How Many Calories Does a Rowing Machine Burn?

How Many Calories Does a Rowing Machine Burn?

Rowing is one of the most effective ways to build cardio. But is it good for weight loss?  This article shares information about the calorie-burning potential of rowing, scaled workouts for beginners to advanced, and insight on the benefits of rowing for weight loss.   

Is It True That Rowing Can Help with Weight Loss? 

Yes, rowing is a great activity to help accelerate weight loss.  Rowing is a total body workout that challenges the entire body and burns many calories in the process.  

Weight loss requires a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit of 500 calories per day will help to achieve steady and manageable weight loss.  How you reach a caloric deficit is your choice.  A combination of increasing protein intake, shaving a few calories here and there, and regular exercise is a balanced approach.  

The training effect from rowing consistently increases exercise capacity, cardiovascular health, and strength. Caloric expenditure while rowing depends on intensity, the machine you’re using, and body size. 

How to Use a Rowing Machine to Lose Weight

Consistent rowing will help you lose weight.  Rowing 3-4 days per week will burn enough calories to make a significant contribution to your caloric deficit.  Let’s not forget, the most effective way to lose weight is by managing caloric intake. 

Getting the most of rowing workouts requires solid technique to avoid injury and maximize time exercising. 

The rowing stroke is made of four parts:  

  •       Catch
  •       Drive
  •       Finish
  •       Recovery

Turn on the performance monitor, sit down, strap the feet in and grab the handle with a loose grip.


Rowing Stroke - Catch

Slide the seat forward, flexing the knees while bringing the chest is against the thighs, arms straight, and eyes forward.  Shins are near vertical. 


Rowing Stroke - Drive

Driving with your legs, move your body back into a vertical position, seat starts to slide away from the feet.  


Rowing Stroke - Finish

Extend the knees, open up the hips and continue leaning backward as you pull the handle toward your body. 


Rowing Stroke - Recovery

Release the finish and move back to the start by allowing the hands to move toward the feet first, tilting the torso, and bending the legs to slide the seat after.  

Rowing is an effective way to increase caloric expenditure and build exercise capacity at the same time. 

Beginner Rowing Workouts

Beginners should focus on rowing technique while gradually increasing workout intensity.  Here are a few beginner-level rowing workouts to try. 

15-minute Row

  •       Warmup
o   5 minutes
o   20-22 strokes per minute (SPM)
  •       Workout
o   15 minutes
o   24-26 (SPM)
  •       Cooldown
o   5 minutes
o   20-22 (SPM)

250-Meter Distance Interval Training

  •       Warmup
o   5 minutes
o   20-22 (SPM)
  •       Workout
o   Work:  250 meters at a high intensity (26-30 SPM)
o   Rest: Twice the time it takes to row this distance

o   Complete 8-10 rounds

  •       Cooldown
o   5 minutes
o   20-22 (SPM)

Intermediate Rowing Workouts

Intermediate-level rowers continue mastering technique, timing, and mechanics.  It’s time to bump up the distance and increase the intensity. 

500-Meter Distance Interval Training

  •       Warmup
o   5 minutes
o   24-26 (SPM)
  •       Workout
o   Work:  500 meters at a high intensity (26-30 SPM)
o   Rest:  Twice the time it takes to row this distance
o   Complete 8-10 rounds
  •       Cooldown
o   5 minutes
o   20-22 (SPM)

Adjusted duration and intensity 

  •       Warmup
o   8 minutes
o   20 (SPM)
  •       Workout
o   Round 1:  10 minutes @ 22 SPM
o   Round 2:  8 minutes @ 24 SPM
o   Round 3:  6 minutes @ 26 SPM
o   Round 4:  4 minutes @ 27 SPM
o   Round 5:  2 minutes @ 28 SPM
o   Round 6:  1 minute @ 28-29 SPM
  •       Cooldown
o   8 minutes
o   20-22 (SPM)

Advanced Rowing Workouts

After 6-7 months of consistent rowing, you're advanced.  You’ve mastered rowing technique, built a solid foundation of exercise capacity, and are ready to attack more strenuous workouts.  

