How Long Should a Beginner Use a Rowing Machine?

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How long should beginners use a rowing machine for?

Everyone wants to look good naked but doing the work is so hard! Treadmills are incredibly boring and hard on the joints, while stair climbers and air bikes only work the lower portion of your body, which means you need to incorporate some weight training or other exercises.

That is one of the best things about rowing workouts! You get to enjoy the health benefits of rowing by working out without punishing your knees and hips, and you do it in a matter of minutes, not hours.

So how long does a beginner need to row?

Even beginners who are still learning the proper way to row can already get in a full-body workout and aerobic exercise by rowing 10 to 20 minutes a day. The key is not to focus on speed when you’re just starting. Instead, make sure that you perform the 4-phase stroke correctly and have the proper form.

I don’t know about you, but as much as I love rowing (and I’ve rowed all my life!), I don’t have hours to spend on a rowing machine every day.

Whether you just bought your first new rowing machine, or you’re thinking about one but you have no idea where to start, today’s article is directed at you. Or do you want to use a rowing machine at your local gym but aren’t sure how to use it? Well, you will want to read this informative guide for beginners.


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Beginners have a lot of questions, which is natural. Keep reading, and I’m going to answer the most common questions and tell you how to get started so you will feel comfortable while using any type of rowing machine.

Are you ready? Let’s get rowing!

First, Let’s Talk about the Proper Rowing Technique

Most beginners are nervous about using a rowing machine because they hear people talking about how it hurts their back or their shoulders.

man learning a beginners rowing technique at the gym

In many instances, low back pain or shoulder pain comes from rowing improperly.

Imagine how your back would hurt if you spent the day sitting with your elbows on your knees.

The rowing technique isn’t much different. Many newer-model rowing machines have programs that teach you how to row, but if your model doesn’t have this option, you can still learn how to row properly from guides like this one.

I often recommend that beginners use a mirror or film themselves so they can see their body position during each phase of the rowing stroke.

Don’t focus so much on speed right now. It’s far more important for you to learn how to do the rowing technique properly. Speed will come to you naturally as you get stronger and feel more confident.


Is 20 Minutes of Rowing Enough?

This is a very open question because there are so many variables and questions that need to be asked first.

man performing an easy rowing machine exercise routine for beginners

For those who are generally fit or have only a couple of pounds to lose, if you already do regular aerobic exercise 3-5 times per week, 20 minutes of rowing is just fine.

For those who have a lot of weight to lose, you should consider doing 30-40 minutes most days of the week.

For beginners or those who have not exercised in quite a while, you may find that you can’t complete 20-minute rowing machine workouts.

It will also depend on how you use those 20 minutes. If you were walking, you could stroll along at 2MPH for 20 minutes, but that isn’t enough aerobic exercise to keep you healthy.

However, if you were to walk at a brisk 3.5MPH, then 20-minutes should be enough to keep you in decent condition.

The same is true with rowing. Most beginners find that they can’t do more than 10-15 minutes to start. If that is true with you, don’t worry about it. Focus on your rowing form and try to keep your rowing movement at a steady pace.

You can try adding one or two minutes to your workouts after a few weeks until you can do 20-minutes. Once 20-minutes becomes easier, you can increase your rowing time and intensity.

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How Long Should a Beginner Do Rowing Workouts?

Like the question above, there are so many variables to this question that it’s hard to find a one-size-fits-all answer.

rowing machine workout plan for beginners

In short, you should row at a moderate pace for as long as you can.

For some people, that might only be 10-minutes. For others, it may be 30-minutes. It will all depend on your age, current weight, and current fitness level.

Don’t worry if you can only do 10-minutes during your first few workouts before you are exhausted. It’s really normal. Go for a long walk or do some other types of exercise that you enjoy.

Keep doing your 10-minutes, then try adding just one more minute to your workouts each week. You will find that very soon, you can do 20 or even 30-minute workouts with ease.

Remember that using the proper form when rowing is more important than the number of minutes you sit on the machine or the strokes per minute you are doing.

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What Is a Good Distance for a Beginner Rower?

man working out what is a good rowing distance for beginners?

Your rowing machine will have a digital display called an ergometer or erg. The erg will track your progress and tell you many facts, such as the amount of calories you are burning at this speed, your strokes per minute, your overall time, and the number of meters you have rowed.

You may also see a reading that says Split Time. Regardless of the distance or the amount of time you’re rowing, your split time tells you how fast you are going.

For example, if you’re rowing 5,000 meters and your split is 2:00, it’s telling you that you are taking 2 minutes to complete 500 meters.

For most beginners, aim to row between 250 and 500 meters. If you can do more, then do so, but beginners often find that after 500 meters, they are exhausted, and that’s OK.

With time, you will become stronger and faster. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing a rowing workout of 1,500 or 2,000 meters within a few weeks!

Using Rowing Machine Workouts to Lose Weight

An indoor rowing workout is very popular because you burn calories like crazy! How many calories you burn will depend on your weight, age, and sex, but you can get a fairly good idea from this calculator.

In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, rowing incorporates both strength training and endurance and is considered to be one of the best anaerobic exercises on the planet.

