Rowing Machine
Physical

Rowing is a popular exercise meant to mimic the motion of rowing a boat by using one of many machines, the most common of which is the flywheel rower. If you’re interested in burning calories and losing weight, rowing is a great choice.

HOW TO ROW

While it may seem fairly straightforward, proper rowing takes a lot of technique. Rowing consists of four distinct phases — the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery. Here are the basics:

1. Start by sitting down on the pad and securing your feet with the straps.

2. Next, turn on the electronic tracker. Some models turn on automatically when you start rowing.

3. Loosely grasp the oar with your thumbs wrapped around it.

4. Start in the “catch” position with your arms straight, leaning forward at the hips with your shoulders in front of your hips and your shins close to vertical.

5. Next, transition to the “drive” position by pushing your legs and swinging your body back in a vertical position.

6. Then move into the “finish” position with an arm pull. Your hands should move in a straight line from the flywheel with your shoulders relaxed.

7. Enter the “recovery” phase by returning to the start position. Let your arms move forward, then tilt your torso forward, and finally bend your legs.

8. Repeat for the desired duration.

The sequence generally followed when rowing is:

legs, back, arms on the catch, drive and finish phases

arms, back, legs on the recovery phase

SAMPLE ROWING WORKOUTS

After you get the hang of the technique, you can begin incorporating rowing into your exercise routine. Over time, you can build up reps and intensity to burn more calories. Although adding other exercises in between your sets is common, the workouts outlined below solely include rowing intervals.

Beginner Rowing Workout

When you’re starting, your goal should be to focus on technique while slowly increasing the intensity of your workouts. For this beginner workout, you’ll start slow, with only 20 minutes of moderate-intensity rowing time. Use this regimen to get used to the rowing rhythm and create a solid foundation to build upon in future workouts. 

It will take some time to gauge strokes per minute on your own, though most rowing machines calculate this number on their display. To start, complete this workout three days per week until you feel you’re getting the hang of it.

Intermediate Rowing Workout

This workout kicks up the vigor a notch via intervals with ascending intensity, starting with lower strokes per minute (SPM) for longer durations and ending with higher SPM for shorter times.

Progress to this workout once you’ve mastered the rowing technique on the beginner workout. Higher intensity workouts like this one can increase your exercise capacity over time. This workout provides 15 minutes of intense rowing sandwiched between a 10-minute warm-up and a 10-minute cooldown.

While only slightly longer than the beginner workout, the intermediate one builds intensity throughout, leading to a higher heart rate and more calories burned. Now that you have more experience, you may need to perform this workout at least four days per week to see progress.

Advanced Rowing Workout

This advanced workout brings the heat by using alternating intervals of high-intensity rowing followed by a rest period.

Research suggests that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can increase your VO₂ max — the maximum rate at which you can deliver oxygen to working muscles — more efficiently than constant intensity exercise. A higher VO₂ max may reduce fatigue, allowing you to exert more effort when exercising or playing sports. Don’t attempt this workout without at least six months of solid rowing experience.

ROWING MACHINE WORKOUTS: EXAMPLES BASED ON TIME AVAILABILITY

Rowing Workouts Around 10-15 Minutes In Length 

If you have just a few minutes to squeeze in your workout for the day, decide whether you want an actual sweat or just some active recovery. A few options could be as follows:

– For a high-intensity workout: 10-minute or 15-minute Drive 

– For a cross-training workout: 10-minute On the Mat strength workout

– For a core workout: 10-minute On the Mat – Pilates workout

– For a cardio workout: 15-minute Breathe

Even though you’re doing a short workout, be sure to give yourself a minute or two of cool down before you hop off for the day. Cooldowns help flush out any lactic acid buildup in your muscles and help you feel less stiff and sore post-workout. Hydrow also has guided cool-down videos you can tack on to any workout if you prefer to follow along with one of our athletes.

Rowing Workouts Around 20 Minutes In Length

Studies show that endorphins, the neurochemicals that release during exercise and make you feel good, regularly kick in around the 20-minute mark. A workout of around 20 minutes can give you a full-body burn that leaves you feeling good for hours to come. 

– For a high-intensity workout: 20-minute Drive (Look for a HIIT workout!) 

– For a cross-training and cardio workout: 10-minute On the Mat strength workout, then 10-minute Sweat

– For a core workout: 20-minute On the Mat core workout

– For a cardio workout: 20-minute Breathe

– For a social, live workout: One of Hydrow’s ten weekly live workouts!

