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Rowing Machine Vs Weights: Which Is Best for Weight Loss?

Rowing Machine Vs Weights: Which Is Best for Weight Loss?

If you’ve decided that you are finally going to drop those excess pounds, congratulations! It’s not an easy task since our bodies are designed to hold on to weight in case of an emergency (such as famine), but at the same time, it’s not healthy to hold on to more than a few extra pounds.

Since you’ve made up your mind to improve your health, you probably want to find the most efficient way to lose weight. Should you use a rowing machine, or should you start a resistance training program?

We’ll get to the bottom of this question today.

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Hi everyone, this is Petra, and today’s question isn’t as easy as it looks.

Both rowing and weightlifting are excellent and low-impact conditioning programs, but I have discovered that life isn’t always black and white.

Let me use this article to tell you everything I’ve learned about weight lifting and rowing machines, and which is the best full-body workout for losing weight.

Is Rowing Better Than Weights?

If we are speaking strictly about weight loss, yes, using a rowing machine is better than weight lifting.

home rower machine vs weights example

A rowing machine workout is an aerobic exercise that burns about 250-350 calories (for an average person) every 30 minutes.

Strength training burns about 180-250 calories per 30 minutes.

Combined with a healthy eating plan, using a rowing machine at least 5 days per week is a sure-fire way to lose weight quickly and gain muscle mass.

A rowing machine workout is a full-body workout that you can complete in 30 minutes. Most weight lifting exercises take about an hour to complete the full circuit, and you often work only one muscle group at a time (leg day, quad day, you get the drift).

For those who want to lose weight, rowing exercise is not only the best cardio workout, but it also builds muscle if you use the proper form.

When it comes to fat burning, nothing beats a rowing machine.

Is Using a Rowing Machine Considered Strength Training?

The answer here is yes… and no.

Man explaining at gym Is rowing as good as lifting weights

Yes, a rowing machine uses your own body weight as resistance. The handle also provides resistance for lean muscle and improved muscle mass in the upper body.

That being said, a rowing machine cannot continually increase the amount of weight resistance.

If you only had a set of weights that had a maximum of a 25-pound dumbbell, would you say that you had strength training equipment? Yes, and no, right?

The same is true with a rowing machine. While it does offer some resistance training, it has its limits.

If you want to grow bigger muscles than what a rowing machine will provide, you will need to incorporate strength training.

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Do I Need to Lift If I Row?

This will depend on what your final goal is.

If your main goal is to lower your body weight, then rowing workouts are all you really need.

man demonstrating how can rowing replace weight lifting

Rowing provides cardiovascular fitness, improves cardiovascular endurance, and burns fat and calories.

If your main goal is building muscle, then you should look into weight training.

There really is no need to have an all-or-none approach. You can get in a full-body workout, including aerobic exercise for improving your cardiovascular system, AND you can use weights to help build more muscle.  Side Note:  If you are looking for strong and well priced rower options check out my full article on the Xterra ERG220 Rower.

How Much Rowing Should I Do Each Day to Lose Weight?

It’s all about consistency.

If you are focused on weight loss, you should try to work out for 30-50 minutes at a time for 5 or 6 days per week.

Beginners, or those who are very overweight, should start with 30 minutes at a time. I like high-intensity interval programs because they help you lose weight faster than conventional training.

weight lifting vs rowing machine

For those with only a few pounds to lose, or if you are already quite experienced using a rowing machine, you should aim for 50 minute HIIT programs that will burn calories like crazy.

Remember that you can’t exercise away from a poor diet because all the cardio machines in the world will not help you lose weight if you are eating donuts, cake, and ice cream every day.

What Are the Best Rowing Workouts for Losing Weight?

As I mentioned before, high-intensity interval training programs are one of the best ways to burn fat and the maximum number of calories with this total body workout.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, simply means that you work out as hard as you can for a set time period (such as 1 minute), and then you rest (or slow down) for the next time period.

A typical HIIT rowing program would look like this:

  • Row slowly (18-20 SPM) for 3 minutes
  • Row at 23-28 SPM for one minute
  • Rest or slow down to 18 SPM for one minute

You would repeat this sequence for 20 minutes, then cool down for 3 minutes.

