Skip to main content

The essential rowing machine workouts guide: Tips, workout plan, and more

How to build muscle and burn fat with a rowing machine

Concept 2 erg rowing machine.
Victor Freitas / Unsplash

Sometimes, exercise routines can become repetitive and dull. Therefore, it is important to keep things interesting by varying the activities included in a regular fitness program. By doing so, individuals are highly likely to stick to a fitness schedule and get the results they want from their exercise plan.  

If you want to add a new element to your fitness program, rowing machine workouts might be for you. Rowing machines, also known as ergometers, provide a full-body workout that helps burn calories, improve cardiovascular health, and build muscle.

Other health benefits of rowing include stamina building, and if used correctly, they offer a safe alternative to weight-bearing exercises. 

So, who are rowing machines best for you, and how often should you include them in your fitness routine?

What are the benefits of using a rowing machine?

Rowing machine.
Kyle Kranz / Unsplash

Full body workout

Rowing and rowing machines offer a unique form of exercise that engages the entire body. Regular rowing strengthens back muscles, the arms, shoulders, and even the core. 

Rowing is a proven fat-burning exercise. Regular rowing has the potential to significantly decrease total body fat and even help lower cholesterol. Not only does it work most muscle groups, but rowing also benefits the body internally.

Low impact exercise

Rowing is a great alternative to weight training. Although it gives the entire body a thorough workout, it is still considered a low-impact exercise ideal for those with joint issues and muscle problems. 

Therefore, it can also be a great activity for those recovering from injuries and needing rehabilitation. Even gentle rowing works many muscle groups, joints, and ligaments, and it can also help increase flexibility and build resistance to various injuries.

Cardiovascular workout

Jogging and running are not the only exercises that are effective at improving cardiovascular health. Rowing is also an exercise that increases cardiorespiratory fitness. It is best to start with light to moderate-intensity rowing, and you can increase the stakes slowly once your cardio fitness improves.

Rowing is an excellent aerobic exercise because it engages and strengthens the heart and lungs. This increase in heart rate and breathing improves circulation and increases oxygen levels in the body.

Who are rowing machine workouts best for?

Two people on rowing machines.
Ground Picture / Shutterstock

Rowing machine workouts are suitable for various individuals of all fitness levels. The major difference is the intensity and time spent on a rowing machine. Whether you are a beginner looking to kickstart your fitness journey or an experienced athlete seeking to cross-train, rowing machines offer a versatile workout that can be tailored to personal fitness goals.

It is important to get well acquainted with the machinery first through an expert or an instructor. This can help with correct posture and injury avoidance. It is vital to start lightly and avoid lengthy workouts at first. By doing so, muscle pulls and muscle soreness can be avoided.

How often should you use a rowing machine to get results?

Closeup of handsome african american sportsman training body on modern rowing exerciser in gym, copy space. Motivated young black sportsman with wireless headset having workout on rowing machine
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

Consistency is the key to optimal results from rowing machine workouts. However, it’s important to begin slowly and row gently for 10 minutes three times a week. As physical fitness improves, you can then aim to row for at least 20 to 30 minutes three to five times per week. 

Because rowing works the entire body, it can be used as a standalone exercise or incorporated into a fitness regime. Remember the vital rest days to allow muscle and joint recovery. Rest days can also help prevent injuries from overworked muscles.

Example rowing machine workout plan

Man on a rowing machine.
Tima Miroshnichenko / Pexels

Day 1

Before confronting a rowing machine, you should always warm up and never go straight into a rowing workout, whether you are a beginner or a professional rower. Warm-up routines should concentrate on the muscles and joints involved in rowing. So think ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders.

Warm up by placing your body in a downward dog yoga pose, which involves going down on all fours and keeping both your spine and legs straight. When in this position, continuously peddle into the calf. This stretches the ankle joints, calf muscles, and the knees. 

A minute or two should suffice, and this can be followed by a minute of shoulder rolls, which involve standing straight with arms stretched by your sides and rolling the arms forward and backward.

Once on the rowing machine, row for five minutes, completing a minimum of 20 strokes, and then rest for two minutes before repeating for up to four sets. 

