best rowing machine workout for weight loss

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Last updated on February 12, 2023

The rowing machine is one of the most effective cardio workouts you can get for the time invested. It is also one of the few cardio exercises that provides you with a serious muscle workout while helping you to burn fat. Many people, however, find rowing to be a boring form of exercise. In this article, we provide you with 3 indoor rowing workouts to allow you to get in a great workout while keeping you motivated and interested.

Benefits of Rowing Machine Workouts

Calorie Burning

The rowing machine is a very effective calorie burning exercise. An hour’s worth of time on the rowing machine will burn between 600 and 1000 calories based on the intensity of your effort. So always aim for a high calories burned workout which we will discuss in this article for decent fat loss.

Total Workout

Whereas most workouts will either be an aerobic exercise or an anaerobic exercise, the rowing exercises is one of the best crossovers that works both equally. It will get you puffing to deliver an effective cardiovascular workout. At the same time, it will work your muscles. The major muscle worked on the rowing exercise is the latissimus dorsi of the upper back. At the same time, it will also work your biceps, chest, triceps, deltoids and quadriceps. Your core, the vital link between your upper and lower bodies, also get a great workout when you are rowing.


Rowing workouts are great for burning fat and building muscle. They also make you stronger. Each of the muscles mentioned above will become stronger when you row regularly. At the same time, you will increase your muscular endurance.

Low Impact

Rowing machine workouts are among the lowest impact forms of cardio exercise that we know of. Unlike with treadmills, there is no ankle impact when you use a rowing machine. If you are a person who is suffering from arthritis or has knee, ankle or lower back pain, you could do no better than exercising on a rowing machine.

3 Great Rowing Machine Workouts – Mastering the Rowing Machine

HIIT Rowing


HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. This is an intense method of training that will dramatically increase your calorie burn while you are exercising and for at least 24 hours after your workout is over. That’s because HIIT activates the EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) effect which increases your metabolism to allow you to take in more oxygen post workout.


HIIT involves performing repeated intervals of short sharp exercise followed by even shorter rest periods. The original and most popular form of HIIT is called Tabata training. This involves doing 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated 8 times.


Here is how to do the HIIT Tabata rowing machine workout:


  • Do a slow warmup for two minutes
  • When the timer reaches 1:30 begin increasing your speed so that at 2:00 you are rowing at full speed
  • Continue rowing at full speed for exactly 20 seconds
  • Go slow for 10 seconds
  • Repeat for another 20 second sprint
  • Continue this until your have completed eight 20 second sprint intervals
  • Do a slow warmdown for two minutes


HIIT rowing workouts are extremely intense. Excluding the warmup, you will be exercising for just 4 minutes but that may well prove to be the most intense four minutes of your life. Do not do this workout every day. We suggest limiting yourself to 2 or 3 workouts per week spaced at least 48 hours apart.  Make sure that you stay well hydrated in and around your workouts.


The Rowing Machine / Burpee Challenge

If there is one bodyweight exercise that everyone seems to hate, it is the burpee. That’s hardly surprising – the burpee is an extremely taxing exercise. This rowing machine workout capitalizes on the aversion to the burpee by actually making it the penalty for not hitting your rowing machine targets. Here’s how it works . . .


  • Divide your workout into 5 x 500 meter rows
  • Set the goal to complete each 500 meter row in one minute and 40 seconds
  • Your rest between each session is 5 minutes
  • If you do not hit your 1:40 target, you need to pay by doing burpees during your 5 minute break.
  • Every second that you are over 1:40 adds another burpee to your penalty. So, if it takes you 1:56 instead of 1:40 to complete your 500 meter row, then your penalty will be 16 burpees.
  • The extra time over your 1:40 target also gets subtracted from your 5 minute rest period. So, if, as in the previous example, you take 1:56 to do your 500 meter sprint, you need to take 16 seconds off your 5 minute rest period, so that you are only rating for 4 minutes and 44 seconds. Be sure to get your 16 burpees within that time.
  • For this workout to be effective you must stick rigidly to the allocated times.


Partner Reverse Pyramid Rows

If you are at all competitive and if you train with a partner, then this is the ideal rowing machine workout for you. Here’s how it works . . .


  • You get on the rowing machine and do a two minute warm up, followed by your partner.
  • You get back on the rowing machine and row for 500 meters for as fast as you can.
  • You then hop off and your partner gets on, with the goal to beat your 500 meter time. While he is rowing, you are resting.
  • You then get back on the rowing machine and row as hard as you can for 400 meters.
  • Your partner again replaces you, trying once more to better your time.
  • You continue with this on/off sequence for 300, 200 and 100 meters.


This is another pretty intense workout that is great for weight loss. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of water during your rest period in order to stay hydrated.

Wrap Up

You now have 3 extremely effective rowing machine workouts to help you burn fat, build muscle and lose weight super fast. These workouts provide you with the variety to keep you motivated and the intensity to get amazing results fast. We suggest rotating them to keep yourself motivated and fresh.


Always ensure you have the correct rowing technique to avoid injury and to ensure the workout plan you are following burns more calories. Having a home rowing machine will allow you to workout more and this burns calories and this will be enhanced with the correct diet. Read our review when you make your choice.

Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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