HIIT workouts burn more calories than regular workouts. They can be a pretty intense fitness routine, so most people only do them every other day.

This gives you the perfect opportunity to do strength training on the days that you aren’t rowing!

Other Weight Loss Rowing Workouts

You can also try some of the long-standing workouts that focus on conditioning training and weight loss, such as:

  • Rowing 5-7,000 meters at a moderate rowing stroke pace 6 days per week
  • Rowing 10,000 meters at a lower intensity 6 days per week
  • Rowing for 30 minutes as fast as you can
  • Rowing for 20-30 minutes alternating with a fast and then slower pace
  • Rowing for 10 minutes at a fairly intense pace, then resting for two minutes. Repeat this sequence 3 times

You should always give your body one day each week to rest and don’t forget to warm up and cool down.

How to Stay Motivated

Perhaps the hardest part of losing weight isn’t the exercise, sometimes it isn’t even watching your diet, but staying motivated is.

trainer demonstrating correct rowing form after weight lifting

This is where mixing up your workouts to include strength training or other exercise machines can help.

Some of the best tips that I’ve come across over the years for staying motivated include:

  1. Add variety to your workouts. Try different rowing routines, or if you are mixing up your cardio machines, use different machines or work out with friends
  2. Take breaks. Not from exercising, but while you are exercising. If you are doing a 60-minute strength training routine, don’t be afraid to stop every 20 minutes and walk around the gym or walk on the treadmill, or jump on the rowing machine, even if it’s just for 5 minutes.
  3. Try something different. If you have a rowing machine at home, try rowing every commercial break during a movie or row for 10 minutes out of every hour. You might also get a good workout from using a friend’s rowing machine (if it’s a different model) or by using a completely different gym.
  4. Make a goal and make it fun. Get a big wall calendar. If your goal is to row half a million meters in 90 days, that means you would need to row about 7,000 meters 6 days per week. Pick a reward (not food-related) and write it down at the end of the 90-day mark. Use colored markers and gold stars- anything to help you stay motivated so that you can reach your goal.
  5. Exercise with a friend. Sometimes, this isn’t always possible, but thanks to the internet, you can “meet” your friend via Zoom or Whatsapp, etc, and talk to each other as you are working out.

I think having the right rowing machine can really help you to stay motivated.

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Ergatta, for example, has monthly challenges where the company will donate money to a particular charity for every user who meets the set goal. (Giving money to the American Heart Association for everyone who rows 300 minutes, for example).

Ergatta also has races and a game-based rowing system to help you stay motivated while you build better cardiovascular health and build muscle.

Both Ergatta and Hydrow have a very active community that can help you stay motivated and make it easier to reach your overall health goals.

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I also like the off-the-rower workouts that Hydrow offers to keep you interested. If you feel like doing some yoga, Pilates, or even using resistance bands, Hydrow has great workout programs for those as well.

Whatever keeps you motivated is the route that you should take!

Which Is Better for Losing Belly Fat, Weights or a Rowing Machine?

Both methods are terrific for fighting the battle of the bulge, which is why I recommend doing both types of exercise for losing weight, especially belly fat.

Rowing is a high-intensity, low-impact, full-body exercise that tones muscles and improves leg strength.

Weight lifting is also excellent for the body, but it doesn’t burn as many calories as rowing machines do.

That being said, weight lifting will build larger muscles than rowing machines can. Muscles burn more calories, even when you are doing nothing, which can help keep your weight in check.

For the fastest way to ditch that flabby belly, tighten core muscles, improve your core strength, and get a great cardio workout, do HIIT workouts on your rower, and use free weights on your days off.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, mixing strength training with rowing workouts will not only help you lose weight quickly, but will also help you gain muscle in every major muscle group, especially the leg muscles.

However, always remember that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Exercise will have virtually zero impact on your weight if you don’t eat smarter.

Studies have shown that cardio exercise, such as rowing, combined with weight lifting, is the best way to lose fat across your entire body.

Rowing is the top cardio machine for burning calories. By adding 20-30 minutes of rowing every other day, followed by two days each week of strength training, you can reach your weight and fitness goals quickly.

Stay happy and healthy friends! Keep rocking and rowing!

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