You can also think about damper setting like gears on a bike, explains Nunn. “For beginners, you want to make sure the damper setting is anywhere from four to six,” he recommends.
  3. Understand the monitor. The square display is a powerful tool that will give instantaneous feedback during your workout. But with so many possible metrics to use, it’s important for beginners to limit themselves to just the essentials. Two numbers Nunn suggests focusing on are stroke rate (strokes per minute, located in the upper right of the screen) and watts (a measure of workout intensity). A good first goal: Consistently hit your bodyweight (in pounds) in watts, says Nunn.

The Warm-Up

To get your body warmed up and ready to row, Nunn suggests a 10-minute “Pick Drill.” To pick the stroke apart and wake up the muscles, you’ll begin with simple, partial movements and then work up to the full rowing motion.

  1. Start with your legs straight, body in an upright position, elbows bent so the handle is pulled fully into your chest. Keeping your back and legs straight, extend your arms away from your body, reaching towards your feet, then bring them back to the original position. Shoulders should remain relaxed. Repeat for two minutes.
  2. Next, engage your back. After you extend your arms forward, hinge forward slightly at the hips. Then, keeping your spine neutral, reverse the motion by leaning back from the hips once your body is fully upright, as you pull your arms and the handle into your chest. Repeat for two minutes.
  3. Warming up your legs comes next. After you extend your arms and hinge forward from the hips, bend your knees slightly so your seat rolls halfway towards the flywheel, and your arms extend forward past your feet, grasping the handle. Reverse the motion by pushing with your legs first, then leaning back and finally pulling your arms into your chest. Repeat for two minutes.
  4. Time to take a complete stroke! You may now bend your knees fully so your shins are perpendicular to the ground and your heels lift up slightly. Repeat for four minutes.

The Workouts

Ready to row? Try one of these three conditioning sessions suggested by Nunn. And we’ve got some good news: You don’t even need to time your own intervals. You’ll find all three of these workouts pre-programmed in the monitor of the Concept 2 rower. Read the tips below, do the 10-minute Pick Drill above, then cue up your routine by choosing “Select Workout” from the main menu, then tapping “Custom List” on the rowing monitor, and picking your poison.

Rowing Workout 1: HIIT Sprints (30/30r in Concept 2 menu)

If you’re short on time, these high-intensity intervals will give you a quick sweat fix. Improve your strength and explosive power in just 20 minutes (not including warm-up or cool down). You’ll burn roughly 300 calories in total, says Nunn. Keep your stroke rate between 26 and 32 and always be in control of how fast your legs are moving.

Photo: Pond5

Rowing Workout 2: Pyramid Power (v1:00/1:00r in Concept 2 menu)

Try this intermediate challenge to improve endurance and consistency with your rowing. For each interval, aim to keep the same workout intensity, or pace. You can check this by looking at watts or by changing your units to “time per 500 meters” on the display. Be warned: Just because you’re rowing and resting for the same amount of time doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy! Your hard work will burn roughly 450 calories.

Photo: Pond5

Rowing Workout 3: Lean Leapfrog (v1:00/1:00r in Concept 2 menu)

Compete against yourself during these aggressive bursts. While most rowing workouts are aerobic, this one is anaerobic. Similar to a weight lifting session, you’ll exert your muscles enough to produce lactate, which leaves you with that burns-so-good feeling. Ultimately, an anaerobic rowing machine session will help you increase your power output and endurance because it forces you to tap into the strength of your legs. While paying strict attention to your stroke rate, try to maintain or increase your meters rowed during each “on” minute. This challenging row is 40 minutes and will burn roughly 700 calories, says Nunn.

Photo: Pond5

Want more burns-so-good interval workouts? Try Black Fire with Bob Harper, free for 30 days, at

Originally posted January 2015. Updated February 2017.

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Which Is Better: Treadmill or Rowing Machine?

Which is better, a treadmill or rowing machine?

A lot of people ask this question so they can better understand what piece of equipment to use.

While this is a tough match up, when I put the rowing machine vs. treadmill through a few tests, there was only one winner!

This topic is dear to my heart because I used to be an avid runner, both indoors and outdoors.

Then I sadly obtained a few injuries that prevented me from running long distance. After my leg injuries, I discovered the many wonderful benefits of rowing on an indoor rowing machine.

So choosing between a treadmill or rowing machine is going to be a difficult question to answer since I have grown to love both so much!

When matching the rowing machine vs. treadmill to ask which is better, we first need to define “better”.

The definition of “better” depends who you ask. One person’s idea of better is the machine that burns the most calories. Another person’s idea of better is which machine builds the most muscle.

In other words, people’s definition of “better” can be very different.

