Can You Get Into Shape by Just Using a Rowing Machine?

Ever wondered if a single piece of fitness equipment could redefine your fitness journey? Let’s delve into an interesting narrative about the unsung hero of the gym – the rowing machine. This efficient, full-body workout tool is more than just a seat, a fan, and a handle; it’s a vessel that can navigate you to the shores of ultimate physical fitness. But how effective is it really? Can it truly sculpt your physique and boost your fitness levels all on its own? Prepare to embark on this exploratory journey as we row through the waves of facts, figures, and personal experiences to uncover the truth.

What are the Benefits of Using a Rowing Machine for Exercise

Rowing Machine
Photo by Andres Ayrton on

The rowing machine, often overlooked in the corner of the gym, is a powerhouse of benefits waiting to be harnessed. The very first advantage it offers is a full-body workout. Unlike many other fitness machines that target specific muscle groups, the rowing machine engages almost every major muscle group in your body. Whether it’s your legs, arms, back, or core, all are involved in the rowing motion, making it an incredibly efficient way to burn calories and build muscle strength simultaneously.

Additionally, the rowing machine is an excellent tool for cardiovascular health. The rhythmic, continuous rowing action gets your heart pumping and your lungs working, improving your cardiovascular endurance over time. What’s more, it’s a low-impact exercise, meaning it’s easier on your joints compared to high-impact exercises like running or jumping. This makes it an ideal choice for those with joint issues or injuries and for people of all fitness levels. The rowing machine can help you maintain a healthy heart, improve your overall fitness, and even aid in weight loss, all while being gentle on your body.

What Muscles Will You Target With a Rowing Machine Workout

A rowing machine workout is a comprehensive, full-body exercise that targets a multitude of muscle groups. When you perform the rowing motion, you engage both your upper and lower body muscles simultaneously. The primary muscles worked in your lower body are your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. As you push back using the foot pedals, these muscles contract to provide power and drive your movement. This action not only strengthens these muscles but also promotes improved leg power and endurance.

Your upper body is equally engaged during a rowing machine workout. As you pull the handle towards your body, you work your back muscles, specifically your latissimus dorsi (lats), and your rhomboids. Your biceps, triceps, and shoulders (deltoids) are also targeted as you control the handle’s movement. Furthermore, the rowing motion requires a strong core for stability, therefore your abdominal and oblique muscles are continuously activated throughout the workout. This comprehensive muscular engagement makes the rowing machine an efficient tool for total body conditioning.

How to Properly Set Up Your Rowing Machine for Optimum Performance

Setting up your rowing machine correctly is crucial for optimizing your workout performance and preventing any potential injuries. Start by adjusting the footrests to match your shoe size. Your feet should be securely strapped in with the straps across the widest part of your foot, usually where the ball of your foot is. This will ensure proper power transmission from your legs to the machine. The damper setting, which controls the fan’s resistance, should ideally be set between 4 and 5 for beginners. This simulates the feel of rowing on water and provides a balanced workout that isn’t too hard on your muscles.

Once you’ve adjusted the footrests and damper setting, it’s time to focus on your seat and handle position. Your seat should be positioned so that when you’re at the front of the machine (the catch position), your shins are vertical, and you can reach the handle without rounding your back. When holding the handle, keep a relaxed grip to avoid unnecessary tension in your hands and arms. The handle should be held with your palms facing down, and your hands positioned shoulder-width apart. With these settings in place, you’re all set to start rowing with optimum efficiency and safety.

Tips on Perfecting Your Form and Improving Technique

Mastering the correct form and technique on a rowing machine can significantly enhance your workout’s effectiveness and prevent injuries. The rowing process can be divided into four main phases: the catch, drive, finish, and recovery. During the catch phase, you should sit forward on the machine with knees bent and shins vertical. Your arms should reach forward, grabbing the handle with a relaxed grip, while your back remains straight. The drive phase begins by pushing with your legs, as your arms remain straight and your body continues leaning slightly forward. Once your legs are fully extended, begin to lean back to about a 45-degree angle. 

