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by Katie Hoehn December 22, 2022 5 min read

When it's cardio day at the gym ... which piece of equipment do you choose?

Do you like the treadmill? Stair climber? Elliptical? A stationary bike?

Have you ever thought about trying the rowing machine? Most gyms have them, and I'm sure you've seen them before, if not used them yourself at one point.

But is rowing good for cardio?

The short answer is yes. You can have a great cardio workout on a rower. The long answer is yes, and you can reap a ton of more benefits as well.

So what does rowing work out, what are the benefits of rowing, and what are some good rowing workouts?

Keep reading ... I'll answer all of that and more!

So ... What Does Rowing Work Out?

I'm sure you're wondering ... what muscles does rowing even work out? Sure, it's a phenomenal exercise for cardiovascular endurance ... but what else?

Full Body Workouts

Well, the rowing machine is actually a total body workout. On top of it being a great cardio exercise, it can also help strengthen muscle tissue too.

Really, rowing works almost every muscle from head to toe. Here are some of the many great benefits that rowing has to offer...

1. Rowing is a Total-Body Workout

As I just mentioned, rowing is more than just cardio. It targets both your upper and your lower body. The rowing machine will work about 65-75% legs and 25-35% upper body!

Here are the main muscles recruited for a rowing workout:

  • Quadriceps
  • Calves
  • Glutes
  • Pecs
  • Arms
  • Abs
  • Obliques

Because of its impact on your entire body when it comes to strengthening and cardio, it can help with your power and endurance as well. Needless to say, it certainly packs a punch!

2. It’s Low Impact and Great For All Fitness Levels

You don't need to be a fitness freak to get a great workout with a rower. In fact, using one is fairly simple and accommodates all fitness levels.

Rowing is also a low impact exercise. That means it puts a lot less stress on your joints and tendons, reducing your risk of injury. A lot of people actually row or bike as a substitution for running, which is high impact.

5 Common Causes of Joint Pain

You are also fully in control of your pace, and how hard you push yourself. There are no settings to keep up with ... the pace is generated by your effort.

3. It's Efficient

Only have a small window to workout? Just hop on the rower! You can work a ton of major muscle groups and have a killer cardiovascular workout all in one.

Plus, you won't need to use it for too long. You'd be surprised at just how brutal of a workout you can get in only 15-30 minutes.

Just make sure that you're using proper form. Here's what you need to know to make sure you do it right...

How Do You Row: Tips to Do It Correctly

In order to minimize your risk of injury and maximize your results ... you have to use the correct form! Rowing can be a little tricker than you may think.

Start by placing your feet in the straps with the strap running over the balls of your feet. Bend your knees so that your ankles are directly below your knees and tighten the straps.

Next, grip the handles with an overhand grip and extend your arms while keeping your wrists in a straight line. Roll your shoulders down and back. Hinge at the hips to lean forward slightly as you start the movement.

Then, push through your entire foot as you drive with your legs and push yourself backwards. Make sure your legs don't lock out all the way though!

How to Get the Most Out of Your Leg Day

When your legs fully extend, lean back slightly and squeeze your core as you draw your elbows back. The handle should come to your sternum. Now, start reversing the movement by extending your arms, leaning forward, and drawing your knees back to your chest as your body comes forward.

Repeat this in one fluent motion, and you're rowing!

Instead of row, row, row your boat you’ll find yourself repeating legs, body, arms, arms, body, legs! It also gets tiring ... fast.

ROWING WORKOUTS

Now that you have the technique, you’re ready to put it into action! Here are 8 different rowing workouts ranging from as little as 4 minutes to as long as 50 for you to give a row ... I mean go!

4 Minute Tabata Sprint Workout

Repeat the following on the rower 8 times:

20 second sprint

10 second recovery pace

This workout will have you huffing and puffing after just 4 minutes!

16 Minute Tabata Sprint Workout

Repeat the following on the rower 8 times:

20 seconds legs only

10 second rest

20 seconds sprint (full body)

10 seconds rest

20 seconds arms only

10 seconds rest

20 second sprint

10 seconds rest

At the end of this 16 minute workout, your whole body will be fried. Plus, if you'd like to make it longer ... you can always add more rounds!

Pyramid Row Workout

This one is easy and fun ... you'll do a pyramid style row workout. Complete the whole workout for time.

Workouts for Beginners

1:00 Row + 1:00 Rest

2:00 Row + 2:00 Rest

3:00 Row + 3:00 Rest

4:00 Row + 4:00 Rest

5:00 Row + 5:00 Rest

4:00 Row + 4:00 Rest

3:00 Row + 3:00 Rest

2:00 Row + 2:00 Rest

1:00 Row and DONE!

Long Distance Row Workout

Hop on the rower and finish this brutal distance workout! Don't worry ... you'll get some rest.

2000m Row

Rest 3:00

1500m Row

Rest 2:30

1250m Row

Rest 2:00

1000m Row

Rest 1:30

500m Row

Rest 1:00

250m Row

Death By Calories: The Workout

If you're ready for a fun challenge ... try this! You’ll start a running clock and every minute on the minute you’ll add a calorie to row.

Example:

0:00-1:00, 1 calorie row

1:00-2:00, 2 calorie row

2:00-3:00, 3 calorie row

3:00-4:00, 4 calorie row

...continue this pattern until you cannot complete the number of reps before the minute is up!

Is Rowing Right For You?

As you can see, your rowing machine workouts don’t need to be long to be effective! You can get quite the full body workout in no time at all.

But, is rowing right for you? Well, that depends on your goals. If you're looking to lose body fat, or get healthier ... rowing can be a great tool to utilize.

If you're more interested in building new lean muscle, rowing can help ... but certainly nowhere near as much as weight lifting and other more resistance-focused workouts.

Not sure where to start or could use some help reaching your goals? No worries ... that's what we're here for. We have a full staff of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches that you can speak with anytime for free ... just reach out to us!

You can send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com or give us a call at 1-800-409-9732.

Customer Service - 1st Phorm

Katie Hoehn
Katie Hoehn

Katie Hoehn Registered Dietitian ACE Certified Personal Trainer ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist ACE Youth Fitness Specialist 1st Phorm App Advisor