rowing machine workouts

A Guide To the Best At-Home Rowing Machine Workouts

A rowing machine is one of those rare things – an awesome way to tone up your entire body whilst sitting on your butt whilst zoned out!

Burning up to 50% more calories than on an elliptical trainer, you can obtain an awesome cardio workout plus increase the resistance to put your muscles through the wringer.

We’ve divided these rowing machine workouts up according to goals – losing weight, getting ripped and building stamina. But first, make sure your form is on point.

There’s something for everyone, so read on for our guide to the best rowing machine workouts.

Form is King

A word about form, before we get started. Get this wrong and you’ll cause more problems than you’ll solve.

Follow these steps for success:

  • Strap your feet in nice and tight
  • Power through the motion using your thighs
  • Don’t lock your knees
  • Keep your back straight – no hunching
  • Keep your head up – eyes looking forward
  • Bring the handlebar into your upper abs
  • Breathe out as you pull, breathe in on the return

The point about strapping your feet in will just save you a lot of hassle – no-one wants to break off to adjust their straps mid-workout.

The remaining points though are crucial. Ignore any of these points, and with the repetitive nature of the workout, could cause serious problems in the long-run.

Now you know the correct form, let’s see what workouts give you the results you want.

Workouts for Weight Loss

The best rowing machine workouts for weight loss focus on one thing – interval training. This can work for you whether you have a few pounds or some serious weight to lose.

There are two methods to increase intensity when using a rowing machine – increase your speed, or increase the resistance.

Try these workouts to put your body into a fat burning state:

Minute On, Minute Off

Warm-up your muscles first with a gentle 3/4 minute warm-up at a relaxed pace.

Now, kick it up a notch for 60 seconds, going at it with full intensity. Monitor your calories or distance covered – you’re going to want to try to beat that next time.

Then, relax for 60 seconds – keep rowing, but at a lower intensity.

Then, repeat.

At first, try 3 or 4 sets – building up to 10+ sets as your fitness increases.

Fartlek Training

Once you’ve stopped snickering about the name, you’ll enjoy the Fartlek style of rowing machine workouts, as they bring variety to the formula set out above.

The key is using random patterns of intensity, alternative high, medium and light periods of intensity. This not only makes it more interesting for you, but stops the body getting stuck in a rut and becoming used to the intensity.

There are no set plans, so work out what you want to achieve and experiment with mixing things up.

Workouts for Getting Ripped

The awesome thing about the rowing machine is that it targets so many muscle groups – legs, abs, arms, upper back and hips all get a workout.

Here are a couple of great ideas to help you achieve the cover model body you’re after:

Intense On/Off

Similar to minute on/minute off, but with shorter bursts and higher intensity.

Your initial challenge is to go for broke for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Aim for a power distribution of 60% legs, 20% arms and 20% core as you pull through the stroke.

Mastered that? Try it for 15 or 20 minutes, or raise the resistance. Keep pushing yourself and you’ll feel every sinew it’s targeting.

Combination Workout

Perfect for the home gym as you don’t need any extra equipment, try a combination of rowing machine and push-ups.

This exploits the best of both exercises and breaks up the monotony which can be an issue for some rowing machine users.

Start off with 1000 metres of moderate to high-intensity rowing, then unshackle yourself and hit the gym mat, pounding out 20 push-ups.

Back on the rowing machine for a further 750 metres, but this time up the push-ups to 30. Keep this cycle going until after 4 complete sets, you’re on a 250/50 split.

You’re body will be screaming if you can keep it up, but you’ll be laughing as the definition starts to emerge.

Workouts for Building Stamina

A rowing machine is an awesome tool for building stamina and endurance. The key is to get the time or distance right so that it doesn’t turn into a repetitive strain machine.

Here are two great challenges that will send your endurance levels skyrocketing:

5K Challenge

This is a challenge that you can use in a variety of ways.

It can be a great endurance building cool down, as you gradually decrease your speed over the course of the 5K.

Or, you can challenge yourself to go at it as hard as you can for the whole distance. Record your time so that you can challenge yourself to beat it next time.

Whichever you choose, make sure you’ve got something motivational to listen to – that will help you maintain the pace you’ve chosen.

Rowing Pyramid

This workout isn’t the quickest, but it builds endurance by increasing the length of the high-intensity period each time, before slowly reducing again.

Start with a 5 minute warm-up at a medium pace.

Now go two minutes flat out, followed by two minutes at a medium pace.

Then go three minutes full whack, followed by three minutes at a medium pace.

You get the idea. You max out at 4 minutes of each and then repeat the cycle in reverse.

Build your effort level workout by workout by increasing the resistance.

The Takeaway: Best Rowing Machine Workouts

As we’ve seen, the humble rowing machine is definitely an oldie, but a goodie.

Whatever your gym goals, or current level of fitness, it’s a great addition to a home gym, and will help you to maximise the benefit of every exercise session.

If you’re excited by what you’ve read, but not sure which rowing machine is right for you, then help is at hand.

Check out our blog on ‘The Best Rowing Machines for 2018‘.

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