At the finish phase, continue leaning back and pull the handle towards your lower chest. Your elbows should remain tucked in at your sides. Finally, for the recovery phase, extend your arms back out, allowing the handle to return towards the machine. Start to bend your knees and slide the seat forward, returning to the initial catch position. Understanding these phases of the rowing stroke ensures you can maximize your workout efficiency while maintaining safety.

Remember to maintain a straight back throughout each phase, and avoid hunching your shoulders or curving your spine. It’s also crucial to control your movements during both the drive and recovery phases – don’t rush. A common rule of thumb is to spend twice as much time on the recovery compared to the drive. By focusing on these elements, you can perfect your rowing machine form and improve your overall technique.

Exercises You Can Do on a Rowing Machine To Get In Shape

A rowing machine offers a versatile platform for a variety of exercises that can help you get in shape. One such exercise is the classic row. This full-body workout targets your legs, core, and upper body all at once. Start with a short warm-up, gradually increasing your pace for about five minutes. Then row at a high intensity for 30 seconds, followed by a 30-second rest period. Repeat this cycle for 10 to 20 minutes for an effective cardio workout.

Another great exercise on the rowing machine is the power stroke drill. This exercise focuses more on building strength rather than cardiovascular endurance. For this drill, perform a set of 10 power strokes – these are rowing strokes done at maximum effort, followed by 10 light and easy strokes for recovery. Repeat this cycle for about 20 minutes. This drill not only helps build strength but also improves your rowing technique and power output. Remember, the key to getting in shape with a rowing machine is consistency and gradually increasing your workout intensity over time.

How Many Calories Can You Burn by Using a Rowing Machine

The number of calories you can burn by using a rowing machine varies considerably depending on several factors, including your weight, the intensity of your workout, and the duration. For instance, an average person weighing 165 pounds can burn approximately 131 calories in just 15 minutes of moderate-intensity rowing. If the same person rows moderately hard for half an hour, they can burn around 239 calories. Taking it up a notch, if they row vigorously, they could burn more than 50 additional calories in the same time frame.

However, if you really want to ramp up your calorie burn, you could consider power rowing. The average person can burn between 500-700 calories per hour rowing at a power output of 100 watts. Moreover, a moderate effort of 100 watts can lead to burning between 160-200 calories during a 30-minute training session. It’s also worth noting that rowing at a comfortable pace for 30 minutes can burn approximately 210 calories for a person weighing 125 lbs. Therefore, rowing offers a versatile and effective way to burn calories and get in shape.

Ultimately, the rowing machine emerges as an exceptional tool for achieving your fitness goals. It not only offers a diverse range of exercises but also provides an efficient way to burn calories. Whether you’re aiming to improve your cardiovascular endurance, build strength, or lose weight, incorporating the rowing machine into your workout routine can yield significant results. Remember, perfecting your form and technique is crucial for maximizing the machine’s benefits and preventing potential injuries. So gear up, be consistent, and row your way to better health and fitness.


Q: What exercises can I do on a rowing machine to get in shape?

A: You can perform various exercises on a rowing machine such as the classic row for a full-body workout and the power stroke drill for strength building. The key is to maintain consistency and gradually increase your workout intensity.

Q: How many calories can I burn using a rowing machine?

A: The number of calories burned varies depending on your weight, workout intensity, and duration. An average person weighing 165 pounds can burn approximately 131 calories in 15 minutes of moderate rowing. Power rowing can burn between 500-700 calories per hour.

Q: Is the rowing machine suitable for achieving different fitness goals?

A: Yes, the rowing machine is a versatile tool that can help you improve cardiovascular endurance, build strength, or lose weight. It’s important to use correct form and technique to maximize the benefits and prevent potential injuries.

1 thought on “Can You Get Into Shape by Just Using a Rowing Machine?”

  1. Additionally, you can get a great bicep workout by rowing with your palms up, arms extended, using a curling motion, rather than a pulling motion. Focus on fully extending your arms during the catch phase. I will usually work in a set of 25 of these curls (or one minute) every ten minutes, so usually two or three times per rowing session. Works great!

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