For the sake of this article, I’m going to answer the three questions below objectively and will pick either a treadmill or rowing machine based on my opinion of:

  • Which machine provides a better overall workout?
  • Which machine is better for your body?
  • Which machine is the better value?

Which Machine Provides a Better Overall Workout?

When comparing rowing vs. running, both provide a great cardiovascular workout that:

  • Strengthens your heart and lungs
  • Increases bone density
  • Reduces stress
  • Brightens up your mood
  • Reduces risk of heart disease and some types of cancer
  • Increases confidence
  • Increases energy level
  • Improves sleeping conditions
  • Burns calories
  • Promotes weight loss
  • …The list goes on and on but hopefully you get the point

Treadmills typically provide the ability to adjust your running speed and incline levels to offer a more challenging workout.

In addition to providing a great cardio workout, the muscles worked out on a treadmill include mostly your leg muscles such as the hamstrings, glutes, calves, and quadriceps.

Rowing machines typically have adjustable resistance to cater to the users’ strength level and a user can row as fast as they can possibly row.

In addition to providing a great cardio workout, the muscles worked out on a rowing machine are most of the muscles in your body. I even have a breakdown of every muscle used while rowing.

You get a great leg workout from pushing off and your entire upper body is excercised during the “pull” portion of rowing. Rowing is truly a great functional fitness exercise that require your whole body to work hard, not just your legs.

Verdict: Rowing Machine

Both machines provide a great cardio workout, but the rowing machine works out your lower and upper body simultaneously. A treadmill primarily works out just your lower body, which is great but it just can compete against a full body workout from a rower.

NOTE: For burning calories, running on a treadmill at a steep incline will burn more calories than rowing on a machine according to this article.

However, for overall weight loss, a rowing machine is the better option because it provides an equivalent cardio workout to a treadmill but it also builds more muscle.

Rowing machines have also been shown to elevate metabolism for hours after a workout, so just don’t look at the calories burned screen when comparing a treadmill vs. rowing machine.

Which Machine Is Better For Your Body?

When comparing the rowing machine vs. treadmill for a better overall workout, we touched on which machine was best for cardiovascular, weight loss, and muscle strength.

Now we will discuss which exercise, running or rowing, is better for your body.

In this question by ‘better’ we mean, which machine is less harmful to your body?

Running (indoors or outdoors) is considered a weight-bearing exercise. Studies show that runners put 4 to 8 times their weight on their joints each step. This added force can cause serious damage to your joints.

Every year thousands of runners have joint related injuries and entire industries have formed due to this problem.

Most injuries occur when people run with weak muscles from a sedentary lifestyle or improper running form.

This is a recipe for disaster when you couple this with the massive force that is constantly applied to your knees, ankles, and hips

Rowing on an indoor rowing machine or outdoors is a non-weight bearing exercise that puts minimal stress on your joints.

Rowing while seated means you are not constantly working against gravity, so there is no pounding on the joints.

People rehabilitating after an injury or surgery often use a rowing machine to help recover and gain strength.

Verdict: Rowing Machine

While you may think I’m being bias, I can assure you I’m not.

What led me to pick a rowing machine is based on how I feel after a long run and a vigorous rowing session.

After a long run (> 5 miles), I feel exhausted. My knees hurt, my ankles hurt, and my body hurts. I feel the wear put on my body for the rest of the day and sometimes the following day(s) depending on how far I ran.

After a vigorous rowing workout, I feel exhausted and my legs feel like jello for a while, but I definitely don’t feel ‘beat up’ all over. Most times I don’t feel any lingering effects on my body for more than just an hour or two. I will feel muscle soreness the next day but not the aching joint pains I get when running.

Which Machine Is The Better Value?

The total cost of either machine isn’t the key factor to measure here. I want to measure which one provides more “bang for your buck”.

Before writing this article, I thought this would be a more difficult question to answer. However, after re-reading the questions above and thinking about it more, there’s no question on my mind which machine is the winner here:

A rowing machine provides a challenging cardiovascular workout, builds muscle on your lower and upper body, and is non-weight bearing.

There’s a reason why doctors tell their patients to use a rowing machine rather than a treadmill when rehabbing after surgery.

A treadmill is a great workout machine and I’m not bashing it at all! However, when you put it head-to-head with a rowing machine answering the three questions above, one is clearly ahead of the other.

One thing to mention is you can spend $0 to run (outdoors), the same can’t be said about rowing.

If buying a treadmill or rowing machine from an online retailer like Amazon you can expect to see similar prices. Both have high-end and low-end machines but let’s compare the #1 rowing machine vs treadmill.

#1 Overall Rowing Machine: Concept2 Model D

Read my full Concept2 Model D Indoor Rower review by visiting my article here.

