12 Rowing Machine Benefits: Why It’s the Ultimate Workout

Rowing machine benefits featured image

Incorporating cardiovascular exercise into your life is an integral part of any successful fitness regime. While some forms of cardio get a bad rap, rowing is a beloved form of cardio exercise, and for good reason. 

Rowing is a full-body workout that burns calories and fat, improves endurance, and strengthens the heart and lungs. While it provides a killer cardio workout, it’s also easy on the overworked joints and tendons in the body. 

If you’re here because you want to learn more about the benefits that rowing workouts can provide for your physical health, read on. 

1. Rowing Improves Endurance & Stamina

If you catch yourself breathing heavily during day-to-day activities, you probably need to start incorporating more cardiovascular exercise into your life. 

Building endurance takes time and effort; two things that many people can’t (read: won’t) commit to. 

Rowing is a sport that builds endurance through action — the more you row, the stronger you become. The stronger you become, the longer (and heavier) you can row without tiring.

See what I mean?

Stamina and endurance are often used interchangeably, which is incorrect. Endurance, as we discussed, refers to the body’s ability to sustain an exercise for an extended period. 

Stamina is the mental and physical ability a person has; someone with a lot of stamina can be referred to as energetic. Stamina can be your mental toughness or the mental energy you use to complete a workout without getting tired or quitting before completion. 

Stamina is the result of physical fitness and aerobic exercise; similar to endurance, it’s built through doing. 

2. Rowing is Easy on the Joints and Muscles 

Joints worked on rowing machine

Comparing a rowing workout to running is like comparing apples and oranges. Sure, they fall into the same broad category of “aerobic exercise,” but after that, the two couldn’t be more different. 

Running is notoriously rough on the body. Runners who have been in the sport for several years typically experience ailments and injuries throughout their body; most commonly in their knees, hips, ankles, back, and feet. 

On the other hand, rowing provides a cardiovascular exercise that is low-impact and spares those vulnerable joints and tendons from injury or strain.

It’s also a common exercise used in physical therapy for patients who seek rehabilitation and improved muscle function from previous injuries. 

The biggest difference between rowing and running is the fact that rowing is a seated exercise, and running is a completely weight-bearing workout. 

You may experience soreness after rowing, and that’s normal. Soreness means you challenged your body, you worked hard, and your muscles are in recovery mode. 

Joint pain and injury mainly come from aerobic exercise that is high impact and can leave a lasting, negative effect on your body. 

If you are new to rowing and want to make sure your form is correct, check out this post for all the details on how to use a rowing machine properly, the standard stroke variations, and much more.

3. Rowing Strengthens the Heart

Cardiovascular exercise of any kind has incredible health benefits for the body. Namely, the cardiovascular system (the heart, blood, and blood vessels), which transports oxygen and other important materials throughout the body. 

Rowing, like the majority of cardio exercises, gets your heart rate up quickly and keeps it there as long as you are in continuous motion. As you row, your heart is working hard to pump blood throughout your body. In turn, your heart gets stronger too.  

Additionally, rowing releases endorphins into the body, which are known for being the “feel good” stress relief hormones. Who can say no to that?!  

If you’re curious about the best rowers for a cardiovascular workout, check out this list of the best rowing machines money can buy. 

4. Rowing Is A TOTAL Body Workout

Group of athletes on rowing machine

Unlike bikes and treadmills which place an emphasis on your lower body, rowing machines use virtually every muscle in your body. 

As you extend your knees and hips, your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus work hard to push you backward as your lower back muscles support your spine.

Your latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, and rhomboids work to pull your arms backward and your biceps bend your elbows all the while smaller muscle groups such as your deltoids and core work to provide stability and support. 

In fact, the only major muscles that are not worked on this full-body workout machine are your pectoralis major and triceps but this is easily remedied with a few sets of old-fashioned push-ups.

5. The Rower Is Very Versatile

There are lots of different ways you can use a rowing machine to target different aspects of your fitness and ensure your workouts never get boring.

You can do long, easy-paced rows to improve basic aerobic fitness, shorter, fast-paced rows to increase top-end fitness, do interval training to increase anaerobic fitness, combine rowing with bodyweight exercises to improve all-round conditioning, and promote fat burning. 

You can even do time trials and mock races 2,000 meters against the clock.

Despite the lack of fancy graphics, rowing workouts need never be boring as there is always something new to try.