Rowing Workouts Around 30 Minutes In Length

Getting to the 30-minute mark in a rowing workout will give you enough time for a great warm-up and cool down, as well as an engaging, full-body workout. You can find 30-minute workouts for rowing and On the Mat workouts! Here are some ideas of ways to put together 30-minute workouts:

– For a cardio and mobility workout: 20-minute Breathe, then 10-minute On the Mat strength & mobility workout

– For the perfect balance of HIIT and cardio: 10-minute Breathe, then 20-minute Drive

– Start with a technique-focused workout, and end with a HIIT workout: 15-minute technique focused Breathe or Sweat, then 15-minute Drive

– Or, get the most out of your 20-minute Sweat with a warm-up and cool down: 5-minute warm-up, then 20-minute Sweat, then 5-minute cool down

Rowing Workouts Approaching 45 Minutes In Length

Go long! Hydrow’s 45-minute rowing workouts are not for the faint of heart, but once you make it through one; you can make it through anything. If you’re aiming for a longer workout, but want to break it up, here are some ideas:

– For a taste of HIIT and more cardio: 15-minute Drive, then 30-minute Breathe

– For an intense 40-minute workout with a cool down: 20-minute Sweat, then 20-minute Drive, then 5-minute Cool Down

– Mix it up with cardio and cross-training: 15-minute Breathe, then 30-minute On the Mat

THE BENEFITS OF A ROWING MACHINE

You don’t have to be a competitive rower to reap the benefits of rowing. Rowing machines, also known as ergometers or ergs, use both your upper and lower body on every stroke  This, in turn, strengthens and tones your muscles and improves your endurance. Plus, rowing provides some surprising benefits for your heart and lungs.

1. Rowing Is A Total-Body Workout

It’s a common misconception that rowing works only with your arms. In reality, rowing is a full-body workout. According to the American Fitness Professionals Association, the rowing stroke consists of 65–75% leg work and 25–35% upper bodywork (1).

The major muscle groups it targets are your:

Quadriceps

Calves

glutes

Rowing is also known to strengthen your upper body muscles, including your:

pecs

arms

abdominal muscles

obliques

Your leg muscles are primarily engaged during the drive part of the stroke or when pushing off the foot stretcher.

2. It’s Good For People Of All Fitness Levels To Try

As long as you have access to an ergometer, you can add rowing to your exercise routine. This exercise has also been deemed safe for people with low vision and blindness.

A 2015 study including 24 people with low vision found that rowing five days a week for six weeks led to a significant decrease in fat mass and total body fat percentage.

Additionally, the participants’ cholesterol levels decreased, and their back strength and trunk flexion increased significantly.

3. It’s Low Impact

Rowing burns serious calories without putting added stress on your joints. It allows you to control the movement and pace and is a great exercise for active recovery. It’s sometimes recommended as an exercise option for people with early stages of osteoarthritis.

A 2014 study of 24 people over eight weeks found that joint torques, or rotations, in the elbow, shoulder, lumbar, and knee improved by 30%. The same can’t be said for high-impact exercises like running and plyometrics.

4. It Can Be Meditative

There’s a mind-body connection with rowing. While you might find the most calming benefits by rowing outside on the water, you can still achieve some level of this indoors.

This comes from the smooth, gliding motion you can create on the ergometer and the repetitive movements that allow your mind to go on autopilot.

This involves the four phases of the rowing stroke, which are the:

Catch

Drive

Finish

recovery

Rowing also promotes the release of endorphins, which are those feel-good hormones that reduce stress.

5. It’s Great For Your Heart And Lungs

As a cardio exercise, rowing strengthens your cardiovascular system, including your heart, blood vessels, and blood. This system is responsible for transporting important materials throughout your body, such as nutrients and oxygen.

Since rowing is such an intense workout, your heart has to work hard to transport more blood to your body. This can improve heart strength. This may be beneficial for those who have or could be at risk for heart problems.

6. It Builds Power And Endurance

Rowing is a combination of strengthening and cardio that will help build both power and endurance. Power is your ability to exert maximum force in a very short amount of time — think jumping, accelerating to a sprint, or hitting a punching bag or a baseball.

If you row correctly, you’ll use your leg muscles to propel your body back and your arm muscles to row, both of which require power. Endurance is your body’s ability to sustain activity, like rowing, for an extended time. Rowing checks off both forms of endurance — cardiovascular and muscular.

7. It’s Efficient

Even if you’re short on time, the rower can help you reach your goals. Since it’s a full-body workout, you’ll hit the major muscle groups and get both a cardio and strength workout. Plus, short bursts of intense exercise, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), are known to increase cardiac function and excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. In other words, you’ll burn more calories after your workout is over.

A recent study found that low volume HIIT — less than 15 minutes per session — can induce similar, or even greater, improvements in fitness level, glucose control, blood pressure, and cardiac function than high volume HIIT or moderate-intensity continuous training.

8. It’s A Great Alternative To The Treadmill Or Elliptical

When it comes to exercise machines at the gym, you may overlook the rowing machine at first. However, this may change once you compare it to other exercise machines, such as the treadmill and the elliptical. For example, the treadmill focuses mainly on your lower body, while the ergometer provides a full-body workout.

While the rowing machine and elliptical both work the upper and lower halves of your body, the rowing machine requires more effort in your upper body and abs with each stroke. Also, if you live in a condo or apartment with neighbors below you, a rowing machine is much quieter than a treadmill. Rowing machines also tend to be more affordable than treadmills.

9. The Machine Is Home Workout-Friendly

A treadmill or weight rack setup can take up quite a bit of space in a home gym, especially if your living room moonlights as a workout space.

Many rowers fold up so you can stow them away when not in use — a great perk. You can even get creative and use the rower for strength workouts.

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