8 Rowing Workouts That’ll Crank Up Your Cardio

What cardio machine helps you burn over 500 calories in an hour—other than a treadmill or stationary bike? If you guessed the rowing machine, gold star for you. That’s why rowing machine workouts made a major comeback in the cardio world, says Deirdre Clute, a former instructor at Row House in New York City. “Everyone wants to use a rowing machine because not only do you reduce the risk of injury because it’s low-impact, but it’s also a great mix of strength and cardio endurance,” she says. “You can constantly challenge yourself and always have room to push a little more.”

For those of you still wondering: Is a rowing machine a good workout? In a word, yes! But don’t take my word for it. The rowing machine workout benefits speak for themselves. “Each stroke is building strength in your legs, core, back, and arms,” says Clute. “The harder you push, the greater the resistance, and the better your workout is going to be.” The push she’s talking about is the level of effort you put in to every stroke. Rowing isn’t about speed, but rather control and power, she says.

If you’re ready to hop on a rowing machine, here are eight rowing workouts for you to tackle, all designed by experts.

30-Minute Rowing Machine Workout

Clute designed this 30-minute interval workout for folks who need to squeeze in a muscle-quivering sweat-fest in a short amount of time. For it, you’ll row through six rounds of the following:

  • 1 minute at a moderate effort (7 out of 10 on the RPE scale)
  • 1 minute at an 8 RPE
  • 1 minute at a 9 RPE
  • 30 seconds at max effort (10 out of 10 RPE)
  • 90 seconds at an easy effort (3 or 4 RPE)

HIIT Rowing Machine Workout

This HIIT workout created by Annie Mulgrew, director of programming at City Row, takes you from the rowing machine to the floor for some bodyweight strength training. Complete the circuit three to four times, depending on your fitness level, and make sure your transitions are quick with only 30 seconds of rest in between intervals.

  • 1 minute at a 9 RPE
  • 10 reps of Bulgarian split squats on each side
  • 10 incline pushups
  • 10 triceps dips
  • 1 minute at a 3 RPE
  • Repeat floor circuit

Power Stroke Rowing Machine Workout

This basic rowing machine workout from Gretchen Raddatz, coach at Row House, is all about using your muscle to generate as much force as possible. “These are fast, hard strokes that explode back,” she says. Keep your rhythm the same, but push and pull harder to row faster.

  • 10 power strokes at a 5 RPE
  • 10 recovery strokes
  • 10 power strokes at a 7 RPE
  • 10 recovery strokes
  • 10 power strokes at a 9 RPE

Ladder Drill Rowing Machine Workout

Here’s another awesome workout from Raddatz. “This gets you up to quicker paces, which increases calorie burn,” she says. “You’ll move from an aerobic zone to a sprint-style anaerobic zone.”

  • Start rowing at a 3 RPE
  • Go up one effort level every 30 to 60 seconds until you reach max effort (10 RPE)
  • Once you hit it, reverse course and head back down the ladder, until you reach a 3 RPE

Spicy Sprints

Lizzy Carson, rowing coach at Concept Fitness, says this workout is perfect for people looking for a quick, heart-pumping routine. It’ll only take you 16 minutes to get through, but it’ll keep your heart rate elevated the whole time.

  • 35 seconds at max effort (10 RPE)
  • Rest for 25 seconds
  • Repeat 16 times

Filthy 500’s Rowing Machine Workout

This one is made for a pro, so tackle it only once you’ve got some experience under your belt. Carson says it’s a tough set that can be used to prepare for 2000m test, which is the gold standard distance in rowing.

  • Complete a 500m distance row
  • Rest for one minute
  • Repeat 6 times

Stroke Build Burner Rowing Machine Workout

If you need practice holding your stroke rates, here’s a quick workout you can use to get some training in, says Carson.

  • 1 min at a 3 RPE, rest one minute
  • 1 min at a 3 RPE, rest one minute
  • 1 min at a 5 RPE, rest one minute
  • 1 min at a 5 RPE, rest one minute
  • 1 min at a 7 RPE, rest one minute
  • 1 min at a 7 RPE, rest one minute
  • 1 min at a 9 RPE, rest one minute
  • 1 min at a 9 RPE, rest one minute
  • 1 min at max effort, rest one minute
  • 1 min at max effort, done

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