6. It’s Time Efficient

You can get a tremendously effective workout in a very short time using a rowing machine. Because rowing uses virtually every muscle in your body, it places a large workload on your heart, lungs, and circulatory system.

This means that in as little as 20-minutes, you can work not only your cardiovascular system but also all of your major musculature. If like a lot of people, you have limited time for exercise, a rowing machine will help you get the most from your workouts.

7. Ideal For Weight Loss (Or Control)

Weight loss and weight control are big issues for many exercisers. Rowing, because it uses so many muscle groups simultaneously, is a very effective calorie burner and compares favorably to every other type of exercise machine.

Because it is low impact, it is ideally suited for heavy exercisers who might find more impactful workouts uncomfortable or even dangerous.

8. Surprisingly Challenging

One of the main benefits of using an indoor rower, especially a Concept2, is that your performances can be directly compared to those of others. This means that, for all intents and purposes, you can race against all other indoor rower users.

There are rankings based on geographic location, weight, age, and gender so you can measure your performance against similar exercisers. This constant challenge to perform better and better is a great way to maintain motivation.

9. Always Scalable

Rowing workouts are as hard as you make them. While 2000 meters flat out is one of the hardest exercise challenges around, you can also take it much easier and use a rower for active recovery on rest days or a gentle aerobic workout even if you are a beginner.

The harder you pull, the harder the workout will be but if you don’t pull so hard, the workout will be much easier. The best rowing machines also have changeable resistance settings too. Rowers are very versatile and are suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced exercisers.

10. And Super Functional

The term functional means that exercise replicates movements common in everyday life. On the first examination, rowing might not look very functional but if you break the movement down you will soon see that it is.

The simultaneous extension of knees and hips is very similar to squatting – one of the most common movements you are ever likely to perform. Sitting down and standing back up again? That’s a squat!

Pulling your arms into your body while maintaining a stable spine is another very functional movement and one that we all do when we pick things up off the floor. Rowing can also help improve movement quality as it promotes joint mobility and as a full-body movement, it also enhances coordination.

Rowing machines are effective, easy, and easy to use. They provide a good workout for all levels of fitness. Just use a rower for 20-minutes or so three times a week and you’ll soon see how beneficial rowing can be.

11. Rowing Paired with a Healthy Diet Makes You Unstoppable

The standard rule of thumb for successful weight loss is 75% diet and 25% exercise. Weight loss happens when you consume fewer calories than you burn. Easier said than done, but those are the facts. 

For those who aren’t necessarily trying to lose weight but want to maintain or build muscle mass, incorporating a healthy diet will result in more lean muscle, increased stamina, and shorter recovery time.  

For a great rowing workout video that emphasizes weight loss through particular stroke variations, check out this post on rowing for weight loss

12. It helps boost your mental health too!

The consistent, rhythmic strokes make for a more meditative form of exercise than most. Strap yourself in and once you set your pace and establish your rhythm, the whole body working in total synergy, you can almost slide into a Zen-like state!

This is one of the benefits it shares with things like the treadmill- it requires coordination but once you’ve got going you can almost forget what you are doing. And with it, forget the stresses of the day.

The rower helps me unwind like a few other exercises. I find my mind switches off from the constant chatter I brought in with me. It’s something about the movement and the rhythm. I know that sounds a bit hippy-dippy but that’s the best way I can explain it!!!

Back to something a bit more scientific, you’ll be happy to hear… A good blast on the rowing machine leads to your body releasing its endorphins, which in turn help you feel less stressed. That famous post-exercise buzz I’m sure you know by now.

Physical exercise has also been shown to slow cognitive decline so your little grey matter will thank you too!

Final Thoughts

Rowing offers physical and mental health benefits for everyone; whether it’s your first time on the machine or you love the workout so much you invested in one for your home gym. 

Ask anyone who is a fan of the workout and they will tell you — rowing creates a mind-body connection, unlike any other cardio exercise you can do in the gym or at home. 

If you’re seeking a low-impact cardiovascular workout that is easy on your body and beneficial to your physical and mental health, rowing is for you.

Patrick Dale


Patrick Dale has worked in health and fitness for over twenty years and spent five years as a Royal Marine Commando. Now the owner of a fitness qualifications training company, Patrick splits his time between training prospective personal trainers and gym instructors and writing articles for numerous magazines.