The rowing machine workout is one of my favorite cardio exercises. In this post I am going to give you the complete guide on rowing, how to do it right and why it should become part of your fitness routine.
Benefits of a Rowing Machine Workout
Rowing is an excellent workout due to the following reasons:
- It is a total body workout, training the legs, abs, back, and arms.
- It is a low impact cardio workout, so it can be useful for those suffering from various leg injuries or those who can’t do high impact workouts such as running.
- It combines strength training with a cardio stimulation.
- It works the upper body better than most cardio workouts do. Swimming is the only common workout that comes close.
- It is a movement rich workout as your joints go through a long range of motion with each movement.
- It’s an intense workout so you can burn plenty of calories with it.
There are a few stages to the rowing movement. Let’s go over them one by one:
This is the beginning position when the rowing handle is closest to the front of the machine. Here are some tips for proper form:
- Grab the handle in both hands with outstretched arms.
- Do NOT split your knees to the side. Your knees should stay at the front of your body and close together.
- Bend over slightly over your knees to grab the handle comfortably.
- Push backward with both legs while keeping your arms stretched before you.
- Lean back slightly and pull the handle toward your chest. Make sure to pull symmetrically with both arms together and keep the handle straight.
- Finish the movement with straight legs and the handle just below your breastplate.
The recovery is basically the drive in reverse. You are going back to the Catch position.
There’s one important thing to take note of: do not lift the handle over your knees. Keep it steady and return the handle to its starting position in a straight line.
- Keep your eyes forward and focus on the movement at all times.
- Don’t let the handle drop to either side.
- Do not stop. This is a continuous movement exercise.
Check out this video for a demonstration:
Rowing Machine Workout Plans (Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced)
The intensity of your rowing workout plan depends on two main factors:
- Your speed.
- The resistance you set in the machine.
Your form also comes into play, of course. I’m assuming that you’re working with perfect form from now on.
As with all cardio workouts, you can either go for long distance endurance training or do HIIT workouts which are shorter and better for fat loss. Naturally, as you continue to row your skill and fitness will improve. Let’s look at a few workout plans that you can do:
- 30 SPM (strokes per minute) at low resistance for 800 meters.
- 30 SPM at medium resistance for 500×2.
- 25 SPM at low resistance for 2,000 meters.
- 32 SPM at medium resistance for 250×3.
- 30 SPM at medium resistance for 400×3.
- 500×3 at medium resistance.
- 2,500 meters at medium – high resistance. Aim for distance.
- 500 meters at medium pace. Then, 3×250 at sprint. Rest for 30-45 seconds between each sprint.
- 2,000 meters at medium resistance. Aim for time and row as quickly as possible.
- 25 SPM for 4,000 meters at medium resistance.
- 300×5 at increasing speed and resistance.
- 500, 400, 300, 200, 100 meters at increasing speed and resistance. 30 second rest between each set.
- 1,000 meters at highest resistance, no less than 20 SPM.
Here are some more rowing machine workout plans that you can try.
Combine Rowing With Strength Training
I recommend doing cardio following your strength routine. With rowing, this is even more important.
The reason why cardio should be performed after strength training is that the latter requires more focus and adherence to form. You want to be as fresh as possible for that. As rowing also works the upper body, you will find yourself weaker when it’s time to lift weights, if you do your lifting exercises after your rowing. So, I recommend that you do it following a strength routine.
Costs and Considerations
Rowing machines come at a range of prices, from $150 to $1,500. The difference is in the make, design, length, durability of material, range of resistance, and whether the machine comes with a personal computer that measures distance and so on and how good this computer is.
I recommend getting the concept2 rowing machine as it’s an excellent model. It’s not cheap at about $900, but you should remember that these rowers go through a lot of stress when you train with them. You want a durable model that can serve you well and for long.
If you plan on buying a used model, be sure to inquire about any damage and only get it if it comes at a considerable discount as you can’t tell how long any used model will last.
Rowing machine workouts are an excellent way to burn fat, lose weight, and gain upper body strength. Rowing is a low impact workout that can be very intense and effective. If you have a machine at you gym, try it out and you might get hooked.