The Ultimate Guide to Rowing (5 workouts)


We’ve all been there. You just finished the workout of your life and you’re ready to make it better by finishing with some cardio, or maybe you walk into the gym ready to burn millions of calories (not quite a million, but you get the point)!


You look over enthusiastically and all the treadmills are being used.


You roll your eyes then grind your teeth a little, but it doesn’t deter you that you’re ready to finish or begin a great workout!


You then look over at the bikes and elliptical machines with a hopeful look. They’re all being used.


Anger and disbelief fill you because all the treadmills, bikes, and elliptical machines are being used right as you were about to have the cardio session of your life!


You turn to go sit on a bench to wait for one of the treadmills or other machines to open up, but something catches your eye. It has a little dust on it, looks a little funny, but nobody is on it!


The rowing machine.


You shrug and say why not and begin what is to be the most intense cardio session you’ve ever done.


The rowing machine offers many benefits that you can’t find anywhere else in the gym. The rowing machine is sadly one of the most underrated pieces of equipment in the gym.


In many gyms across the United States, heck the world, the rowing machine sits and gathers dust in the corner because people don’t know what it is, they don’t know how to use it, they know what it is but opt for other cardio machines, or they don’t know all the crazy benefits you can get from using it.


Unless you’ve been in an orange theory or cross fit class you probably haven’t used this machine or have only used it once or twice.


Note: The rowing machine can also be referred to as the ergometer or “erg” for short.


Also the 5 workouts are at the bottom if that’s all you came for!

Benefits of Rowing


The “erg”, when done correctly, is a highly efficient full body and calorie burning workout that any body can do regardless of age, gender, weight, height, or any other factor!


Full Body Workout



As the image shows there is almost no muscle that goes untouched when doing this machine! It works your calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, lower back, upper back, traps, abs, obliques, arms, chest, and shoulders!


As you push from the crunched up position you mainly use your hamstrings, lower back, and your calves. As you begin to push and extend more your quads, glutes, abs, chest, and other muscles engage.


When you finish the movement by pulling the handles closer to your belly, your arms, shoulders, and other upper muscles are used!

Calorie Monster

Because this lift engages so many muscles

in the body this machine is a calorie eating machine! Well…that’s a little exaggerated…running and biking when done intensely at higher speeds and for longer periods are the most efficient ways to burn calories.


But if you are going to walk, or not use the bikes or treadmills at high speeds than rowing could benefit you more!


The rower does beat running and biking in the upper body department though. Rowing will use more of your upper body than running and biking do!


A rower is a great machine like running and biking! While rowing you are basically rowing the fat away! The old saying, “you get out what you put in” rings especially true while rowing!

Gentle on the Joints


The rowing machine is also a low impact way of burning calories.


Running can put unnecessary stress on your ankle, knee, and hip joints if you are a seasoned person who has had many years of experience with life.


Even if you aren’t as seasoned, rowing is a great alternative to give your joints active rest from the usual high impact activities you usually do! The rowing machine is considered low impact because it minimizes the stress put on the joints of the lower body.


When rowing, you’re not constantly “pounding” your ankles, knees, and hips with all the force your body exerts on the joints when running, playing sports, or jumping. The “erg” is gentle on the joints and can give them a chance to recover actively and still give you the ability to burn calories, build muscle, and get a great workout in.

Build muscle, Burn Calories, Build Endurance


The rowing machine uses your full body as mentioned before, and uses every muscle your body has to offer.


While you are using all of your muscles through the movement, you are putting stress on the muscles as you would regularly do when lifting weights. This means that as you are rowing you are “building muscle”!


Take a good look at Olympic rowers, they have great bodies that have been built from years of rowing (but they lift weights too, they don’t only row)! As you are putting stress on the muscles and “building muscle” while you row you also are burning calories because your body is spending energy to do the rowing movements!


Depending on what kind of rowing workout you do, you can burn A LOT of calories or a little. As you are “building muscle” and burning calories you are also building endurance and making your heart stronger!


As you row, your heart has to work hard to keep up with the muscles demand for oxygen and nutrients!


The next time you row it will be easier than the last time because your heart is stronger and your body and muscles are more in shape for the task at hand.


Over time rowing will build muscle, burn calories, and help you be more fit for life by having more cardiovascular endurance!

How to Row


It is very important to use proper technique when rowing to avoid injuries and to be able to receive the maximum benefits from the workout!


