The Best Types of Rowing Machine Workouts

Rowing machines offer a great way to train – all the benefits of a cardio workout in a small space, without the high risk of injury associated with other types of fitness equipment. Unfortunately, many users fail to get the most from their rower because they don’t vary their workouts.

I’ve listed below the different types of sessions you can include in your training. Each can be used as part of a regime.

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Steady Rowing is an easy-paced workout at around 18 to 24 strokes per minute (known as the rating). This is fine for a comfortable workout if you’re a beginner, and can also be used as a warm-up at the lower stroke rate before a vigorous session. Note – this isn’t so good for fitness and weight loss.

Interval Training involves rowing for a period of time (usually one to two minutes) at a high stroke rate of maybe 30, and then for the same period at a lower rate of say, 20. Research has shown alternating between high and low intensity, burns more calories than a steady workout of the same time. This type of training allows you to train for longer, as you’re recovering in the low intensity periods, ready for the next high interval. It also keeps you heart rate in the fat-burning zone for longer – see below.

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High Intensity is rowing as hard and fast as you can for a pre-determined period, which simulates racing conditions. Definitely NOT for the beginner, but very beneficial for intermediate and advanced rowers. Favored by elite competition rowers for building stamina, both mental and physical. It’s hard work and should be built gradually to avoid injury. Start by setting a timer and row until you feel you can’t row any longer – check your time and repeat more at different sessions. Then aim to add five seconds every fourth high intensity session.

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Pyramid training is popular with elite rowers and involves training for shorter periods at a higher stroke rate. For example, rowing for 4 minutes at 22 strokes per minute, 3 mins at 24, 2 at 26 and 1 at 28. Then the routine is reversed.

Time Trial workouts record your progress overtime, the most common time trial is completed over 2,000 meters. Once a week, record your time for a set distance. Row hard for the first half, and then try to maintain the same stroke rate for the second half. Alternatively, you can row for a set period at your maximum stroke rate and record the distance covered at the end. This is usually carried out for two or three minutes.

Heart Rate Programs are great for weight loss and improving cardiovascular fitness. Many rowers have pre-set heart rate programs. You connect yourself up to the console via either an ear clip or a heart rate monitor strap, and set the rate. The console will prompt the stroke rate to keep your pulse within the limits you’ve selected (or some will alter the resistance to make you work harder). Excellent for building fitness or rapid weight loss.

Adding variation to your training will help you get the best results from your rower – and keep you interested! You can find more workouts in his new book the Complete Rowing Machine Workout Program is available on the Kindle from Amazon.