Rowing machine benefits featured image

8 Rowing Machine Benefits

Tucked away at the back of many gyms, you will often find a rowing machine. Low profile and bereft of flashing lights or fancy graphic displays, the rowing machine is often ignored in favor of more popular workout machines like treadmills and cross-trainers. However, rowing is arguably the best full-body workout you aren’t currently doing.

What are the benefits of the rowing machine?

1. Rowing Is a TOTAL Body Workout

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 and 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.

2. With Low Impact

Running is a great workout but if you are a little (or a lot!) on the heavy side, it can be hard on your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and spine. Every time you run, your feet hit the floor with a force of three to four times your body weight – even if you wear very cushioned running shoes or exercise on a sprung treadmill.

This is fine if you weigh 150lbs but if you are a little on the large side, this impact can be uncomfortable and even injurious. Rowing is a non-impact activity that makes it safe for even the heaviest exerciser.

3. 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 most people, you have limited time for exercise, a rowing machine will help you get the most from your workouts.

4. And 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

Patrick Dale on rowing machine
Patrick 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.