For a cool-down exercise, you can lie flat on your back, bring your knees together, raise them to your chest, and hold the position for 30 seconds. You can swing your hips to the left and right for more intricate stretching. Combine this movement with your other favorite stretches for an adequate cool-down

Day 2

Warm up with a five-minute treadmill jog and a set of toe-touching stretches; these will activate the muscles of the lower back.

Once on the rower, a more intense workout can be performed on day 2. It consists of 20 strokes performed in 3-minute intervals, with only one minute of rest in between. Four sets of these should be enough for an all-body workout.

For a cool down, you can perform a downward dog, as well as the knee-to-chest stretches.

Day 3

For a day 3 warm-up, perform 10 walking lunges. From a standing position, step one leg forward and keep the heel of the forward leg down. Lower your body until your back knee touches the floor. Complete a hip and knee extension before starting the next lunge with the opposite leg. You can also add a few minutes of shoulder rolls to this.

Rowing-wise, for day 3, a 10-minute session of continuous rowing at a power and stroke rate of your choice should be a great way of completing a rowing workout. This can be repeated after a 5-minute rest interval.

To cool down, you can perform some simple ear-to-shoulder and chin-to-chest stretches, along with a few standing side stretches.

Are there any risks with using rowing machines?

Man using a rowing machine.
Andres Ayrton / Pexels

While rowing machines offer a safe and effective exercise for most individuals, there are some risks to be aware of. Improper technique or overtraining can lead to injuries, such as lower back strain or muscle tears and pulls. 

To minimize the risk of injury, maintain proper posture, gradually increase the intensity of your workouts, and listen to your body when it is telling you that it needs a break to recuperate.

Editors' Recommendations

Topics
Christine VanDoren
Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her…
Anyone can do Chris Hemsworth’s 15-minute resistance band workout
Burn calories, build muscle, and get fit
Centr resistance bands

Ready to channel your inner superhero and train like Thor? If you have 15 minutes to spare and $50 to invest in the Centr Workout Kit, this Chris Hemsworth-approved HIIT workout is the perfect way to get your heart pumping and build strength and endurance.
What is HIIT?

High-intensity interval training (or HIIT) involves alternating between short bursts of intense exercise and periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. The goal is to elevate your heart rate and push your body to its limits during intense intervals, followed by brief recovery periods to catch your breath and prepare for the next round.
What does the Centr Workout Kit include?
The Centr Workout Kit includes:

Read more
Pilates is about more than just your core — try this full-body Pilates workout
Think Pilates is just about core? This full-body Pilates workout will have you thinking again.
a man doing a plank on a yoga mat

Pilates is a renowned core workout, but the celebrity-loved routine is more than burn the mid-section. The misconception that Pilates is "just an ab" workout is understandable. One of the six principles of Pilates is "centering," and the exercise routine considers the core the body's "powerhouse." (The other five principles are breath, concentration, control, precision, and flow.)

However, a Pilates workout can engage numerous muscles, including the upper and lower body. Keeping these groups involved will help you prevent injury and build all-over strength. What's more, the low-impact, weight-free nature of many Pilates exercises makes them a good fit for people just coming back from injury (with a green light from a care provider), beginners, and people experienced in strength training looking to mix up their routine. These seven moves will give you a full-body Pilates workout.
What is Pilates?

Read more
Are you doing hammer curls the right way? Your complete guide
Perfect your hammer curl form
Person standing on asphalt holding a dumbbell in each hand.

A hammer curl is one of the most common isolated gym exercises targeted toward growing the bicep muscle. Performing isolated movements that work a specific area of the body can help you achieve the toned, muscular look you're going for. Although a hammer curl is a simple exercise, ensuring proper form is key to seeing the gains you want. Once you perfect your hammer curl form, this exercise is perfect to add to your upper body routine -- and easy to perform in nearly any gym. Here's how you can achieve the perfect hammer curl form in no time.
Why you should try hammer curls

The most important part of perfecting the form of any gym exercise is to understand the specific muscle group it targets. In the case of a hammer curl, this isolation exercise targets the bicep brachii. The bicep brachii is the part of your bicep that is visible on the front of the body, which means it is outward-facing. If you're looking to achieve a sculpted, toned look, building up the bicep brachii muscle can help you achieve this look.

Read more