How to Get the Best Workout on a Rower!

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how to get the best workout on a home rower

Unless you are a little crazy like I am, you probably see your rowing machine as a means to an end. You use rowing workouts to get fit, lose or maintain your weight, and improve your heart health, but did you know that using one particular type of workout can really up your game?

I have a real passion for rowing, and I sometimes row simply for pleasure, but I know most of you want to drop that stubborn belly fat, get more ripped arms, shoulders, and abs while enjoying those lean legs that make everyone do a double-take.

No problem, your rowing machine can give you all that, but I don’t know many people who look forward to spending 40-60 minutes a day rowing to get that look.

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The good news is that you don’t have to!

There are several terrific ways to use your rowing machine for only 20-30 minutes a day and still get the same terrific full-body workout.

Want to know the secret?

Keep reading! I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned over the years so that you can benefit from it.

Does It Matter Which Rowing Machine I Use?

Absolutely not.

The workouts that I’m going to tell you about can be done at the gym or on your indoor rowing machine at home.

If you are worried that you will forget what you are supposed to do, you can bookmark this page and bring it up on your phone so you can see it.

Use the machine at the gym or use your own, but the trick here is to use it!

Rowing Machine Workouts 101

I suppose that, like all pieces of gym equipment, you are going to get out of your rowing machine what you put into it.

You can slack off and no one will know, but you won’t reach your weight loss or fitness goals so you’re only cheating yourself.

If you find that these workouts are too difficult, don’t be upset. It takes time to increase your workout intensity levels. Cut yourself some slack and know that if you put in the time, you will see your entire body improve in ways you never imagined possible.

However, I do understand that when someone says “work as fast or hard as possible”, it can be difficult to know what that is. Fast as possible is going to mean something very different for a 60-year-old as opposed to a 20-year-old.

That’s why I’m going to use the RPE or Rated Perceived Exertion scale. Similar to the pain scale, you can determine how hard you are working with this scale. You can read about it here.

Also, especially if you’re new to rowing workouts, make sure that you’re using the proper rowing technique.

Are you ready? Check out some of the best rowing workouts below.

Basic 30-Minute Rowing Workout

This may be a “basic” workout, but I guarantee that you will be quivering when it’s all over. Your warm up time is not included in the rowing workout, but you should always do it!

  • Warm-up for two or three minutes
  • Do 1-minute on your rowing machine using moderate effort (7 out of 10 on the RPE scale)
  • Do 1-minute at 8 RPE
  • Do 1-minute at 9 RPE
  • Do 30-seconds of your maximum effort at 10 RPE
  • Now enjoy 90-seconds of rest 3 or 4 RPE

Repeat this sequence 6 times and you are done for the day! Congratulations!

The Power Stroke Rowing Workout

This workout will really build your muscles. Be sure that the foot straps are tight because, in this rowing workout, you’re going for power with every stroke.

Really push with your legs and be sure to keep the legs straight at the end of the stroke. This is a great workout for training and to improve your fitness level quickly.

Remember that warm-up exercises are necessary to avoid hurting your muscles or feeling sore for the next session, but take note that the time does not count towards your total number of minutes.

  • Warm-up for 3-4 minutes
  • Do 10-strokes at 5 RPE
  • Do 10-strokes at 3 RPE
  • Do 10-strokes at 7 RPE
  • Do 10 recovery strokes at 3 RPE
  • Do 10-strokes at 9 RPE

Repeat this same workout for 20 or 30 minutes. Remember that you aren’t looking for speed in this one, but power strokes, so give it all you’ve got!

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The Salty Little Sprint

When you’re really short on time, but you want to get in at least a little cardio workout, the salty little sprint is the one you want.

man learning the best rowing machine workout for beginners

This is only 16 minutes long, but you will feel as though you worked out twice as long. Don’t forget to spend at least a couple of minutes warming up those muscles.

You’re going to feel so good after this little sprint, I promise!

  • Hit it hard right off the bat, doing 10 RPE for about 35 -seconds
  • Rest at 3 RPE for 25-seconds
  • Repeat 16 times

Short but sweet, well, I suppose this is called salty as in sweat!

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Rowing Sessions for Pros

If you’re fairly experienced and think you know all the ups and downs of indoor rowing, this one is for you.

When it comes to training, most pros see the 2,000-meter row as the gold standard. You can work yourself up to that by trying this cardio workout that will rock your world.

Don’t forget to warm up those muscles first.

  • Do a 500-meter row as fast as you can (about 10 RPE)
  • Rest (do nothing but breathe) for one minute
  • Repeat 6 times

If that doesn’t get those hamstrings working a bit harder, I don’t know what will!

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HIIT Rowing Workouts

HIIT workouts are not called High-Intensity for nothing. This means that you go all out for a set number of minutes or strokes, then you rest for a short time, then repeat.

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) rowing workouts are super popular because you only need to do 3 of them each week (you should always rest one day in between these workouts).

You can do cross-training on your “off” days, such as a different type of cardio workout, strength training, yoga, or even just walking.

An all-rowing machine HIIT workout looks like this:

  • 1 minute at 3 RPE
  • Rest for 1-minute
  • 1 minute at 3 RPE
  • Rest for 1-minute
  • 1- minute at 9 RPE
  • 1-minute at 3 RPE
  • 1-minute at 9 RPE
  • 1-minute at 3 RPE
  • 1 minute at 10 RPE
  • 1- minute of 3 RPE
  • 1 minute at 10 RPE

Repeat this sequence twice.

It sounds a lot easier than it looks and you will really feel this at the end of the session.

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HIIT On and Off the Rower

Some people like to really mix things up, and that is actually good for your body.

best rowing workouts

HIIT workouts will help you burn more calories than any other, so do whichever workout appeals to you. I like to mix up my workouts so my body doesn’t become accustomed to them.

If you don’t like, or can’t do, some off-the-rower workouts listed here, you can substitute your own.

  • Do 1-minute rowing at 3 RPE
  • Do 1-minute rowing at 9 RPE
  • Get off the rower and do 10 Bulgarian Split Squats on each side
  • Do 10-incline pushups
  • Get back on the rowing machine and do 1-minute at 3 RPE
  • Do 1-minute at 9 RPE
  • Get off and do 10 tricep dips
  • Do a standard plank for 1-minute

Repeat this process at least twice.

You can add more of a core workout if you wish or work on your glutes, or whatever exercises you want to do.

Always remember to warm up and cool down for 3-5 minutes.

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The Bottom Line

how to get the best workout on a rowing machine

You may not even need to time your own workouts, many of the digital ergs come with timers or even some of these programs built into them.

I love my rowing machine workouts, and I hope you will enjoy them as well.

If you found this information helpful, feel free to pass on this article to others who may benefit from it.

Otherwise, bookmark this page for new rowing machine workouts and other helpful information.

Happy rowing!

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