Rowing Machine Workouts – Interval Training Routine

Rowing Machine Workouts

If you’re looking to spice up you’re training, then there’s nothing better than the rowing machine workouts. What other machine hits your legs, lower back, upper back, and arms in such an effective and efficient manner? None!

Great Whole Body Workout

Whether you’re looking to gain muscle or lose fat, almost everyone can benefit from including the rowing machine in their workout in some way, shape or form. If you’re looking to lose fat, then the benefits are obvious. No other cardio machine allows you to burn so many calories whilst equally targeting as many muscles as the rowing machine. The effectiveness of the rowing machine means that your workouts can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 50 depending on how much time you have. In turn, the flexibility that the rowing machine gives you can help you to stick to your diet long term, creating better results with real longevity,

If you’re looking to gain muscle, then the rowing machine is a great way to build up work capacity in your muscles. Work capacity is essentially how much volume your muscles can handle, and the more volume they can handle, the harder you can train and the better the results you’ll get. The rowing machine also targets key areas for strength: the legs, glutes, lower back, upper back, and arms. These are included in every compound lift you do, making the rowing machine an extremely effective form of conditioning.

Now, many people look at the treadmill and think it’s just another form of boring cardio like the treadmill or the stationary bike. Sometimes they might stay clear of it because it looks like hard work. In actuality, the rowing machine is extremely adaptive and can be used to constantly challenge yourself to get that little bit extra from your workout. That little bit extra is what can make all the difference when it comes to your results.

Another massive benefit to rowing machine workouts is that it’s light on your joints. Most people when they think of cardio will turn to the treadmill which not only trains a small amount of muscles, but it’s also exceedingly high impact on your ankles, knees, and hips. Pounding the track again and again means that your joints are constantly bearing the force of each stride.

That’s why so many frequent runners end up developing issues with their joints somewhere on their body. If you have a problem with your ankle, then slowly it will creep up your body and start affecting areas such as your hips, lower back, or even neck.

However, with the rowing machine, you’re constantly strapped into the machine only moving your limbs, not hitting them into anything. This strengthens the tendons and ligaments around your joints, ensuring longevity and improving their health opposed to damaging it.

To quickly summarize the rowing machine is beneficial for four main reasons:

  • Improves the strength of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • Improves your cardiovascular capabilities and condition
  • Reduces your risk of injury
  • Incredibly adaptive based upon your goals, schedule, and fitness level

Rowing Terminology

All this might make you want to immediately sign up to your gym’s next rowing class, but there’s also some terminology that needs explaining so you know exactly what’s going on.

  • For starters, stroke is the easiest and most straight-forward term to understand. Essentially, it means the movement of rowing forwards and backwards. There are three parts to a successful stroke:Grab the handles, keep your spine neutral, and extend your legs by driving through your heels
  • Pull with your upper back and arms so the handles greet your mid-torso
  • Bring the handles back in reverse order: extend the arms, and then break at the knees

Next up, we have the stroke rate. This is how fast you move through the stroke. With rowing, the emphasis should not be placed on the speed, but on the technique and the power. A higher stroke rate might mean that you’re not completing the right form for each rep or highlight a lack of control.

A split time generally refers to how long It takes for you to row 500 meters, but that distance might be changed based upon your instructor. It’s simply a way to measure your effort over time and your progress the more you practice.

Sometimes you’ll hear ‘Power 10s’ which means 10 of your best strokes. The focus here is on technique, strength and power above anything else.

’30-second blast’ is fairly self-explanatory but simply means going as hard as you can for 30 seconds whilst still managing your technique.

Occasionally, you might also hear someone say ‘ERG’ which simply refers to ergometers I.e. indoor row machines.

Rowing Machine Workouts


The Workout

Finally, onto the bit that you’re all here for. The following workout is designed to test your skills and really make you sweat. If you don’t fancy doing it regularly, then you can use it as a marker of your fitness, monitoring how well you do and testing once per month to see if you can beat your previous stats.

The best part of this workout is that it takes next to no time, meaning that you can easily fit it into your schedule no matter how hectic you are.

A great tip for this rowing machine workout is to keep things steady. If you go too hard at the start, then you’ll have no energy left at the end, but if you save it all for the end, then you might end up finishing the workout with some energy leftover. By keeping a strong, steady, but mildly challenging pace from the start, you can then reserve enough energy for the final sprint.

Now, the workout is based upon intervals, meaning that you’ll go through bouts of easy work followed by bouts of high intensity. During the easy work, you’re trying to work on your technique, recover enough for the next sprint, and also, build up strength. The down-time is more of a preparation period, not a rest, so don’t slow down completely and instead, gradually build up your pace so the intense period isn’t such a shock to the system.

Intervals are a great way to combine cardio, strength, and calorie-burning into one short workout. The total time for this workout might be just under 30 minutes, but it burns as many as, not more than, a light row for 60-75 minutes.

Start with a gradual warm-up for around 2 minutes. Gradually build yourself up from an RPE of 3 to an RPE of 6. RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion and is a scale to measure how hard you think you’re working. An RPE of 0 for instance would mean laying down with no stress whatsoever. On the other hand, an RPE of 10 would mean that you couldn’t work any harder even if a gun was to your head.

You can also do some power 10s if this isn’t something you do regularly. Rest between 30 seconds and a minute in between each one.

After this, it’s time for the main workout. The workout is based upon 3 cycles: preparation, sprints, and active recovery

  • 4 Minutes @ RPE 6 working up an RPE 7 (Preparation period)
  • 1 Minute at RPE 8 working up to an RPE 9 (Sprint)
  • 30 Seconds at RPE 4 (Active recovery)

You’ll complete five sets of this making the total working period 27 minutes 30 seconds.

For the final sprint period, you should go as hard as you physically can so as to leave nothing left on the table. The last thing you want to do is walk away from a workout knowing that you could have done more.

As previously mentioned, note down the distance you managed to row during the workout, then each time try to beat this distance. This is a great way to see whether you’re getting fitter over time and if your regime is working. Also note down how you felt that day, whether you got enough sleep, and how closely to the workout you’ve eaten. These factors are all incredibly important for determining the outcome of your workout.

Using these statistics is also a great way to see whether you’re managing your recovery effectively. When it comes to fitness, your recovery is as important as your exercise. It’s all well and good putting everything out there in the gym, but if you can’t recover from it, then you’re never going to adapt and move forward. Fitness is all about overcoming the obstacles you face, not grinding yourself into the ground.

Combining a good diet with a solid exercise plan has been shown time and time again to be far more beneficial than just exercise alone. As well as this, you should also manage your sleep and stress. Sleep is the time our body dedicates to recovering from the work we’ve done during the day.

By skimping out on our sleep, we’re not going to be as rested and recovered as we should be for the next day, making us irritable, lethargic, and unable to perform at our best. We all know the difference a good night of sleep can make, but none of us seem to make it a priority in our lives. Aim for at least 8 hours of solid slumber each night to help you feel your best.

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