Can Rowing Be My Only Exercise – Getting Fit & Building Strength With Just This Machine

Can Rowing Be My Only Exercise

Can rowing on its own get and keep you in shape?

A rowing machine provides a high-intensity cardio workout that will leave you dripping with sweat. It also conditions the muscles and can be great for building an athletic physique. When one machine offers so much, why would you bother using other equipment? A lot of people who get into rowing solely focus their training on it to the exclusion of other cardio machines and strength training.

Yet, most of us appreciate that diversity is beneficial to fitness progress. In this post, we are going to explore the benefits and limits of training on a rowing machine, and recommend that you branch out your workouts.

Rowing as your only form of cardio

One of the main benefits of rowing is its intense calorie burn rate. 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.

If the intensity level rises, a 30-minute session of vigorous-intensity rowing can see a 125lb person burn around 255 calories, a 155lb person burn 216 calories, and a 185lb person burns 377 calories. It’s clear that rowing is highly effective at burning calories as well as getting you in shape.

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Is rowing alone a good workout?

From a purely caloric perspective, there is no need to switch from rowing to another type of cardio exercise because the energy burn rates will all be similar – or even lower.

What matters most is that you show up and do the session, so if you enjoy rowing and have no interest in other cardio exercises, stick with your rowing machine.

This kind of mono-training does not suit everyone though. Some people need to mix things up to prevent themselves from becoming bored or they like to opt for a particular type of cardio to suit their mood that day. This is fine too, what matters most is your own preference.

Rowing Cardio and strength


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Can you build muscle just rowing?

While rowing is normally seen as an upper-body exercise, but the truth is it provides a full-body workout. In fact, rowing targets over 85% of your muscles! With each stroke, the lower body has to push back against the base, the core must hinge and engage with each pull, and the upper body must work to pull back the handles.

It is an excellent exercise for full-body conditioning. Indeed, contrary to what most people think, there is a lot of lower body work involved in each stroke because the main thrust is borne by the legs.

Rowing machines allow you to increase the resistance level on each row, making your body work harder and increasing the intensity of the exercise.

This conditions the muscles, but it will not cultivate much bulk muscle because the level of resistance on a rowing machine is not enough to stimulate this type of muscle growth. The type of muscle conditioning that rowing provides is that of general strength and endurance.

If you’re just getting into rowing, you might want to check out this handy guide on how to row properly.

If you were to solely focus on rowing, you would likely develop a trim and toned figure; however, you would not become muscular.

Should you do other forms of exercise as well as rowing?

We always recommend that people incorporate strength training into their exercise plan because of the many benefits associated with increasing muscle mass, such as having a higher metabolic rate, promoting bone health, becoming stronger, and the aesthetics of bulk muscle.

If you rely on a rowing machine for all your fitness needs, then you will miss out on these important benefits.

Rowing machines and home gyms

Rowing is all you need - Rowing Machine

What are some good exercises to complement rowing?

If you are thinking about starting a home gym or expanding your existing one, we always advise people to begin with a cardio machine and some free weights and to add more from there. As we have already discussed, a rowing machine offers some intense calorie-burning, so it makes for an ideal first cardio machine.

While a spin bike or a treadmill has a similar calorie-burn rate, only the rowing machine can boast full-body conditioning. For this reason, we would rank it as the best option for people who want to lose weight and tone up.

Does rowing build arm muscle without doing anything else?

If rowing is your only form of exercise, and you’re looking to either reduce flabby arms or tone up your arms then there’s good news. Rowing absolutely does work your arms and build muscle strength and tone up your forearms, triceps, shoulders and bicep muscles. However, it’s a very different form of exercise to resistance training, using weights such as dumbbells.

You’ll definitely get leaner, stronger, more toned arms but it might be hard to get that bulky look just using rowing.

Conclusion: Is rowing all you need?

  • If you decide to purchase a rowing machine, then we must stress the importance of diversifying your workouts by engaging in strength training using weights.
  • We understand that people are tight on time and may prefer to row for the calorie-burning benefits but incorporating weight training into your exercise routine will be more beneficial to your long-term health.
  • Similarly, if you already own a rowing machine and are wondering what piece of gym equipment to buy next, remember that another cardio machine will not bring many new benefits to your training, although it can help your motivation to mix things up.
  • Expanding your home gym to have an all-in-one weight machine or a weight bench would open up new avenues of training to you and so would be the preferable option.

In conclusion, while rowing is a great exercise, it should not be the only exercise that you do.

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