2000-meter repeats

  •       Warmup
o   5 minutes
o   24-26 (SPM)
  •       Workout
o   Work:  2000-meters at a high intensity (26-30 SPM)
o   Rest:  6-7 minutes
o   Complete 3 rounds
  •       Cooldown
o   5 minutes
o   20-22 (SPM)

Descending distance ladder 

  •       Warmup
o   5 minutes
o   24-26 (SPM)
  •       Workout
o   Ladder 1:  
  • Row 2000-meters 
  • Rest for 5 minutes
o   Ladder 2:  
  • Row 1000-meters 
  • Rest for 4 minutes
o   Ladder 3:  
  • Row 750-meters
  • Rest for 3 minutes
o   Ladder 4:  
  • Row 500-meters
  • Rest for 2 minutes
o   Ladder 5:  
  • Row 250-meters
  • Rest for 1 minute
o   Ladder 6:  
      • Row 100-meters
  •  Cooldown
o   5 minutes
o   20-22 (SPM)

Does Rowing Promote Fat Loss?

A caloric deficit is a prerequisite to losing body fat.

Beyond that, rowing is the best cardio activity for fat loss because it blends cardio and strength.  The muscular effort on each stroke gets the entire body working, making it an excellent way to burn calories and build lean muscle, all while being low-impact.  

Building lean muscle is essential to maximize fat loss.  Muscle is a more metabolically active tissue, requiring more calories to sustain itself.  Rowing’s ability to mimic resistance training makes it one of the best cardio activities for preserving and building muscle.  

Rowing is also a great way to leverage the benefits of high-intensity interval training, which is time efficient and fantastic for speeding up fat loss. 

Rowing Vs. Running: Which Is Better? 

Rowing vs Running - which one is better?

Rowing and running are both amazing for improving aerobic and anaerobic cardio, burning calories, and improving health.  But there are some advantages and disadvantages to each.  


Running is a great way to exercise, but the high-impact nature of running can be too aggressive for many people. Running is primarily lower-body focused and can be performed outside or using a treadmill.  Treadmills allow for indoor running, but can be heavy, lack storage capabilities, and are prone to malfunction since they are equipped with many moving parts.  The noise while running on a treadmill can also be an issue.  Quality treadmills can be expensive, ranging from $2,000-$8,000.


Rowing is a low-impact activity that works the whole body and burns a significant number of calories.  Rowing is a mild form of resistance training since the muscular effort is high.  Rowing is an approachable activity for all levels because it’s joint-friendly.  The downside to rowing is that you cannot enjoy the benefits without a rower.  High-quality rowing machines can range from $700-$1500.

Rowing trumps running in the impact category, making it far more approachable for beginners who need limit impact forces.  Rowing works more muscles and blends strength and cardio.  Rowing machines have fewer moving parts and tend to have less mechanical issues.

In the end, rowing and running are great health-boosting activities that can complement each other and coexist in the same workout regimen.  Rowing is a perfect activity to build up fitness to start running.  Once you’re running regularly, mixing in rowing sessions throughout the week provides valuable cross-training to relieve the body from excess impact.  

What is HIIT Rowing? 

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves repeated high-level shorter burst efforts separated by rest. The rower is a fantastic piece of equipment to engage in HIIT.  HIIT rowing workouts create an afterburn effect that will keep you burning calories long after the training.    

The stroke rate for HIIT rowing will range from 24-30 strokes per minute (SPM).

250m Repeats

250m is the perfect distance for high-intensity interval training. Once you’ve rowed the 250m, rest 2-3x longer than the time it took to complete the distance.

30 Sec on/ 60 Sec off 

Row as hard as possible for 30 seconds, rest for 60 seconds. Repeat the cycle for 10 to 15 rounds. 

What Is Steady-State Rowing? 

Steady-state rowing involves a continuous steady effort, maintaining a consistent stroke rate and intensity during the workout.  In general, the longer the training, the lower the stroke rate. Steady-state rowing commonly uses 20-24 strokes per minute.  

Time-based rowing workouts are excellent for steady-state.  Set a timer for 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes and start rowing using rhythmic strokes.  

Where Can I Buy the Best Rower Machine?

GoRowinGo - the best water rowing machine

GoRowinGo offers a world-class water rowing machine, customer service, and a growing online rowing community for support, workout tips, equipment promotions and equipment deals.

The GoRowinGo water rower comes equipped with a performance monitor, smooth stroke feel, and aesthetically pleasing design.  Unlike a treadmill that looks like gym equipment, the wood construction of this water rower is perfect for leaving out in any living space.  This water rowing machine provides a perfect blend of performance, aesthetics, noise reduction, and performance metrics at an affordable cost. 

Learn more at GoRowinGo

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