#1 Overall Treadmill: LifeSpan TR1200i Folding Treadmill

Whichever machine you ultimately prefer, keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to mix up your workouts. You can do this by using different machines and changing routines so your body won’t get used to what exercise your performing.

Once your body adapts to a workout, the effectiveness vastly decreases, so always make sure to mix things up!

Want more information about the benefits of rowing machines? Check out all my Rowing Machine King Articles.

What Does a Rowing Machine Do For Your Body?

“What does a rowing machine do for your body?”

Is this the thought that runs through your mind as you walk past one in the gym?

Each piece of equipment in a gym has a specific purpose for your body.

So you begin to go through each piece.

Free weights and weight machines are for strength training. Treadmills, ellipticals and bikes are for cardiovascular exercise.

But rowing machines? What is their purpose?

If you don’t know, you’re not alone! Apparently most people are unaware of what it does for your body because I rarely see anyone in a health club using them.

Simply put – a rowing machine is your body’s best friend. They give your entire body a thorough workout inside and out (literally).

Here’s a short list of what a rowing machine does for your body:

A Rowing Machine Provides a Full-Body Workout

One of the rowing machine’s claims to fame is it’s fantastic for working out your whole body.

Your upper and lower body are required to complete a full rowing stroke. This is a good and bad thing depending on how you look at it.

It’s a good thing because you’ll be getting a solid workout that’s guaranteed to get you sweating.

It’s a “bad thing” because unlike an elliptical, you can’t cheat! Meaning, on an elliptical you can let go of the handles to give your arms a rest but still “keep going”. On a rowing machine, you must use your entire body to complete a full stroke every time!

Okay, it’s not really a “bad thing”! It’s really a good thing since the rower forces you to give it your all, the whole time, without taking any shortcuts!

A rowing machine is one of the few machines on the market that truly works out your entire body.

Muscles Worked on Rowing Machine

The images below highlight the phases of a rowing motion and the muscles engaged during a single rowing stroke:

The “Catch”- Muscles worked: Erector Spinae, Gastrochnemius and Soleus, and Hamstrings.

Start of The “Drive”- Muscles worked: Erector Spinae, Rhomboids, Quadriceps, Gastrochnemius and Soleus, and Hamstrings.

The “Drive”- Muscles worked: Erector Spinae, Rectus Abdominus, Triceps, Rhomboids, Deltoids, Trapezius, Pectoralis Major, Wrist Extensors and Flexors, Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, and Gastrochnemius and Soleus.

The “Finish” Muscles worked: Erector Spinae, Wrist Extensors and Flexors, Triceps, Biceps, Deltoids, Pectoralis Major, Rectus Abdominus, Internal and External Obliques, Quadriceps, and Hamstrings.

(Images credit: Concept2 UK,

If you want to see a complete breakdown of all the muscles used while performing a full rowing stroke check out my full muscle breakdown article.

You can also continue reading below to see the best full-body rowing machine workouts.

A Rowing Machine Provides The Ultimate Cardiovascular Exercise

In a nutshell, cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is an activity that raises your heart rate and keeps it at that elevated heart rate for a period of time.

According to, aerobic exercises are “any of various sustained exercises, such as jogging, rowing, swimming, or cycling, that stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs, thereby improving the body’s utilization of oxygen.”

Anyone who uses a rowing machine knows that they stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs!

Whether it’s when you push off with your legs or use your upper-body to pull the handle to your midsection, a rower requires use of all muscle groups. Your entire body is working which will easily get your heart rate up and keep it there.

This makes rowing extremely efficient at burning calories and shedding fat, since your whole body has to work – the entire time!

I wrote about rowing machines and fat burning in the the article Will A Rowing Machine Help Me Lose Weight?

Since rowing is done at a pace where you’re able to perform the exercise for several minutes at a time without stopping, it’s ideal for aerobic exercise and strengthening your muscles.

Rowers can also perform HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts to incorporate anaerobic exercises into their routine as well!

Being able to perform full body aerobic and anaerobic exercises is one of the main reasons people love using rowing machines!

Adjustable Resistance Allows for Different Cardio Workouts

The ability to switch between aerobic and anaerobic workouts is also easy because most rowers come with adjustable or variable resistance.

For example, if you want to have an aerobic workout but you’re concerned about having enough stamina to finish, you can lower the resistance or row at a slower pace to make each rowing stroke easier. The energy you preserve can then be used later to help complete the workout.

You can also increase the resistance or row faster to get a killer anaerobic workout!

Rowing Is Low Impact and Non-Weight Bearing

Another less known claim to fame for a rower is it’s low-impact and non-weight bearing because rowing is performed while sitting down.

Rowing is ideal for everyone but this makes a rowing machine even more beneficial. Especially for people with weak joints and people rehabilitating after surgery.

