Rowing machine: Benefits

Rowing machine: Benefits

Nowadays, it’s the norm to find a rowing machine in the cardio area of any gym. Rowing is an activity that has an impact on our lung capacity and muscle resistance without causing any impact as hard as that produced on a «running» machine.

It can work as the perfect complement to a weightlifting session , HIIT or instead, as an entire session dedicated to boosting aerobic ability.

Indoor Training

Over the past years, and up to the present, Indoor cycling also known by its registered name, Spinning, has become a booming activity in gyms and sports centres, bringing in the concept of group classes.

It also provides a series of benefits such as: burning of calories in a short amount of time, zero impact on the joints, boosting of anaerobic ability, and above all, a lot of fun in every session.

That’s why spinning has been so successful…


Nonetheless, indoor rowing sessions as part of a group class dynamic are gradually gaining popularity and reaching the same level as spinning

Before taking a look at the benefits of the rowing machine, it’s important to go over some starting terms and concepts, as these are the foundations of rowing itself

What is an ergometer?

An ergometer is a machine used to measure a person’s working capacity during training

Taking this into account, we can give the following definition: an ergometer can perform a test in order to evaluate a person’s performance and fitness level.

To a certain extent, using the necessary equipment allows you to monitor different constants, such as heart rate, respiration, blood pressure , and obtain a report on the condition of the person exercising.


Therefore, we are able to obtain a result closer to reality

In the case of the Rowing Machine , and unlike, for example ,an exercise bike, if we are going to measure an athlete’s ability , in this case we can test both the lower and upper body strength, given the involvement of the whole body in each stroke

What does using a Rowing Machine involve?

A paddle simulates the action of rowing , that is, it is a combination of a pulling and pushing (“pull-push”) movements, representing the resistance offered by the water (simulated on the machine), in addition to the friction that exists between the gears.

Therefore, by using this machine, we will be carrying out an activity that combines Strength and Resistance in the horizontal plane.

Rowing machine

Rowing Concept 2


  • Sliding seat
  • Fixed foot pedals with foot adjustment
  • Grip connected to chain with gears
  • Simulation or resistance system (can be magnetic, by air …)
  • LCD screen to display information about any current variable. It also allows you to navigate and select the training program from the menus (depending on the model)
In most cases, the commercial models look like the one in the photo above, which can be folded down and stored , making it a very feasible option for use at home, and for this reason a replacement for the traditional exercise bike

Benefits of the Rowing Machine

Suitable for everyone

The action of rowing is extremely easy to learn, and obviously, as long as someone with the necessary training helps you get off to a good start, it won’t take much more than the first session to get the hang of the basic foundations of rowing technique.

In this sense, anyone, regardless of their physical condition, or if they are just starting out on their fitness training journey, will be able to enjoy the benefits of the Rowing Machine

Burning calories

By using a large number of muscles (around 85%, more than other types of cardiovascular exercise), both lower and upper body, such as: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, dorsal, mid-abdominal area or “core “, triceps and biceps , and producing muscle contractions, an excellent workout session is provided, both muscular and cardiovascular , as well as burning a good number of calories.

Muscles used catch

Muscles involved during the “Catch” phase

Muscles used recovery

Muscles used during the “Recovery” phase

Minimises the risk of injury

Does not cause any impact to joints like other sports, and is more helpful for those who are overweight, as the load on the knees will be lighter.

On the Rowing Machine, we move horizontally, thus it is not necessary to support ourselves, while also using force and effort to do exercise, as it would be in standing activities

Cardiovascular Improvement

Any activity of medium intensity will create a series of benefits for our cardiovascular system, from the heart muscle itself, to the oxygen transport system, blood …

However, we can do more intense sessions , such as set days …

As we have seen, a large muscle mass intervenes in the action of rowing, which generates even more exercise, a better stimulus, and therefore, our body has to deal with it, needing to make an adaptation to be efficient in peripheral muscle oxygenation

A fun activity

The Rowing Machine can offer “hours of fun” and generally a great time … In some cases, it may seem like torture, but in general, people who try it tend to like it and choose it as their “cardio machine of choice”.

Mobile phone holder for rowing

Concept models can be fitted with an accessory to hold your smartphone and the you can download the app too

It is an ideal time to listen to a good podcast , while rowing really far, for kilometres and kilometres..

Boosts recovery

The Rowing Machine is perfect for combining with any other exercise activity , either as an active element during the same session in combination with other movements or exercises, within guided sessions in a group activity, or as a passive element, focusing on muscle recovery, also known as active recovery.

Those days that we allocate , whatever our training discipline is), the use of the Rowing Machine can help us generate a stimulus of recovery through oxygenation and an irrigation of all muscle mass, in addition to eliminating lactate buildup , thus promoting and speeding up recovery to a certain extent

Rowing technique. How should we row?

Although at first glance it seems like a simple push and pull movement, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In rowing mechanics there has to be a precise and rhythmic sequencing of the phases of the complete movement cycle to achieve good efficiency during the exercise, regardless of whether we perform long sessions of 3 kilometers or more, short series or intensity intervals.

Like any other exercise that requires an optimal execution technique, if this is not done properly, the only thing we will achieve is excessively overloading the muscles involved , increasing the probability of injury and not achieving the goal we have set out .

The rowing cycle can be divided into 3 phases:

The Catch

Starting position: we will keep our legs flexed and our arms fully extended in front of us. It is important that you take into account the position of your back both at the beginning and during the exercise, so it should be straight without exaggerating kyphotic or lordotic curvatures.

This starting position is of utmost importance as it will define the quality of cadence in the paddle and therefore the efficiency in the movement of the cycle

The Drive

We start the movement by extending our legs and pushing ourselves back. We will reach the moment of maximum extension when we do a full rowing motion and bring the handle back to our chest.