** Please note above figures will vary depending on your weight, height & age.

You can lose weight using an indoor rowing machine by creating a calorie deficit. Most people cut back on 200-500 calories per day, then use their rowing machine to burn off another 200-500 calories.

To lose that stubborn belly fat, you need lots of cardiovascular exercises, so use your rowing machine workout at least 30 minutes per day, 5 to 6 days each week.

Rowing workouts can prevent you from gaining weight or help you to lose weight if you commit yourself to using them regularly and eating a healthy diet.

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Should You Row Every Day?

No, you shouldn’t. Your body needs a rest period to build new muscle and heal any injuries, so it’s not advisable to row everyday. Beginners should try to work out 5-6 days per week. You should always give your body at least one full day of rest.

indoor rowing workout for beginners

You can do other “easy” exercises if you like, such as walking or swimming. You might even want to do some free weights or use resistance bands.

In fact, doing different types of gentle exercises on your rest days can help prevent your body from becoming accustomed to your workouts. This means you won’t hit a weight loss plateau or stop building new muscle.

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A 15-Minute Rowing Workout Nearly All Beginners Can Do!

Do you remember that I told you one of the measurements tracked by the erg is your SPM (strokes per minute)?

Pay attention to your form and see if you can accomplish this easy 15-minute indoor rowing machine workout.

Ideal Rowing Machine Workout for Beginners

  1. Warm-up by doing 100 meters slowly (about 18-24 SPM)
  2. Maintaining proper form, do 50 meters as fast as possible (Can you do a stroke rate of 28-36?)
  3. Rest for 2 minutes. Drink some water and take deep breaths
  4. Do another 200 meters slowly (try for 18-24SPM)
  5. Rest for 1 minute
  6. Do 100 meters at the same 18-24 SPM pace
  7. Do 50 meters as fast as you can. Keep your rowing form!
  8. Rest for 2 minutes. Hold on! You are nearly done!
  9. Now do 300 meters at the 18-24 strokes per minute pace
  10. Then do 100 meters as fast as you can without losing your form!
  11. You did It! Do 500 meters at any pace you like so your body can cool down

This workout is called HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training.

When we make our bodies do short periods of intense exercise, then allow it to rest, then repeat over 20 minutes or so, we burn calories like a furnace! This type of workout is called HIIT. HIIT exercises are popular for their amazing calorie burn and because you only do them every other day. Super easy, right?

How did you do? Were you able to complete this one? You can keep repeating this workout every other day if you like until it becomes easy for you.

When you are ready, you can move on to the next set of beginners rowing workouts.

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My Simple Rowing Machine Workout Plan for Beginners

rowing machine program for beginners

If you like the idea of working out every other day, then this program is for you!

Mondays- Do longer rowing sessions at a moderate pace (aim for 22-26 SPM). Make your rowing machine workout last 20-30 or even 45 minutes if you can. Don’t go all out, a steady pace that makes you sweat is what you are looking for.

Tuesdays- Rest day. You can go for a long walk or maybe work in the garden or take the dog for walk, but don’t do anything strenuous.

Wednesdays- Do a HIIT program like the one listed above. HIIT is short periods of major workout intensity (doing something as fast or as hard as you can) followed by short rest periods. Alternate between going as fast as you can with a minute or two of rest for at least 20 minutes.

Thursdays- Do a steady pace rowing workout for as long as you can.

Fridays- Rest day!

Saturdays- Distance row. Do 2,000 meters at a faster rate than your usual moderate pace, perhaps 24-28SPM. You don’t want to go all out, but don’t just coast along!

Sundays- Rest day!

Most beginners should be able to complete these workouts after two or three weeks of practicing their form.

If you can’t keep up with this schedule, don’t worry! You will get stronger. Do as much as you can and then add either time or speed (or both) as you feel stronger. It will happen sooner than you think!

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Tips for Beginners

Remember that everyone was a beginner at one time or another. Don’t push yourself too hard, but you do want to challenge your body so that you get stronger and improve your endurance.

Rowing is a terrific full-body workout that incorporates a cardio workout with strength training and muscle building.

If you are interested in getting a rowing machine for your home gym, you might find this article interesting.

Here are some tips for beginners:

  • Don’t hold the handlebar too hard
  • Drive with your legs, not your butt
  • Keep your elbows near your rib cage as you pull on the handle
  • Don’t push your butt out behind you. Keep your body straight as you drive
  • Don’t shrug your shoulders, keep them down and relaxed
  • Don’t run the seat into your heels
  • Keep your core engaged but drive with your legs

It seems like a lot to remember, but before you know it, you will be using your rowing machine without even thinking about it, much the same way you drive a car.


The Bottom Line

Rowing is a full-body workout that is fun. It is an easy-to-learn, low-impact workout that keeps you engaged as you do your cardio workout.

Focus on your form, and speed will come with time.

More than anything else, have fun with it!

Happy rowing!

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  1. […] to become healthy again or to build stamina and endurance if you already have good fitness habits. Using rowing machines at home has never been easier, as there are so many great options for you to […]

  2. […] is a beginner at one time or another. If you haven’t used a rowing machine and you would like to start but can’t imagine where to begin, or if you’ve started […]

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