5 Rowing Machine Workouts for Weight Loss [for Beginners]

5 Rowing Machine Workouts for Weight Loss [for Beginners]
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Often considered much more demanding than other cardio machines like the treadmill, the stationary bike or the elliptical cross trainer, the rowing machine shouldn’t be discarded, since it has great benefits! The rowing machine indeed offers an ideal full-body cardio workout to lose weight, burn fat, tone your body and strengthen your muscles. If you are bored of the usual cardio workouts or just interested in trying something new, these 5 workout routines will help you become the rowing machine master in no time. Check them out and get the most out of your rowing machine training!

Here are 5 very effective rower exercises and workout programs for weight loss (adapted for beginners and advanced).

1. The 1000 meter workout

This is an excellent routine if you’re just starting with the rowing machine as it will allow you to set a clear and attainable goal, while feeling the effort. First, you need to set your rower for 1000 meters (more or less, depending on your fitness level, however 1000 meters is an achievable goal for an average adult with not much fitness experience), set a timer and let the rowing begin!

This is a single only rowing exercise. If you are still a beginner, it is important for you to get familiar with the cardio equipment first, know what your physical potential is and the time you need to achieve the distance goal. You can then progressively set longer distances or set shorter time goals.

2. Rowing Machine HIIT Workout

If you want to start your fitness journey with a real challenge, this is the one. As you may know, HIIT routines (high intensity interval trainings) combine phases of intense physical activity with periods of rest, which has great benefits for improving fitness, speed, resistance, cardiovascular health and of course for weight loss.

One way to include the rower in your HIIT interval training plans is to set the timer and start rowing as fast as possible. At the beginning of every minute, pause for 15 to 30 seconds before starting to row again. Depending on your level, you can increase the resistance more or less during the high intensity phases.

If you still feel it's too easy, why not combine rowing training with other exercises such as sit-ups or push-ups?

3. Rowing with a partner

We all know how important having a training partner can be for motivation, especially in the long run. Competition can be a very interesting approach if you want to challenge yourself and see your mutual progress. So, how does it work?

You can start by rowing 300 meters, then you get off the machine and rest while your partner does his 300 meters. As soon as he's finished, you get back on the machine and row 200 meters, and then you rest while he does 200 meters as well. Continue at this pace and gradually decrease the distance until you both reach a distance of at least 50 meters (which will take at least 3 laps, or more if you decrease the distance less with each turn).

One of the most appealing aspects of this exercise is that it gives you rest periods (ideal for beginners), but you can of course adjust the distance and checkpoints according to your fitness level. Include extra challenges such as timers (whoever takes less time to row a given distance wins) or extra exercises during rest periods (lifting weights, push-ups, abs, etc.).

4. Rowing as part of a circuit

Rowing is not very different from other types of exercises and can be included in fitness circuits, for example :

  • Row 100 meters at maximum speed

  • 10 sit ups

  • 10 mountain climbers

  • 10 push ups

  • 30 seconds break and repeat.

As a beginner, you can start with a 3 round goal and progressively increase the number of repetitions/rounds as you improve and make progress. You can include other exercises such as abs, burpees or planks to increase (or decrease) difficulty and try something different each time.

5. Rowing workout based on calories

One of my favorite things about the rowing machine is that it allows to see how many calories you’ve burned. If you’re just starting, consider to set goals in terms of your caloric expenditure.

For example, you can row as fast as you can until you burn 35 calories. Take a one minute break and start rowing again until you hit 70 calories and so on until you reach your goal. Same as for previous options, you can also include this modality as part of a circuit or set mixed goals (caloric expenditure and time). For example, you can try to row with the goal of burning 100 calories in less than 5 minutes.

To apply any of these modalities, it is key to find out what your baseline is. What distance can you row without having to stop? How much calories can you burn and how long does it take you? Once you have this info, you can progressively set new, more challenging goals.

How long will it take to see results and really lose weight?

Rowing will help you tone your muscles, firm up your thighs, buttocks and legs, but you'll have to be patient to see the results (but hey, it's not much different from any other workout). How long will you have to wait to see results?

The answer is: There is no right answer...

The reason is that losing body fat and building muscle depends not only on the type of exercise you are performing, but also on many other factors such as your starting point (body fat percentage, body mass index, basal metabolism rate, initial weight), gender, age, among others.

However, regardless of your physical condition and your situation with respect to these factors, know that as long as you are disciplined and make the necessary effort, the results will come and you'll be able to see and feel them as you go along (in fact, you will probably feel them before you see them in your body).

  • After at least 2 weeks (assuming you exercise regularly, at least 3 times a week), you will notice how the exercise becomes less demanding. You'll have pushed your limits and feel like you've become better at it. This means that the effort has paid off and your muscles are getting in shape! And that you are losing calories and fat!

  • After approximately 4 weeks, you will start noticing how much firmer your muscles are. You will be in a position where you can increase the intensity and frequency of your training (remember to set yourself challenging, ambitious goals to stay motivated!).

  • Finally, after 8 to 10 weeks of regular training, you should begin to notice that you've lost weight and strengthened your muscles in key areas of your body.

Keep in mind that these times are only an estimate and may vary from one individual to another. In addition, to lose weight and get in shape, you will need to combine your exercises and workout routines with a healthy and balanced diet!

What are the benefits of the rowing machine?

If you’re looking for a complete work-out routine, the rower is ideal as it targets the muscles of the upper and lower parts of your body. Offering such a complete workout for the entire body, rowing will be more effective than other exercises that only target specific areas of the body.

Not only does rowing offer many cardiovascular benefits, improve your heart and respiratory system, but it also helps you lose weight, burn fat and build muscle, which will increase your strength and stamina. On top of this, it also helps prevent many chronic diseases related to obesity or being overweight, such as diabetes and other heart diseases.

Finally, rowing offers cross-over benefits. What does this mean? That by spending time working out on your rower, you'll work your muscles and your fitness, which will improve your performance in other exercises and activities. Probably the most obvious are the cardiovascular benefits and their impact on your aerobic and anaerobic fitness, increasing strength and resistance in activities such as running or cycling, but the rower will also help you improve your abilities in physical sports, strength training, weight lifting or boxing for example.

Veronica Sanchez
Veronica Sanchez

Expert in Sport and Psychology

Psychologist with a master in sports sciences, Veronica writes about fitness and works in the fields of physical activity and psychology.

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