Rowing is a great way to get fit, lose weight, and maintain healthy muscles and joints throughout your body. It´s also easy on your joints and suitable for everyone, irrespective of your current level of fitness.

In this article we’re going to look at why using a rowing machine is one of the best options for cardio and exactly how you can use one to achieve your goals.

Why Use A Rowing Machine

The rowing machine is the king of cardio machines. With all the new workout trends and gadgets out there you’d be forgiven for being swayed by a shiny new object. But the truth is, if fat burning is your goal, nothing beats grinding out a workout on a rower.

The rowing machine is a supreme fat burner. Using a rowing machine to perform fast-paced, interval-style workouts stimulate fat burning by supplying the muscles with oxygen and improving the functionality of your lungs. Greater lung capacity leads to more efficient use of oxygen and thus more fat burning.

During your workout, you will be working on all the major muscle groups in the body except for the pectorals and triceps. This can be remedied somewhat if you row with a reversed grip on the handles.

When resistance training, one of the key components for strength gains and muscle growth is recovery. Rowing machines are low impact and very easy on the joints. This makes the rowing machine an excellent choice for those with muscle and joint pains.

an excellent form of cross-training to your primary resistance-based workouts as it reduces the chances of overtraining and possible injury.

The Rowing Technique

Getting to grips with rowing and using the correct technique can take some getting used to compared with say running on a treadmill or pedalling on a stationary bike but it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to conquer relatively quickly.

However, you must learn how to perform the sequence properly as poor rowing techniques will reduce the effectiveness of your workouts. You don’t want to be wasting any energy on overcompensating on your pull or losing out on power by not pushing off with your legs. And of course, continuous poor technique can lead to unnecessary aches and pains as well as injury. So it’s well worth taking the time to get right.

The best way to achieve proper technique is to break up the movement patterns into stages. This helps you remember the patterns required to synchronize the arms and legs and maintain coordination throughout your row.

The pattern is simple. Just remember legs, core, arms, arms, core legs.

  • Once positioned on your rower, you want to push out using your legs, keeping your arms straight.
  • Once your hands pass over your knees, engage the core and swing back whilst pulling the rower’s handles to your abdomen.
  • The second half of the movement is just the reverse. So you extend your elbows, lean forward using your core, and bend your knees to return to your starting position.

You then just repeat this sequence to create a flowing rowing motion. You can control the intensity of your rowing motion by generating more power in your legs when you push off from the rower’s footplates and by pulling the handle harder, moving with more speed.

For a more in-depth guide on rowing machine technique check out this guide from Start Rowing.


Rowing machines are great for a wide variety of workouts. It truly is a versatile piece of kit. But if your goal is to burn fat and get ripped then you will want to perform short sessions at a high intensity.

Below are 2 training types that you should consider.

Interval Training

For beginners, I suggest starting with interval training. The idea here is to alternate between periods of high effort levels and low effort levels. So for example you may begin by rowing at an easy-paced or moderate speed, followed by 30 seconds of rowing as hard and fast as you can.

This is a highly effective way to train especially if you are just starting and don’t quite have the aerobic capacity to work at higher intensities for longer periods.

HIIT Training

For those looking for more of a challenge, I suggest completing some kind of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session. This is a variation of interval training that involves similar short bursts of high-level intensity work but without active recovery. You rest for a short period and then get back into a workout.

For example, you could try 30 seconds of flat-out rowing, followed by 1-minute rest, and repeat for sets of 10.

You may think the changes from interval training are only subtle but give both a try and you’ll see a big difference in intensity.

Great For Home Workouts

A rowing machine is the perfect cardio machine to get in your home workouts. There are plenty of machines to choose from that cater to all budgets, space, and training levels. You can get going immediately regardless of whether you are a beginner or a world-class athlete.

If you are geared more towards grinding out hard workouts then you will see some great results even with just a few training sessions per week. A solid choice of machine would be the RowERG (formerly the Model D) from Concept2.

If you’re the kind of person who hates cardio, knows they need extra motivation, and the workouts above sound tedious at best then you may want to use one of the more advanced rowing machines with more interactive workout capabilities such as the Hydrow reality rower which brings reality rowing to your living room or the Ergatta interactive rower for a unique gaming experience.


Closing Comments

Now you have all the information you need to start completing effective fat-burning workouts on a rowing machine. Of course, you are not limited to the ideas discussed in this article, and in fact, I encourage you to create your own training sessions that allow you to reach your personal goals.

The great thing with a rowing machine is that they are super effective and the training variations are endless.