High-impact activities such as playing sports that involve a great deal of running and jumping put a lot of stress on your joints and is weight bearing since you have to support the weight of your body.

These activities are terrible for people with bad knees and ankles.

Even if you currently don’t have any bad joints, you might eventually. Especially if you always participate in high-impact activities. So mix your workout up with a low-impact exercise like rowing!

Best Rowing Machine Exercises

Now that we know a rowing machine provides a low impact full-body cardiovascular exercise, we need to know which exercises are the best!

Lucky for us a brand new book named The Erg Book was written with over 375 of the best indoor rowing machine exercises.

‘The Short and Snarky Coxswains’ teamed up with Peter Cannia to provide an informative and humorous book about an otherwise very boring subject.

The book is great for rowers of all experience levels and fitness types. Here is what you will see inside:

  • 375+ of the best indoor rowing workouts
  • 14-week indoor training plan
  • Rowing machine technique tips
  • Best body circuit exercises
  • Much, much more…

The book is easy to navigate and it is simple to find a workout that fits your specific needs on any given day. You can click the photo or this link for a full review and sample of the book.

The next time you ask yourself “what does a rowing machine do for your body?”, you now know that it:

  • Provides a solid full-body workout

  • Is a superior source for aerobic and anaerobic exercises

  • Is efficient at burning calories and shedding fat

  • Preserves your joints by providing a high-intensity, low-impact and non-weight bearing workout

You are guaranteed to get a gut-wrenching, heart-pumping workout from a rowing machine. They are suitable for all fitness levels, from a complete beginner to a seasoned Olympic athlete. Plus, they have no age limit!

So get out there and start getting a full body workout on a rowing machine!!!

Now it’s your turn to share! Tell us in the comment section below: What does a rowing machine do for your body?

With your new knowledge of how beneficial a rowing machine is to your body you can begin to read rowing machine reviews! Check out the two pages below for help choosing a rowing machine.

Check out my rowing machine comparison page to compare all the different models.

You can also visit the rowing machine concierge page, where you can fill out a form and I’ll choose a model for you!

You’ve probably heard a thing or two about indoor rowing classes, or personally experienced one yourself. However, first impressions or common rumors aren’t everything when it comes to this wildly effective workout! Some of these misconceptions might surprise you.

1. It’s strictly cardio

While you will get a pretty solid cardiovascular workout in, it’s not the only benefit on the workout menu! Rowing machine classes are a full body workout, so it’s a great way to pair strength with cardio, as the resistance will help build muscle strength. An additional perk of rowing classes is better posture, as you are strengthening your posterior chain muscles and core.

2. You’ll get bulky legs

While your professional counterparts may be strongly built due to an expertly paired lifting regimen, a regular rowing machine class will not cause you to bulk up. In fact, the cardiovascular workout you’ll get from it will help burn additional calories! Instead, you’ll build strong and toned muscles from your legs to your shoulders, which aid in better posture, making you appear taller and toned.

3. Rowing is hard on your back and upper body muscles

This is a major myth! If you’re experiencing back and upper body fatigue or pain, it’s due to poor form. Rowing actually strengthens your posterior chain muscles, which include your glutes, core and back muscles. You always want to make sure you’re pushing through your heels and sitting up straight, with your core muscles drawn in. Your legs will be doing the majority of the pushing, with a little help from your back at the top of the stroke.

4. The faster you pull, the further you’ll go

Breaking those distance PRs isn’t directly related to the number of strokes you pull on the machine. It’s a power based equation, in fact! Just like you’d do on a bike, you’ll want to add resistance to build up speed. The harder you push out each individual stroke will determine how far you’ll go!

5. The higher the resistance, the better the workout

Not true! Depending on what type of workout you’re hoping for (more cardio vs. more strength) the resistance on the damper should be changed accordingly. If you’re more focused on cardio, try keeping the damper between 3-5. If you’re focused on building strength in your posterior chain muscles, bring it up to 7-10 depending on your fitness level, focusing on hard slow pulls.

The humble rowing machine for a time found itself relegated along with the zumba class in the gym graveyard (or gathering dust in your home). But this unloved piece of workout equipment is experiencing a renaissance – and in no small part thanks to its muscle-strengthening, aerobic-boosting and fat-burning qualities.

It’s return has been spearheaded by the emergence of group rowing classes which first popped up on the other side of the pond, and now feature in boutique fitness studios and gyms throughout the UK.

In 2019 alone, multiple studios have opened up in London. The latest? Rowbots. Think of it as a new style Barry’s Bootcamp, switching the treadmill for the rower.

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Worried that it won’t produce the same results as a ‘tread and shred’ workout? Fret no more.

