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Are Rowing Machines Good for Fitness?


Are Rowing Machines Good for Fitness?

The short answer: Yes, rowing machines are good for fitness.

Did you know that rowing can burn as many as 900 calories an hour? Only jumping rope burns more calories!

I know many women enjoy spin classes, which are terrific cardio machines, but an indoor rowing machine may better for you than spinning… here’s why.


Why Rowing Machines Are Awesome Workouts

Spin classes, mountain biking, and even treadmills offer terrific exercise benefits. However, there is one thing a rowing machine provides that these other machines don’t, and that is an upper-body workout.

Many believe that rowing mainly involves the upper body, but they’re wrong. Rowing is 60 percent leg work, 30 percent upper body and 10 percent core muscles.

This means that while your legs are doing most of the work, your upper body and core muscles are also doing their share and this is where the benefits of rowing really shine. Working both your upper and lower body in one workout!


Short on Time? Take Up Rowing!

We’ve all been there. Monday is leg day, Tuesday is strength training, Wednesday is aerobics, Thursday is resistance training for the arms, etcetera, etcetera, right?

Imagine if you could work out your entire body (well, about 86 percent of it!) in a single session. Sounds impossible? Not if you have an indoor rowing machine!

It’s been my experience that those who do HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts can get in all their exercise needs in only 20-30 minutes every other day.

Less is more when talking about rowing workouts! Imagine working out only 3-4 days a week instead of 5-6 days and reaping all the benefits.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds perfect for my busy week!

Rowing is not only an outstanding cardiovascular workout but also a strength training workout. No, you won’t get Madonna-like arms simply by rowing (that will take some weightlifting), but if you want those long, lean legs and dancer-like toned arms, regular rowing can give it to you!


Got Injuries? Get Rowing!

If you’re over 40, chances are that your knees are already messed up. I know, mine have seen better days, but did you know that rowing is a very low-impact exercise?

This means that even with bad knees, arthritic knees, or even a bad back, chances are that you can use a rowing machine without pain. Of course, you should always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

If you’ve been injured, you’ll be happy to know that rowing is probably one of the few exercises you can do.

I saw someone with a broken ankle put their cast on a rolling stool while they did a one-legged rowing workout!

If you’re concerned about your back or you’ve heard that a rowing machine is hard on your back, I understand.

The truth is that rowing will strengthen your back and give you better posture. You can give yourself a backache if you don’t use a rowing machine properly, but many of today’s rowing machines have instructional videos to explain the proper rowing form.

If you’ve messed up your hips or knees on a treadmill or got arthritis, once your doctor gives you the OK, try rowing! You’ll be surprised at how easy it is on your joints.


My Top Tips for Beginners

If you’re just starting your journey to fitness, I’m sure you’ll find my personal tips useful:

  • Be patient and go with form over speed. As you improve, your speed will increase naturally. To avoid a sore back, focus on proper form.
  • Take your time. Don’t be surprised if you can’t do more than 5 minutes without resting. That’s very normal. Try 5 minutes today, 6 minutes tomorrow, etc. You’ll be hitting that 30-minute mark in no time!
  • Don’t allow boredom any wiggle room. Boredom is the biggest killer of all exercise machines. Find new rowing workouts online or buy one of the interactive rowing machines, such as Hydrow or Ergatta, which provide workouts that are constantly changed to sustain your interest.
  • Aim for HIIT workouts, as these are the most effective. These are generally done every other day, which means you can do other things on your “off” or rest days. Mix up things on your rest days by getting in other exercises such as long walks, swimming, resistance training, or just dancing in the kitchen. This type of cross-training helps keep your metabolism high and prevents weight loss plateau.
  • Always keep your body guessing. After a few weeks, your body will become accustomed to doing the same workout over and over. Avoid this by changing up your workout routine so your body never knows what you will ask it to do or how long it will need to put out that effort.

If you’ve never rowed before, you might want to check out the rowing machines at your local gym. Get some pointers from a coach or watch a few videos on how to row with the proper form.

After you’ve tried a few rowing machines, you might be interested in getting one for your home. There are fantastic interactive rowing machines for every budget.

Keep your own interests and workout style in mind when choosing a machine. If you’re bored with boutique workout settings, then go for rowing machines like Hydrow. If you love the sound of water and want to do your own thing, you’ll love an Ergatta.


Is 30 Minutes of Rowing Enough?

If it’s your first time to do indoor rowing workouts, you will be shocked at how exhausted you are after just a few minutes.

That’s because most of us are accustomed to working just our legs or just our abs. Once you work the entire body in one exercise session, you’ll feel a big difference.

I’ve seen some very big, strong men last 5 minutes before they are completely winded.

Yes, 30 minutes every other day will be plenty to get you in the best shape of your life.

The best news? Since you are distributing your effort across the entire body, you will less likely feel achy and sore the next day.

You will feel the burn, and you might have a few sore spots, but nothing like the way a couple of dozen squats and crunches leave you feeling the next day!


The Bottom Line

A rowing machine is one of the best pieces of exercise equipment that will have you burning hundreds of calories in a short amount of time.

Of course, you can’t eat cake all day and think that 30 minutes on a rowing machine will fix that.

Remember to love yourself the same way you love others. Feed yourself fresh, healthy food, get in some exercise, talk nicely to yourself, and be forgiving if you eat three slices of cake at your best friend’s wedding.

Stay active and healthy and enjoy rowing, everyone!


Writer’s Bio

Written by Petra Amara, CEO & Founder of, National Rower, Coxswain Women’s Eight Team, Rowing Coach, Wife, Mother, and Writer.

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