The torso will lean partially backwards

Return to the Catch or Recovery

In this phase we return to the initial starting position. Firstly, we extend the arms completely, bringing them back to the front and then we allow them to flex our legs to take us to the starting position.

It is important that the transition of these phases is carried out without any pause between them . This is something that we will improve with practice and experience

Rowing Technique Video

The Rowing Machine and Psychological Training

Yes, you really did read that correctly. The rowing machine offers a continuous battle against ourselves

This is because at all times we have a screen with real-time information about caloric consumption, heart rate, speed, the metres we have traveled, the ones we have left to go before reaching our goal, the active time … that is, any variable will be constantly updated in each row we perform.

This means micromanaging control over our movement , and if we are training with a specific objective in the session, such as obtaining a total number of metres rowed in a set time, it will be an extra pressure (I know you don’t believe this now, but when you start rowing you’ll see exactly what I mean), and your pulse will rise rapidly.

Froning remo

Therefore, it is necessary to remain calm, control breathing and movement, try to maintain a steady pace, analysing your muscle fatigue with each new stroke. , in order to achieve your set goal for the session

Rowing Machine and CrossFit

It’s likely that a great majority of users have opted to use the Rowing Machine due to the great boom of CrossFit. In this activity , it is common to use a machine for aerobic sessions , such as the “Assault Bike”, or the “TrueForm” treadmill.

Crossfit machines

But the rowing machine is the one people probably use the most

An immediate use of rowing, within a CrossFit routine, would be to link metabolic circuits or MetCons , in which our potential and physical capacity are revealed, through combinations between these aerobic workouts (rowing) together with other anaerobic and power activities (lifting loads or variants of Olympic movements), gymnastics or using your own body weight.

Here we see a clear example of MetCon of CrossFit where both the Rowing Machine is used, together with the movement of weight and gymnastics exercise, being executed at maximum speed:

Train with the Rowing Machine

When implementing a training with the Rowing Machine, we have several options, depending on the choice of the type of physical ability we intend to train, as well as the energy substrate:

  • Aerobic
  • Anaerobic

For the first example, we are making an almost exclusive use of the oxidative substrate, that is, we use fats as fuel . For the second case, the energy pathway will come from glycolysis, that is, oxidize glucose (which will be stored as muscle and liver glycogen) and obtain available energy.

We could further refine and incorporate the phosphagen substrate, where we would have to limit our training to performing sprint runs at the maximum possible speed over a short period of time

If we are looking for resistance improvement , and where we prioritize the use of the fat substrate, we must carry out a type of training measured by specific time (timed). In this case , our task will be to maintain an equal rhythm during the course of the set distance. The intensity should be moderate.

If you’re really daring, you could try a half marathon, that is, 21km …

In this type of training, we can work according to our own level, with distances of: 3, 5, or 10km

If, on the other hand, we want to enhance our anaerobic capacity , as well as the VO2 MAX, the training should be dedicated to performing intervals or series. It should be a high-quality training session.

We can start each series with the same rhythm and pick up the pace during the last meters. Another option would be to go from less to more in terms of intensity in each series

Concept brand rowing machine

It is one of the models most commonly seen in CrossFit Box gyms, given the sponsorship agreement that exists. However, you could also find one to train on in any other centre.

Screen lcd concept

On Concept models, the information that appears on the screen matches our instant effort, or a projection for 500m distances

This data allows us to know what our pace is at all times and despite having a preset distance, we can reach it in the scheduled time.

Train by Calories
Another setting offered by this model is the option to train by calories or power:
  • Each row generates a series of power watts, which are translated into an approximate calorie burn based on our effort.
  • Using this setting, it’s common to see training sessions where the objective of each round, or each lapse of time, is measured by calories burnt, instead of by distance.

Where can I buy a rowing machine?

Using a rowing machine, it’s possible to do training sessions similar to profesional ones and a good example of this are the sessions at any Crossfit pod, or alternatively as a type of Indoor training activity, and you can even enjoy this amazing rowing machine in your living room. Thanks to its features, it takes up very little space once it has been folded.

Rowing tips

  • Grip: don’t grip too hard, or you may end up experiencing fatigue in your forearm if you do exercise for an extended period. For this reason, when you reach recovery phase of each row, gently release your grip in order to allow forearm muscles to relax
  • Direct movement with your legs: your legs play a significant role in rowing, especially considering that they are much stronger than your arms or torso, which enables them to exert much more force. If you do strength training, your quads and glutes will pay the price… Those of you that have longer legs will be at a strong advantage…
  • Don’t make your arms do all the work: as we have already seen, your legs should be powering and boosting movement
  • Remember your sequence: remember this order -> legs, hips, arms, arms, hips, legs. This is how movement should be flowing from catch until recovery
  • Push back: if you want to be an efficient rower, the movement after the catch should be the other way around
  • Loosen up your elbows: Stay in a natural position and at a natural angle, without tensing or forcing them

Rowing Record Indoor

As in any activity that can be measured and can record achievements, there will always be someone who strives to get the best marks. In this case, the Indoor Rowing modality also offers a wide diversity and best record categories: age, gender, distance … In the following videos two quite spectacular records are observed:

100mts Indoor Rowing Record

Indoor Rowing Record 300mts

Related articles

  • Lactate and its effects
  • CrossFit and energy pathways
Benefits of rowing machine

Minimal risk of injury - 100%

Fat loss - 100%

Helps you stay in shape - 100%

A fun activity - 100%


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About Javier Colomer
Javier Colomer
"Knowledge Makes Stronger", Javier Colomer's motto, sets out his clearest statement of intentions expressing his knowledge and fitness experience.
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