‘Of all our members, 85% are females with an average age of 35,’ says Chris Heron, founder and head trainer at The Engine Room, who has been blown away by the multiple benefits of rowing during his 22 years working in the fitness industry.

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Want to know what they are? With a stroke of luck we’ve rounded up, just for you, the 15 benefits of the rowing machines and why you should reintroduce this cardio kit into your exercise regimen (and pretend you’re training for 2020 Olympics – just us?).

Right, so how good is a rowing machine workout for your body?

Strap in – because it’s gonna be quite a ride.

1 | Full body workout

Yep, really. ‘The rowing machine is unique in its ability to target 85% of your body’s muscles in order to perform the full movement or stroke properly,’ says Annie Mulgrew, vice president and founding instructor of CITY ROW.

‘The major muscles in your legs, arms, back and core all must activate, providing a total body workout that will increase your body strength as well as your cardiovascular capacity.’ You heard that right too – the machine involves cardio and strength-building at the same time. Neat.

2 | Intensity without injury

This one is a biggie. ‘With a rowing machine you can work at the highest intensity you like, with the lowest impact on your body,’ says Heron. ‘I get so many people who do high-intensity treadmill workouts who have injured their ankles and knees by running too far, too quickly.’

Plus, for runner’s this is good news as you can increase your cardio fitness without adding extra impact to your week. And, the risk of hurting yourself while sat down is rather low risk (even for the most clumsy).

3| Train often

If you’re aiming for sustainable fat loss, but DOMS is the bane of your life, rowing allows you to raise your heart rate more times in a week without getting as sore.

‘Rowing requires concentric muscle movement, not eccentric like other workouts,’ says Heron. But let us translate that: this is a type of muscle activation that causes tension on your muscle as it shortens. In contrast, eccentric movement lengthens under a load – like when you do a squat – which leads to breakdown in muscle tissue (hello painful jelly legs).

Cavan ImagesGetty Images

4| Abs and bum workout

More specifically, rowing can target your tummy and glutes in one fell swoop. ‘Your core crunches and relaxes as you glide along the machine, meaning you’re effectively executing a continual mini sit-up,’ says Carl van Heerden, who created Core Collective’s Lift + Row class. ‘Plus, the motion as you shoot the seat back works your lower body.”

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5| Improves posture

Calling all those hunched over a desk right now. ‘Women are often weaker in their upper bodies – and this can mean their posture is worse as a result,’ notes Heron. ‘Rowing – if done correctly without slouching or over-compressing – requires you to be upright as you pull.’

So what is the right technique? Vicky Thornley, a pro GB rower who uses the indoor rowing machine to train for races on water gives us the 101. ‘The first part of the drive should be using your legs – many people forget to isolate them,’ she explains. ‘Then towards the end of the drive you enlist your glutes and back to bring in extra force.’

Argos Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower with PM5 Monitor – Black Concept2 £1,059.99

6 | Toned legs

If you think rowing is a predominantly upper body workout, you’re wrong. ‘It’s 60% legs – you can really feel it in this area,’ says Heron. Just 20% is arms, and the rest of your body makes up the remainder.

7 | Rowing is versatile

You know the benefits of HIIT and LISS for fat-loss – and the rowing machine can help you perform both. ‘It can be used in high intensities intervals or steady state cardio,’ says Mulgrew.

Thornley notes that a large portion of her training is steady-state. ‘We’ll do lots of miles at a lower intensity to build our aerobic capacity, which is what 80% of a race requires,’ she explains. ‘Only nearer the day itself will we add in high-intensity bursts as well.’ If it’s good enough for an athlete…

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8| There’s personalisation

Like the treadmill and spin bike, you can tweak the rower’s settings to fit your ability. Just don’t crank up the resistance too early on Thornley warns. ‘If you choose too high a resistance, that’s a lot of force going through your back,’ she explains.

Using a Concept 2 Rower? Observe your ‘drag factor’ stat on the rower’s screen. A woman of 61KG or more should aim for a drag factor of 120-130. If you’re above or below that number change the settings.

9| New skills

They say you’re never too old to stop learning – and mastering the art of rowing is no different. ‘There’s a technique to it,’ notes Heron. ‘The better you get at the skill of it, the more efficient your rowing becomes. Which is fun.’

Lululemon Fast and Free Tight £98.00

10| Track improvement

Yes, working out should be about how you feel. But if you find metrics motivational, you’d be hard-pushed to do better than the real-time stats a rowing machine gives you. ‘Comparing how far you’ve gone each time can really help you track how much fitter you’re getting,’ says Heron.

11| Can’t slack off

We’ve all been there, in a spin class with the resistance turned down a notch because it’s been a hard day, our legs free-wheeling and the instructor none the wiser. Oops.

