Rowing Machine Workouts

athletes resting on rowing machine after completing workout

While you could just hop on your rower and plod through the same old workout each and every time, you’ll get a lot more from your efforts if you choose rowing machine workouts that are aligned to your fitness goals. In exercise, there is something called the law of specificity which simply means that the type of exercise you do will result in specific physical adaptations.

For example, if you want to get stronger, you need to lift heavy weights and lifting light weights will not affect your strength very much. The same is true of rowing; your body will adapt only to the type of workouts that you do. There are several main types of workout you can do on a rower and many variations of each one.

Long, slow distance training

If you just hop on your rower and exercise at a slow to moderate pace, you are doing a type of workout called long, slow, distance training or LSD for short. LSD workouts involve working at around 60 to 70-percent of your maximum heart rate or, on a scale of one to ten, around intensity level five. LSD workouts build basic cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance and are not overly taxing. If you want to develop general fitness or are training for long-distance endurance sports, LSD training will be one of the cornerstones of your workouts. On the downside, LSD workouts can be quite long and time-consuming.

How to row for long distances

Threshold training

Where LSD involves a relatively slow pace, threshold training is the opposite end of the intensity scale. Also known as tempo training, threshold training involves working at just below your maximum sustainable pace – say 8.5 to 9 on a scale of one to ten or around 90-percent of your maximum heart rate. Threshold workouts are usually considerably shorter to reflect the increase in intensity – a 5,000-meter time trial is a good example of this kind of workout. Threshold training increases high-end aerobic fitness and also increases anaerobic fitness – a great workout for when you are short of time.

how fast should you row on a rowing machine?

Fartlek training

This funny word means speed play in Swedish and involves working at a variety of intensity levels selected at random. For example, over the course of 30-minutes, you might mix slow rowing with sprinting with power pulls with threshold speed rowing with some rowing technique drills. Fartlek training is ideal for when you want to work out but don’t want to be locked into a predetermined program. You can adjust the intensity as you see fit which means if you are feeling strong you can really push yourself but, if but if you aren’t at your best, you can take it a little easier.

Interval training

Alternating periods of hard work with easy recovery is called interval training and is a very effective and time-efficient way to exercise. You can design an interval training workout to address any number of fitness goals or abilities. For a beginner rower, you might alternate one minute of moderate-speed rowing with two easy minutes whereas a more advanced rower might alternate 500 meters as fast as possible with 90-seconds easy rowing to recover. Interval training is also a supreme fat burner and a very time-efficient workout.

how to perform rowing intervals

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

The fitness industry loves buzzwords and one of the most commonly used currently is HIIT. HIIT is a variation of interval training where the work intervals are generally very short and sharp. For example, and after a thorough warm-up, you might row flat out for 30-seconds, rest for 60-seconds and repeat for ten sets. Another very short but tough HIIT workout is Tabata training which involves doing eight sets of 20-seconds hard rowing with measly ten-second recoveries. Four minutes later you may well see your life flash before your eyes – yes; it is THAT hard! HIIT workouts are, by necessity, very short but will still result in increased fitness and fat burning.

10-Minute Follow-Along HIIT Rowing Machine Workout

Integrated circuit training (ICT)

ICT involves alternating brief bouts of high-intensity cardio with bodyweight or strength training exercises. For example: Row 500 meters – 20 push-ups – Row 500 meters
– 30 squats – Row 500 meters – 40 sit-ups – Repeat three times. This type of workout is popular with CrossFit and other high-intensity training groups. If you have very little time to exercise or want to really crank up the intensity of your workouts, ICT is a very useful tool. On the downside, there is no such thing as an easy ICT workout so be prepared to work very hard if you do this type of training.

By choosing the right type of training according to your fitness goals, you are much more likely to see progress and experience the results you want. No more just hopping on and rowing mindlessly – choose your workouts to suit your needs!