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Elevate Your Cardio With This Rowing Workout

by grace gallagher and jordan smith, NASM-CPT - August 24, 2021

If you're looking for a low-impact workout that still gives you a great cardio and strength benefits, you'll want to try rowing workouts. Rowing machines may just threaten to take the cardio crown away from treadmills and ellipticals, and for good reason.

Rowing uses every major muscle group, including your core. (Working your core while sitting down? Yes, please.) Read on to find out all the answers to your questions about rowing machines including how long and how often to work out.

Vital Note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.

rowing workout

Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine? 

If you're trying to lose weight but haven't had much success, you could try rowing. However, your health and fitness goals should center around doing what's best for your body, not how you look.

"Any kind of cardio workout is going to shed weight, but it’s important to remember that 85% of weight and fat loss comes from your diet. So if you really want to lose weight, keep rowing, but also make those mindful changes to your diet," Juliet Kaska, Certified Personal Trainer and Vionic Innovation Lab member, tells Lively.

 

What is a good rowing workout?

To get the most out of your workout, Kaska advises that you make sure you have the correct form before you begin so you don't waste energy or wind up with sore wrists.

"The better your technique, the more efficient and effective the workout will be. Your body will get stronger, faster, and you'll have far less risk of injury," says Kaska. "I always recommend working with a trainer, either in person or virtually, for one or two sessions to properly teach you good form and alignment."

How long should you work out on a rowing machine?

For starters, any time spent working out, even seven minutes, is better than no time at all. You can start with a few minutes and add one a minute or two each workout.

Is 20 minutes of rowing enough?

Many people have less than a half hour to spare and wonder if working out on a rowing machine for 20 minutes is enough.

"If you're just starting out, 12-20 minutes is a great starting point to build your strength and endurance," says Kaska. "Better to keep great technique for shorter periods of time than push past the point of being correct and efficient. If you're already working out, 20 or more minutes is great."

Is it okay to row every day?

If you buy a rowing machine or you just love the low-impact workout, you may be wondering if it's okay to row every day, but it’s actually best to give yourself rest days, Kaska says. You should also be mixing up your workouts.

"If you're just starting a workout routine, I'd recommend rowing every other day for one to two weeks to build up your strength and technique. If you're already working out, I'd still recommend rowing every other day and cross-training with your normal cardio routine."

Looking to get started on your rowing journey? Check out this rowing workout, created by Kaska. 

rowing workout

Full-Body Rowing Workout

How to do it: The total workout is 60 minutes broken into 3 cycles. (You can modify this for your fitness level and available time.)

Between each strength-training round, complete 3-minutes of rowing, adding resistance each minute. You'll need an exercise mat, one set of medium weights and one set of heavy weights. 

Warm Up:

Row with light resistance (5 minutes)

Row (3 minutes)

Strength Training Round 1:

  • Suitcase Squat
  • Push-Up
  • Lunge With Knee Drive

Row (3 minutes)

Strength Training Round 2:

  • Burpee
  • Bicycle Crunch
  • Side Plank 

Row (3 minutes)

Round 3:

  • Sumo Squat
  • Triceps Kickback
  • Weighted Alternating Lunge
  • Overhead Press

Finisher

  • Row at your highest intensity for 2 minutes

Cool down and stretch

Can you use a rowing machine for other exercises?

Sure, the main purpose of a rower is well, to row, but if you're looking to mix up your workouts and it's the only equipment you have available, you're in luck. There are some creative ways you can use a rower to build strength that don't involve sitting.

Here are 6 non-rowing exercises you can do on a rower, according to Lisa Payne, CPT.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Bring the seat to the end of the track. With your back facing the ergometer display, place your right foot on top of the seat. Bend your left knee into a lunge while reaching your right leg back, letting the seat slide backwards. Stand up and guide the seat back. Repeat on both sides.


Push-Up To Knee Tuck

Face away from the display. Place hands on the floor in push-up position with both feet up onto the seat. Bend both arms into a push-up. Straighten your arms and tuck both knees into your chest. Go back to push-up position.


Lateral Lunge

Stand at the end of the machine with the side of your right hip facing the display. Put the inside edge of your right foot onto the seat. Keeping your right leg straight, bend the left knee. Allow the seat to slide out to the right in a lateral lunge. Try both sides.


Plank Reach

Facing the display, place both hands onto the seat with thumbs on top. Step back into a plank. Engage your core and let the seat slowly slide forward and back. These small movements fire up the core and triceps.


Plank With Leg Reach

With hands on the floor and feet on the seat, come into push-up position. Raise your right leg off the seat and touch your toes to the floor. Bring it back. Try it on the left side.


Pike Up

From push-up position with hands on the floor and feet on the seat, pike your hips up towards the ceiling so that your body comes into an inverted "V." Slowly lower back down into a plank position.

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