Well, with rowing it’s pretty obvious when you’re not giving it your all. FYI, the machine will grind to a halt. ‘There’s zero momentum on a rower,’ says Heron. ‘You have to work the whole time, unlike on a bike.’

And the treadmill fares no better. Researchers at Loughborough University recently found that when you compare one to a rowing machine, your body is training much harder with the latter.

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12| Quicker results

Because your body is really being challenged, you’ll actually see a difference faster. ‘You need to spend less time to get the same fitness benefits as on the bike or treadmill,’ says Thornley. ‘Neither give you that upper body workout too.’ Chris says that clients see results after just five rowing-based sessions.

Cavan ImagesGetty Images

13 | A good balance to bodyweight workouts

The pulling action of the rowing machine is a good complement to HITT training, that often includes plenty of push exercises such as push-ups and no pulls (e.g. a row).

14| You only need 15 minutes

Short on time? A quarter of an hour is all you need. ‘Make sure you are working consistently at about 80% of you maximum intensity over the course of those 15 minutes for fat burning results,’ recommends Mulgrew. ‘Or if you are looking to burn calories, try a Tabata style workout where you pair 20 seconds of 100% max effort rowing with 10 seconds of rest for the entire 15 minutes.’ No excuses.

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15| Mental health

There are physical benefits, sure, but the positives of rowing for your mind should not be underestimated. ‘The rhythm of the strokes is what makes it really good for your wellbeing,’ says Thornley. ‘It’s the flow.’ Of course, if you’re outside on water, the effect is even more soothing. One to consider once you’ve cracked the indoor rower…

Indoor rowing classes: Where can I find one?

If you feel like you feel like your technique needs fine-tuning, or you want the buzzing atmosphere of training in a group environment, give one of these studio sessions a go…

  • The Engine Room – Engine HIIT
  • Rowbots – Switch On
  • Core Collective – Lift + Row
  • Metabolic – Meta-Row
  • Frame – Row HIIT
  • Gymbox – Row30
  • Virgin Active -RO
  • British Rowing – Go Row Indoor (locations nationwide)

So what about the home rowing machine…

There’s a good chance you’ve got one gathering dust in your garage. Are we right? If so, why not give British Rowing’s YouTube session a go.

20-minute rowing workout

But want a home workout with an upgrade? CITY ROW – the US-based SoulCycle of rowing – have recently launched CITY ROW GO, a kind of Peloton-style platform which allows you to join in one of their top-notch classes from your living room. I mean…

Rowing machine on order? Try the home workout WH cover star Rochelle Humes swears by.

Lauren Clark Lauren is a lifestyle journalist with over four years digital and magazine experience.

Rowing is a natural motion and most people pick it up quickly with instruction and/or spending time focusing on technique. Have someone watch you row, comparing your body positions to those shown in the video below. Don’t pull too hard until you are comfortable with the technique fundamentals.

Indoor Rowing Technique

Master your indoor rowing technique with a rowing machine from First Degree Fitness.

Too often the indoor rowing machine is overlooked on the gym floor, appearing menacing if you haven’t learnt the basics of good indoor rowing technique. Learning the six stages of a strong indoor rowing stroke will help you get the most from each workout and ensure you are using your FDF water rowing machine correctly.

Indoor rowing improves cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength by engaging all major muscle groups simultaneously. Not only will a rigorous workout on an indoor rowing ergometer burn fat and combust serious calories, it will challenge you no matter what level of fitness you are.

Good indoor rowing technique explained in 6 simple steps

Learning to master a good indoor rowing technique means you can achieve a smooth repetitive cyclic motion on the indoor rower. The three phases from catch to finish are generally grouped together as “The Stroke”, as this is when the effective work is done, and the three phases from Finish to Catch are called “The Recovery”. The key to good indoor rowing technique is to think of all six movements as a complete cycle, in which one phase flows seamlessly into the next.

Second for second, indoor rowing is one of the best ways to torch fat, build muscle, and forge stamina.

Sprint 500 meters — a popular CrossFit test — and you’ll strengthen your back, hamstrings, and glutes, and redline your engine in two minutes. But not everyone rows the right way, says Ian Creighton, coach and general manager of Brick New York. “Pull with your hamstrings,” he says.

Use his tips and this program from coach Ryan Thompson of RowFit, a rowing-focused gym, to amp up your training. If you’re a veteran rower, you can work to cut more than 10 seconds off your 500-meter time. Novices, aim to finish under 2 minutes to start.

Rowing 101

First, you’ll need to learn the right way to row, so Brick New York’s Ian Creighton breaks the proper form down. To begin, adjust the rower damper to 6 or 7.

The Start

Illustrations by +ISM

Sit with your torso leaned forward at a one-o’clock angle, knees bent, shins as vertical as possible. Your arms should be straight, your shoulders level, and the seat should be close to your heels. CrossFitters call this the “catch” position.

