Indoor Rowing Machines for Weight Loss: Does it Work, and How?

Is Rowing Good for Weight Loss?

Rowing is a fantastic mode of exercise to help achieve weight loss goals. The rowing machine is well known for its ability to work many muscles, improve cardio conditioning and burn a significant number of calories. When used consistently, the rowing machine can help you achieve weight loss while strengthening the muscles, cardiovascular system and sparing the joints from impact.  

Is Rowing Good for Weight Loss?

While any exercise can help you burn calories, rowing is incredible for maximizing the caloric burn due to the number of muscles working while you’re exercising.  Rowing is a total body effort, with the lower body contributing to 70% of the rowing stroke and the upper body being involved in the other 30%.

Rowing’s training effect to the body differs from biking or running because the lower and upper body are involved on every stroke. Rowing is also a potent combination of strength and cardio training.  The muscular engagement and repetitive stroke cadence leads to a caloric burn that’s advantageous for people who are pursuing weight loss.  

Rowing and Weight Loss Explained

To lose weight, you must find a way to put your body in a caloric deficit consistently. You cannot take in more calories than you expend and expect to lose weight.  A caloric deficit is critical to ongoing weight loss. 

Some have argued that running is the best overall exercise for burning calories, and this isn't an incorrect argument, but running can be intolerable to people who have sensitive joints. Rowing, on the other hand, protects your joints. There is virtually no impact to the ankles or knees while exercising on a rowing machine.

For individuals who do enjoy running, rowing makes for a fantastic cross-training activity on off-days.

Which Muscles Does Rowing Use?

Rowing is a total body workout that works 85% of the muscles in the body.  The sheer number of muscles engaged while rowing provides incredible benefits. Rowing is a cardio-enhancing activity, but it requires a surprising amount of strength, making it fantastic to burn calories.  

Each rowing stroke is made of 4 different phases, with each step working a significant number of lower and upper body muscles.  

Read more about the muscles worked in this blog post.

How Do You Lose Weight with Rowing?

How do you lose weight with rowing?

Weight loss is all about getting into a caloric deficit consistently enough to lose weight.  Whether you do this by strategically decreasing caloric intake, increasing exercise to burn more calories throughout the day, or both.  

Rowing burns a significant number of calories during each workout, making it an excellent way to accelerate weight loss. If you're staying consistent with rowing 3-4 days per week, you’re going to be burning valuable calories that will help you reach weight loss goals. 

Rowing is also a great way to build lean muscle.  Adding muscle is beneficial for weight loss because muscle burns more calories than fat. The more muscle you have on your body, the more your body will be burning calories to maintain that muscle.

What Are the Health Benefits of Rowing?

Rowing is a physically demanding activity well known for delivering a potent cardio and strength workout.  The combination of strength, cardio, and many muscles working makes rowing fantastic for burning calories faster than many other exercise options.  

Strengthen Muscles and Cardio 

85% of the muscles in the body are working during a rowing stroke.  Rowing is a full-body workout that can serve as strength training and cardio in one shot.  The rowing stroke mimics a horizontal deadlift and roll, which challenges some of the largest muscle groups in the body. The repetitive nature of rowing means

Low Impact

Rowing involves virtually no impact while conditioning the entire body in less time.  Low-impact cardio activities are ideal for people who've suffered lower-body injuries or need to limit the forces to the joints

Burn Calories Faster

More muscles working during exercise combined with an increased intensity often means more calories burned during that exercise. When more muscles are working at a higher intensity, less exercise time is required to burn a significant number of calories.  Rowing trains nine different muscle groups and combines strength and endurance training.  

Rowing Workouts for Weight Loss

Rowing offers a wide variety of workout variations that will keep you interested in exercise and help move you closer to weight loss goals. Options include:

  •             Short burst anaerobic interval sessions
  •             long-endurance rowing pieces 
  •             hybrid workouts that incorporate bodyweight exercises.

Row for Time

Rowing for a set amount of time is simple and effective. It’s also a great way to organize a workout according to your fitness level. Beginners can row for less time, while more experienced rowers can increase the duration to suit their fitness and goals.

Time-based rowing workouts can be structured as aerobic or anaerobic efforts.  Aerobic workouts will be longer and use a slower stroke cadence.  The goal of aerobic training is to keep the effort low-moderate but row for longer.  Rowing a 10, 15, or 20+ minute piece is fantastic for steady-state efforts and getting into the zone. 

If you’re interested in tailoring a rowing session toward higher intensity, the exertion time will decrease while the strokes per minute and power output increase.  Tabatas (20sec work/10 secs rest for eight rounds) and 30sec on/30sec off for 10-15 rounds are great examples of workouts that require little time and create a huge training effect.

Rowing for Calories

If you’re used to tracking food calories, you may be interested in designing a workout according to the number of calories you wish to burn. Using this workout structure, you’ll row until you’ve hit your target calories, at which point the workout ends.

Hybrid Workouts 

Building lean muscle is key to helping with weight loss. It stands to reason that incorporating strength-based exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and even vertical pulling movements such as chin-ups and pull-ups can further enhance the muscle-building potential of rowing.

Here's a hybrid workout that combines intervals and bodyweight exercises:

  •     Row 45 seconds (26-28 SPM)
  •     Perform: 

o   10 Push-Ups

o   10 Lunges 

o   10 Sit-Ups

  •     Rest for 45sec-60sec after each round
  •     Repeat for 8-10 Rounds

Don't be afraid to include exercises away from the rowing machine to amplify the training effect! One subtle benefit to rowing is how easy it is to get in and out of the machine. The convenience of getting in and out quickly allows you to complete the rowing interval and immediately start performing repetitions of other exercises.

Where to Get the Best Rowing Machine?

Where to get the best rowing machine?

GoRowinGo’s water rowing machine is one of the best options for a world-class at-home rowing experience at an unbeatable price. Water rowing machines have a smooth feel and aesthetic appeal combined with noise reduction characteristics, making these fitness-building machines perfect for any living space.  

The Goclub rowing fitness community gives you access to a supportive rowing community where you can learn about new workouts, technique tips and improve your fitness with other like-minded individuals!  

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