Are Rowing Machines Good For Weight Loss?

One of the most striking things about professional rowing teams is the incredible shape that they are always in – there is never a single ounce of excess fat on anyone!

Why is this? Is rowing a really good way to keep fit or are they doing something else to achieve their athletic bodies? The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Rowing is an incredible exercise, but professional-grade results require professional-grade training routines. So, what can rowing offer us amateurs? In this post, we are going to outline how rowing can help you to lose weight and give some tips on technique and maximising your workout efficiency.

Can you lose weight indoor rowing?

If you live near to a river, have a team of 7 friends who want to row and 1 who wants to steer, and have access to a boat, then rowing on open water should be no problem. However, if you are anything like us, the only thing on that list you have is a friend who is a bit of a cox.

Our alternative to ‘real’ rowing is to use a rowing machine. This handy piece of kit mimics the mechanics of outdoor rowing from the comfort of the indoors. Even professional rowers use them to support their training regime.

How many calories can I burn rowing at home?

Rowing machines offer the setting for some intense calorie burning. During a 30-minute session of moderate-intensity rowing, a 125lb person burns around 210 calories, a 155lb person burns 260 calories, and a 185lb person burns 311 calories.

These are some impressive numbers by themselves, but what happens if you kick it up a notch? In a 30-minute session of vigorous-intensity rowing, a 125lb person burns around 255 calories, 155lb person burns 216 calories, and a 185lb person burns 377 calories.

How to burn more calories while rowing

A more intense session will burn more calories, but we need to separate intensity caused by rowing at a higher resistance or speed and intensity caused by improper form.

The latter will not help you to get fitter and could lead to injury.

5 Easy Tips For better rowing

Follow these tips from head to toe to keep your form in check:

  1. look straight ahead and keep your shoulders down and away from your ears throughout.
  2. your elbows should not stick out or be in too tight against your chest
  3. Maintain a loose grip on the handles as you go backwards
  4. Remember that your primary push should come from your legs,
  5. Drive yourself back using your legs and allow the power to travel up your body and into your arms to pull back the handle.

You should be able to feel the pressure of the connection between your feet and the machine as you push back. Be sure to move at a constant pace and avoid jerking motions. Also, focus on your breathing and use it to glide through the moves.


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Burning more calories

To lose a pound of fat you need to burn about 3,500 calories. As the figures for calories burned during rowing sessions show, rowing can be an excellent way to help you achieve this. However, once you step away from the machine, your body will go back to burning calories at its normal rate.

To effectively lose weight, you want to increase your resting metabolic rate, so that you are permanently burning a higher number of calories.

Strength training and building muscle mass change your metabolic rate because muscle requires more energy for maintenance than the same weight of fat.

Why rowing isn’t enough if you want to lose weight

Rowing engages your upper and lower body, but it does not offer enough resistance to challenge your muscles in the way needed for strength training. For this reason, you should add 2-3 strength sessions into your weekly routine to keep the right balance between cardio and strength.

It is also important to remember that ‘calories out’ is only one side of the weight-loss equation. You need to pay attention to ‘calories in’ too because a bad diet will undo all of your hard work.

We have previously posted about the best way to eat for fat loss (see this post). As a quick recap, fill your plate with lean protein and veggies. You can enjoy some carbs but remember that comforting and stodgy starchy foods (bread, potatoes, pasta, rice) are higher in calories per serving and tend to be the ones we over-indulge in.

Final thoughts: Row for the long haul to shift those pounds

Finally, rowing is a precision movement that quickly becomes repetitive, so it will be important to have some entertainment on hand to get you through your workout. We do not recommend watching something on a tablet or on your phone, however, because you should be keeping your head up and looking forwards to maintain your form.


References and further reading

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