Illustrations by +ISM

Press through your heels and use your legs to forcefully start a stroke. Once your legs are fully extended and your torso is perpendicular to the ground, explosively pull the handle toward your sternum. Focus on keeping the handle’s chain straight. Then hinge at your hips to lean your torso back to the ten- o’clock position. The handle should be just below your ribs.

Illustrations by +ISM

Before doing anything, fully straighten your arms. Then shift your torso forward. Finish by bending your knees, allowing the seat to slide back toward the start position. Immediately begin another row stroke.

The 500 Meter Master Workout


You’ll do three weekly half-hour sessions for three weeks. Open each with a 2-round warmup.

  • 10 inchworms

Start standing, put your hands on the floor, walk them out until you’re in pushup position, then reverse. Do 10.

  • Bootstraps

Squat low, place your elbows on the insides of your knees, and gently push your knees open. Stand.

Finish warming up with a relaxed 500-meter row.

Westend61Getty Images

The Plan

Week 1


  • Focus: Row as hard as you can while still focusing on good technique and efficiency.
  • Workout: Row 200 meters as quickly as possible, then rest 1 minute. Do 6 rounds.


  • Focus: Don’t stop moving. By mixing rowing with body-weight exercises, you’ll develop strength and aerobic capacity.
  • Workout: Row 200 meters. Get off the rower. Do 3 pushups, 6 situps, and 9 squats. Complete 8 rounds, aiming to finish as quickly as possible.


  • Focus: Gradually increase total strokes per minute. (You’ll see this on the rower’s main screen.) Your 500-meter split should also progress.
  • Workout: Row for 10 minutes. During the last 5, aim to increase your stroke rate by 2 each minute. Rest 5 minutes, then repeat.

Week 2


  • Focus: Improve your overall conditioning by using Tabata intervals: 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest.
  • Workout: Do 1 Tabata of each move: row for distance, pushup, situp, squat, alternating lunge. Do 6 rounds. Rest 1 minute between each.


  • Focus: Set the rower damper to 10 and make each stroke as powerful as possible. Aim for less than 22 strokes a minute.
  • Workout: Row for 30 seconds; rest 30 seconds. Row for 1 min rest 1 minute. Do a 90-90 interval, then row for 2 minutes. Rest 5 minutes, then repeat.


  • Focus: Go hard and fast while still focusing on perfect technique and rowing with a smooth rhythm.
  • Workout: Row 250 meters, then rest 30 seconds. Do 6 rounds.

Week 3


  • Focus: Ready your body for your test. Row at a sustainable but hard pace.
  • Workout: Row 500 meters, then rest 4 minutes. Do 4 rounds. Monitor stroke rate. Aim for 22 strokes a minute the first round, 24 in the second, 26 in the third, and 28 in the fourth.


  • Focus: This is your final push. Go as hard as you can during the work periods.
  • Workout: Survive 5 rounds of this 4-exercise circuit workout. Do each exercise for 45 seconds, resting 15 seconds: row for distance, alternating lunge, box jump, wall ball.


  • Focus: Pick up intensity by increasing your stroke rate.
  • Workout: Row for two 10-minute rounds. Rest 5 minutes between. During the final 5 minutes of each round, try to up your stroke rate by 2 per minute. Shoot for 22 strokes in the first minute; finish with 30 in the last.

20-Minute Total Body Rowing Workout

Spain, Andalusia, cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera, Close-up of woman on rowing machine at the gym. Westend61/Getty Images

You know what a workout derailer it can be when you watch someone take the last available treadmill if you were looking to get in a quick and dirty cardio session. Instead of hopping on the elliptical that, let’s face it, can sometimes feel like you’re awkwardly run-climbing to nowhere, head for the rowing machine that is typically relegated to the back corner. Note to gyms: The rowing machine deserves so much more cred and space than you’re giving it. (BTW, the stair climber is also an underrated piece of workout equipment.)

If you’ve never used a rowing machine before and think it’s just an upper-body workout, you’re totally wrong. Rowing offers a full-body burn from shoulders to calves.

Plus, you don’t have to have been on a collegiate crew team to do rowing exercises. This beginner-friendly rowing workout from Anna Cummins, a master rowing instructor for Concept 2, a top manufacturer of rowing exercise machines, will take you from rookie to pro in minutes. Simply set the damper (a device on the side of the flywheel that controls the drag) between 3 and 5, choose pace mode, and row (take note of the rowing exercise form tips below), aiming for the recommended speeds.

