How effective are rowing machines at getting in shape?

How effective are rowing machines small

What are your fitness goals? Whether you want to lose weight, tone up or sculpt rock hard abs, using a rowing machine is a sure-fire way to get the body you desire.

In this post, we’re going to look at how effective rowing machines are, and also explain all the benefits you can get from this one machine and encourage you to give rowing a shot – on land, at least!

Rowing machines: what are they good for?

Indoor rowers simulate rowing on open water and have adjustable resistance levels that put the user in full control of their session. Rowing machines were originally designed as a professional training tool for the military, before being used by competitive rowers to practice their sport indoors.

Old fashioned rowing machine
Don’t laugh: This rowing machine was state-of-the-art once.

From water resistance rowers to more traditional air rowers, these machines have since entered mainstream use and are now considered to be a foundational piece of equipment for gyms and health clubs. The reasons for this are rowing machines offer a full range of exercise benefits and are suitable for all fitness levels, as we will now explain.

Check out the best budget rowing machines here

Are rowing machines effective for weight loss?

Rowing Machine
Just how effective are rowers at things like burning calories and building muscle?

If weight loss is your fitness goal, then the rowing machine needs to be in your workout arsenal. Why? The numbers speak for themselves – a person who weighs 125lbs burns 210 calories doing 30 minutes of moderate intensity rowing, a person who weighs 155lbs burns 260 calories, and a person who weighs 185lbs burns 311 calories. And that’s ‘only’ moderate intensity!

How many calories do you burn on a rowing machine?

For 30 minutes of vigorous intensity rowing, a 125lbs person burns 255 calories, a 155lbs person burns 316, and a 185lbs person burns 377 calories! (source: Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School)

For the time spent exercising, rowing is clearly a smart choice for calorie burning. We all have fitness goals that we’re working towards, but most of us don’t have limitless time to spend in the gym, nor do we want to spend hours training.

Video: Is indoor rowing effective and should you be using it?

Here’s a brilliant, critical look at whether or not the rowing machine is all it’s cracked up to be.

Is rowing an effective exercise?

Rowing is an efficient way of burning fat, making it a smart choice for those who want to fit their workout into a busy life schedule (isn’t that all of us?). If you’re wondering if rowing can be your only form of exercise, take a look at our guide on that.

Does rowing tone muscles?

Yes. In addition to being a mega calorie burner, rowing is a great for toning your muscles from your head to your toe. This dual cardio and strength training impact adds yet another layer to the efficiency of rowing as a workout. It targets all the major upper body areas, including:

  • Upper back
  • Pecs
  • Arms
  • Obliques

But can using a rower tone my abs?

While it’s not likely you’ll have to stop rowing because your abs got sore (you’ll likely tire long before that happens), they absolutely do work your stomach muscles. Lean forwards in your chair now and add some tension as you pull back to a straight position. You should feel it in your abdominals. Rowing is like that – times 100.

The greatest intensity of rowing is most felt in your core which is why rowers often have a killer six pack. Each stroke is like doing a mini sit up. In terms of your lower body, rowing engages your quads, calves and glutes, making for a balanced workout.

How much of your body does rowing workout?

Rowing Machine
Rowing machines are absolute beasts when it comes to shredding calories

This might be surprising, as most people assume that rowing only uses upper body strength, but it is actually a great full body workout that uses 86% of the body’s muscles!

While rowing is an intense calorie burner and good for building muscular strength, it is also a classified as being a low intensity activity because it puts very little pressure on the joints. This makes it an ideal exercise for older people and especially suited to older ladies. A natural drop in oestrogen levels combined with age-related decline in muscle mass puts older ladies at risk of osteoporosis and brittle bones.

Is rowing effective and low impact?

Low impact strength exercises, like rowing, can help to build bone strength and protect against these unpleasant conditions. It is also one of the safest cardio exercises around – it is very difficult to hurt yourself while sat down and pulling.

Another benefit of rowing for ladies (this time of all ages) is that it can address upper body strength problems. Poor upper body strength is common in women – even those who go to the gym because of the tendency to concentrate on calorie burning cardio and forget about strength training. For this reason, women are more likely to slouch than men.

Rowing requires proper posture and can build strength that promotes better posture which, over time, should help to prevent against aches and pains. This can be especially beneficial for those who work at a desk all day, where the tendency to slouch is at its highest.

Can you watch tv while rowing?

Watching Netflix while shredding those calories

As an exercise, rowing is a very repetitive motion so once you have got your form right you can switch off and let your mind wander. A good session on the rowing machine lasts around the length of an episode of your favourite TV or streaming show. While everyone else is getting fatter sitting around watching the telly box, you can get ripped and still enjoy the latest Netflix show.

This makes rowing a very enjoyable form of exercise because you can entertain your mind and let your body get on with doing what it needs to do. Other people like to take this as an opportunity to meditate, but if we are honest, we love getting the chance to watch (or listen) to something entertaining in peace!

Wondering whether to go for an air rower or a water-based rower? We’ve got a guide for that here.

Conclusion: Just how effective are rowing machines?

Are rowing machines effective

Using a rowing machine is one of the most effective forms of exercise for anyone, no matter their age or level of fitness. You can base this on FOUR main factors:

  1. The level of exercise you can do in a short space of time (It burns a lot of calories quickly)
  2. You can work strength and cardio at the same time
  3. You’re working 86% of your body out at the same time
  4. If you row correctly, it improves a wide range of things such as upper body strength problems, balance issues, endurance, and even corrects your posture!

If there’s a form of exercise you can do at home that’s more efficient and effective than rowing, we’d like to try it. So yes, rowing is up there with the very best and most effective forms of home exercise.

References and further reading

Tom Armstrong

Hey! I've been training in all kinds of places, with all kinds of equipment for the best part of 30 years. I love training with my weights at home and writing about new products and training methods online. Well, with a name like Armstrong, I would have to be into training, right?