If you have ever watched Olympic rowers they make rowing look effortless as they propel the boat with gusto and class!


But rowers have years of experience under their belt and the right technique ingrained in their muscle memory system.


Luckily the “erg” is a little simpler to do than rowing a boat and the technique


is a little easier to learn and can be mastered after a short amount of time.




Before you start, make sure your feet are snugly fastened in and you’ve got the handle in your hands about shoulder width apart.


The “catch” is the how you begin rowing.


To get in the “catch” position, begin by bringing your body in like you are hugging your knees.


Make sure your shins are straight and close to perpendicular to the floor and make sure your feet are flat against the footrests.


Your arms should be right above your knees. When you are in this position it feels like you’re ready to explode!


Key Points:


-Shins Perpendicular to ground

-body hugging knees

-make sure knees are in natural position and not flaring in or out




The drive is the main movement of the row.


To begin the drive push with your legs while keeping your arms straight. Keep pushing with your legs (with your arms straight until your legs are fully extended.


Start to “pull” with your torso and lean back while “unroll your back”. After your back is straight or close to straight, push your shoulders back, then pull the handle with your arms into the bottom of your sternum and flare the elbows out.


Key Points:


-Use legs first

-then body

-finish with arms


The Finish


The finish is the end of the row.


Your legs should be fully extended, your torso should be leaned back slightly, the elbows should be pointed outwards, and the handle should be snug

in your sternum.


-Legs are straight

-Torso leaned back slightly

-Elbows pointed outwards

-handle comes in to around the sternum


Back it up/Recover


To restart the movement don’t just go back into the catch all willy nilly.


To properly row you must “undo” all the movements you did to get there.


Start by letting the cable pull your arms out until they are extended. Then begin to lean forward and “roll” your back up. Then bend your knees and pull your body into a snug ball like how you started the movement.


Key Points:


-Do the reverse order of how you did the drive


Here’s a video to show you how it’s done

Pointers and Tips


-Rowing is different from running and biking. When using a treadmill the machine spins the track at a certain speed and you just have to match the speed its spinning at. The rowing machine is different. The rowing machine gives back what you put in. So if the workout is too easy you are not working hard enough. On the other end of the spectrum if it is too hard and you’re tiring out quickly, you are pushing to hard (unless that’s what you’re trying to do).


-Rowing is not about speed. Many of you may think a faster row is a more intense one. But it isn’t. The power that you generate with each “row” is more important than how fast you are rowing. By slowing it down a little and focusing on how much power you generate from each movement it will be more beneficial for you in the long run.


-When rowing each “row” should be about 60% legs, 30% back, and 10% arms.


-When rowing your “row” to rest ratio should be 1:2. For every row you do you should be resting twice as long. For example: Drive 1 second, slowly get back into “catch” position for 2 seconds.


Wrap it all up in a nice burrito…mmmm…burrito…


The rowing machine is a machine that is underrated and is rarely used in gyms around the world.


Although running and biking are generally more efficient ways to burn calories, the rower beats them in the upper body department! By using the “erg” instead of running or biking it makes you use all of your muscle groups in order to row.


While rowing you are building muscle, burning calories, and gaining endurance! The rower is also a great alternative if your joints have taken a beating over the years or if you need a break from running or sports/activities.


When rowing it is important to remember the “catch”, drive, finish, and back it up movements and key points! Remember that rowing is different from running and biking and that power is more important than speed, and to time your rows so you are resting twice as long as you are rowing for each stroke.


That pretty much sums up the burrito, but there’s still chips and salsa that we must talk about.


Chips and Salsa? A.K.A a rowing workout!


Following a rowing workout will help you stay focused, burn more calories, and build more muscle than not following a workout!


Luckily for you, I’ve got a 5 free workouts just for you down below.


Next time you’re at the gym or going to the gym I want you to try out one of the free workouts and tell me what you think about them! Just type your email into the field below and get rowing!




(If the box to get your free rowing workouts isn’t there refresh the page and wait 8-10 seconds until the page loads completely)

More Posts



Hey I'm Mr.Workout! I have a passion for lifting, working out, the gym, and helping others out! Thanks for stopping by and reading my content! Let me help you on your journey. Join the GAIN TRAIN today and get post updates, free workouts, tips and tricks, and more!

Leave a Replay

Sign up for our Newsletter

Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit