How to get the best from your rowing machine workouts

rowing-machine-workouts2First off, be sure that you have read our page on how to use a rowing machine, after that you are going to be ready to begin your first workout. Rowing machines can be used to target the important parts of your body, building up your core strength, and can even be part of a training regimen for all sorts of sports and athletic activities.

In order to be able to get the best results, you will have to understand the techniques that will be involved. The basic positions that you will begin using can seem quite tricky in the beginning, but once you get the hang of the positions, it will feel powerful and easy to do. We will start by going over the important positions that you will need to understand, so that you can get the most out of your workouts. If you are already familiar with the positions, then go ahead and skip to our recommended workout plan.

Rowing Machine Positions

The Starting Position:

  1. Before you begin, be sure that you have securely strapped your feet in, because you do not want them to be sliding around as you row. You want the straps to be tight enough that they are locking you in snugly so that you are able to focus on your movements.
  1. Your grip on the handles should never be underneath them, but over the top of the handles. You will not be able to maintain a fluid motion in any other way. This makes it easier on your joints as well as being more powerful.
  1. Try to ensure that your wrists and hands are parallel to your arms while you are extending them outwards, towards your feet.
  1. You will begin to feel yourself moving forward on the seat of your rower, your whole body sliding down towards your feet, and you will stop when your lower legs are almost vertical.
  1. Lastly, you will want to lean slightly forward at your hips as you begin to prepare for your first drive.

The Drive Position


  1. Starting at the leaning forward position, you will begin to push with both legs in order to extend them and slide your body backwards on your rower. This is where you really begin to feel the power of your legs being utilized, which is why rowing machines are great for those who run.
  1. As you begin to do this, you will start to feel the focus of energy shift from your legs to your arms and hands. Ensure that you keep a good grip on the handles and tighten your core. Holding your core tight at this point is how you will get great results and not end up with a back strain.
  1. Your legs will be to the point where they are almost fully extended, but do not straighten them out completely. Keep a slight bend on your knees in order to keep them from locking. As you begin to do this, lean backwards with your shoulders.

The Finishing Position


  1. Now that your legs are extended and you are leaning back just a bit, you will bend your arms at your elbows and pull the row handles into your abdomen or stomach. This is where your arms will begin to feel the burn.
  1. Keep your legs extended and lean back, but not from your shoulders. Lean back with your hips, this will work your abs in the process.

The Recovering Position

  1. From the Finishing Position, you will want to straighten out your arms, extending them forward and push the handle back into the original position. This is how you will start resetting the motion to start on your next repetition.
  1. Tilt yourself forward at the hips, allow your upper body to lean quite a bit. You are really going to extend yourself at this point, and if you feel as if you are unable to keep your arms extended at the same time, that may alert you that you need to adjust the rowing machine to fit your height.
  1. When your arms are extended and your upper body is leaning towards the front of the rower, all you will need to do is slowly bend your knees, allowing your seat to move forward until you are almost in the position that you started with.

The Catch Position


  1. This is how you will gear up to begin your next stroke. It will get you back to your starting position and you can to start your second rep.
  1. Straighten your arms, keeping both hands and wrists straight, just like you would in the starting position.
  1. Allow your body to slide forward with your seat, until your legs are almost vertical. This is just the same as the starting position.
  1. Tilt your body at the hips, lean forward just a tad and get ready for your next drive. This is where you have completed a full repetition, and you should practice this until you feel it is easy and smooth. This is how you will get the best results.
  1. Return to step 2, the drive position, and repeat.

In order to get a more visual look on the positions, feel free to check out this video:

Our Recommended Workout Plan


Our recommended workout plan is below and was designed to get you sweating and burning as many calories as possible. It certainly won’t be easy, but then again there wouldn’t be much of a point if it was easy. You will have your whole body and your cardiovascular system tested with this plan. It is something that if you were to do it several times a week, you will significantly raise your fitness levels and drop weight, if that happens to be your goal.

Time (mins) Activity Speed (minutes per 500m) Strokers Per Min RPE
0 to 3 Warm up gently 02:30 16 to 18 3
3 to 6 Row 02:14 20 to 22 5 to 6
6 to 8 Row 02:12 22 to 24 6
8 to 9 Row 02:10 24 to 26 7
9 to 10 Stretching - - 3 to 5
10 to 14 Row 02:12 22 to 24 6
14 to 17 Row 02:10 24 to 26 7
17 to 18 Row 02:08 26 to 28 8 to 9
18 to 20 Gentle warm down 02:30 16 to 18 3

Over time, as your fitness levels grow, you may want to tweak things a bit and increase the intensity of your workouts. You can certainly do this by rowing at a faster pace where you will feel tested.

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