Does Rowing Help to Reduce Belly Fat?

Does Rowing Help to Reduce Belly Fat?

Does Rowing Burn Belly Fat?

Rowing can be an effective way to reduce body fat. It’s important to note that rowing cannot spot reduce body fat from your body.  Spot reduction of fat is a myth. Instead, rowing accelerates fat loss because it helps your body burn calories, which can contribute to belly fat loss if you are in a caloric deficit. It’s important to note the impact of calories as it pertains to losing body fat. You cannot consume more calories than you expend.  

People who have body transformation goals find rowing highly effective for eliminating fat because rowing works a tremendous amount of muscle on every stroke.  More muscles working during exercises means more calories burned, and the more calories you burn, the more likely you are to put yourself in a caloric deficit which is how you will fast track the fat loss process.  

Two Types of Fat to Consider

It may come as a surprise that there are two different kinds of fat in the body. The two main categories are visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Sometimes these categories are broken down further into brown, beige, and white subcutaneous fat.

Image credit: Precision Nutrition

Subcutaneous Fat

Subcutaneous fat is the jiggly fat physical just under the skin. This type of fat will be most recognizable by people and targeted for fat loss to fit into smaller clothes and improve aesthetic appearance.  Everyone has some level of subcutaneous fat, but how much you have is primarily determined by lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and even genetics.

In general, subcutaneous fat is considered harmless and may protect against some diseases.

If you've ever had a skin caliper test performed to determine your body fat percentage, the subcutaneous fat is what is pinched and measured.

Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is different than subcutaneous fat because it is stored deeper in the skin and generally wrapped around major organs like the liver, pancreas, and kidneys.  You cannot see this type of fat on the outside of the body.  Having some visceral fat ensures enough distance between each organ, but having too much visceral fat can lead to inflammation, high blood pressure, and a whole host of severe health problems.

Living a sedentary lifestyle, getting little or no aerobic exercise, and having a low amount of muscle mass can increase the likelihood of accumulating visceral and subcutaneous fat.

What is the Proper Rowing Technique to Burn Fat Fast?

Proper rowing technique is crucial for staying safe and getting the most out of your workout.  With proper rowing technique have a influence on performance and performance impacting calorie burn, it’s easy to see how placing emphasis on rowing technique can help burn fat faster. 

Each rowing stroke is made of four different phases:

  •     Catch
  •     Drive
  •     Finish 
  •     Recovery

The catch, drive, finish and recovery make up each rowing stroke and power performance during a rowing workout.  No segment is more or less important than any other, and ironing out technique, mechanics and timing can help you boost performance, row longer and harder while avoiding unnecessary tweaks and strains.  

Using your legs for power is essential. Many think rowing is an upper body workout, but a sound rolling stroke comes from the legs. When you're driving away from the foot platform, think "legs, body, then arms."  Rowing is all about the legs, not the arms.  Keep the arms straight as you drive with your legs.  

Avoid slouching. Upper body posture should be sitting upright while on the rowing machine. Also, avoid leaning to one side.  A quick tip to help yourself avoid slouching posture is to feel your body rocking over your sit bones.

Aim for long strokes, not short strokes. Short strokes will reduce the amount of power you can generate and cause you to burn out after a few minutes. The goal is to use long strokes, pushing as far back as possible using a smooth motion.

Paying attention to your rowing stroke technique will allow you to row for longer distances and durations. Rowing longer means more calories burned and accelerated fat loss.  If your rowing technique is lacking, you risk unnecessary injury and waste valuable energy, which can cause you to burn out too early in the workout.

How Long/Hard Should I Row?


It's essential to warm up before the workout and cool down after the workout.  Situated in between the warm-up and cool-down is the exertion portion of the rowing session.  This formula is straightforward and bulletproof for keeping you safe and delivering consistent results.

Warming up with 4-5 minutes of low to moderate intensity rowing will help increase core temperature and prepare your body for the demands of the workout. After five minutes or so, you can start the workout, where the intensity will increase, and the rowing will remain continuous.

The “work” part of the workout can be adjusted to suit any fitness level, using aerobic or anaerobic focused efforts.  If you’re aiming to train aerobically, the goal is to maintain a moderate stroke rate for a longer period, which will keep the heart rate steady.  Ten minutes of continuous rowing is an excellent target for beginners.  Intermediate and experienced rowers can increase the duration to 20, 30, and even 40 minutes and beyond.  

You can use interval training to exercise at higher intensities and higher heart rate zones.   The work interval duration will vary based on rowing experience and fitness level, but anywhere from 30-45 seconds of intense work followed by an equal amount of rest lends itself well for anaerobic conditioning, burning calories, and fat loss.  

The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise for physical activity per week. If you would like to increase the intensity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise will also fulfill the CDC's requirements for physical activity. If your goal is to lose weight and burn fat, you may need to increase the amount of time spent exercising.

Performed long enough, rowing is a fantastic way to burn calories, build strong and defined muscles, and shed stubborn belly fat.  The key is committing to rowing consistently and exercising at a high intensity.  If fat loss and body transformation is your goal, getting uncomfortable during your workouts is a necessity.  Interval training is a great way to burn fat by alternating brief periods of high-intensity rowing (up to 90 percent of maximum heart rate) with low-moderate periods of rowing.  

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If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of rowing, check out GoRowinGo’s water rowing machine, blog content, and overviews of how rowing can deliver a training effect ideal for burning belly fat!

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