After 9 minutes, stand up and stretch those hard worked muscles—or for an added challenge do walking lunges for an active shake-out. Then sit back down on the rowing exercise machine for the second half of your session. You’ll have an awesome workout checked off your to-do list and everyone else will still be waiting for a treadmill to open up. (Related: Which Is Better: Treadmill or Elliptical?)

Rowing Exercises for a 20-Minute Full-Body Workout

Image zoom rowing workout

Rowing Exercise Form Tips

Follow these pointers to avoid injury and maximize your rowing workout results.

Image zoom

1. Place feet in the stirrups. Strap height should hit roughly at the ball of your foot.

2. Hinge at hips and bend knees so they are directly over your ankles.

3. Take a light grip around the handle and keep wrists straight.

4. Extend arms long in front of you, keeping shoulders down and back. Don’t hunch.

5. Hinge forward from the hips and bend knees until they’re over ankles.

Image zoom

6. Push through feet (avoid pressing through only toes or heels, aim for the whole bottom of the foot), extend legs long without locking out knees.

7. Lean back slightly, engaging core, shoulders relaxed.

8. Draw elbows back without lifting handle so it comes just below chest or at the top of your ribcage.

9. To prepare for next stroke, straighten arms first before bringing chest and knees in.

Now that you know how to row and have a rowing workout routine to help you practice your rowing exercise, you’ll need a rowing exercise machine to help you train. Here are a few that our home gym is begging you to buy.

Rowing Exercise Machines to Buy

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 (Buy It, $945,

NordicTrack RW900 Rower (Buy It, $1,599; includes membership,

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine with LCD Monitor (Buy It, $189,

WaterRower Natural Natural Rowing Machine with S4 Monitor (Buy It, $1,095,

Merax Water Rowing Machine with LCD Monitor (Buy It, $570,

  • By Danielle McNally

Low Row Pull and Stabilize Workout

By Rebecca Catherman, Personal Trainer and Precor Strength Project Manager

You may also like Total Body Strength Workout

Transform your favorite selectorized equipment into a functional training station! This five step Pull and Stabilize Workout will help you maximize results on the Precor Diverging Low Row by challenging your stabilization, core and strength.

The machine combines flexible, free movement with ergonomically shaped rotating handles. The biomechanically precise diverging movement arms ensure a natural and comfortable path of motion. This workout is an excellent choice for exercisers with limited time looking to get the best training effect at a single training station.

Postural Dos

  • Maintain a neutral head position
  • Draw in your abdominals
  • Shoulder blades should retract and stay low as you pull

Postural Don’ts

  • Shrug/elevate shoulders
  • Round shoulders forward as you pull
  • Lean head forward
  • Arch low back

The Workout

Perform this workout sequence twice with a 90-second rest period in between, increasing the resistance to 70% of your 1 rep max throughout each set. Images of each exercise are included below the table.

The Exercises

Seated 2 Arm Row

Seated Alternating Row

Seated 1 Arm Row

Standing 2 Arm Row

Standing 1 Arm Row

Return to Coaching Center

Exercise details

  • Target muscle: The back in general
  • Synergists: Brachialis, Brachioradialis, Middle and Lower Trapezius, Major and Minor Rhomboids, Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Posterior Deltoid, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, Sternal (Lower) Pectoralis Major
  • Mechanics: Compound
  • Force: Pull

Starting position

  1. Adjust the high row machine’s seat and chest pad for optimal comfort and range of motion.
  2. Sit in the machine, with your legs secured under the leg pads and your chest braced against the chest pad.
  3. Grasp the handles using a pronated (overhand) grip. Your arms should be fully extended and your shoulders should be stretched forward.


  1. Exhale as you pull the handles backward until your elbows are behind you and your shoulders are pulled backward.
  2. Hold for a count of two and squeeze your back muscles.
  3. Inhale as you allow the handles to return to the starting position, with your shoulders stretched forward.
  4. Repeat.

Comments and tips

  • Pull with your elbows, not with your biceps.
  • The machine high row is a pull exercise. The movements of most pull exercise are either horizontal or vertical. The machine high row is different because the movement is diagonal. As a result, compared with other pull exercises, it hits your muscles from a different angle.
  • The high row machine is isolateral, which means that each arm has an independent lever and must therefore manage its own weight, just like when training with dumbbells. The benefits of isolateral exercises are that you can use a different weight on each side to fix muscle strength imbalances, you can train one side at a time (unilateral training) or both sides at the same time (bilateral training), and you can perform alternating repetitions. Most important, isolateral exercises don’t allow your strong side to make up for your weak side.
  • Since you can use the high row machine both unilaterally and bilaterally, alternate between the two methods to get the benefits of both worlds.
  • The machine high row is also known as the leverage high row, lever seated high row, and hammer strength high row.

Machine high row video


  •, Lever Seated High Row

Row machine for cardio

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