Last Updated on October 28, 2021 by JP
A rowing machine is known for its cardiovascular and strengthening benefits to aid weight loss and muscle toning, but the duration which you should spend rowing differs from one fitness goal to the next.
An at home rowing machine is a great investment for its convenience and multiple health benefits, but many question how much rowing is enough to meet their goals.
Whether your aim is weight loss, muscle building, weight maintenance, anaerobic conditioning, or aerobic conditioning, we explore what the ideal time is to spend on a rowing machine workout, and how to use that time.
Ideal Rowing Machine Durations
Rowing machines and weight loss go hand-in-hand. If you have a weight loss goal in mind, you can use this to determine how to use the rowing machine to your benefit, and particularly the duration of your workout.
An ideal workout duration for weight loss would be a minimum of 30 minutes, done between 4-6 times a week.
Losing weight generally requires a calorie deficit, meaning that you need to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate to figure out how many calories a day your body burns while resting, and then construct an eating and workout plan that results in a deficit of that total.
For example, if your Basal Metabolic rate is 2000 calories per day, you can try to aim for a 1600 calorie per day intake, which means you have to eat and burn enough calories to reach this goal daily. If you remain consistent with this, you will see weight loss results.
Calories burned with a rowing machine can range anywhere between 250-400 calories in 30 minutes of rowing, depending on your current body weight and the intensity and speed of your workout.
Rowing can also aid in boosting your overall metabolism, which results in a prolonged calorie burn that continues even after you are done with your workout.
It is important to remember that you can’t use a rowing machine to target specific areas for weight loss, such as using a rowing machine for belly fat. It leads to overall weight loss, but that will likely include weight loss in your target area. For example, if you are hoping to use a rowing machine for back fat, you will lose the back fat, but also fat in other areas of the body.
Another way to take your fat burn to a new level is incorporating High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This consists of an alternation between longer, steady periods of rowing with short bursts of intense rowing.
For example, one minute of fast rowing on a higher resistance, followed by two minutes of slow rowing on a lower resistance, and repeating this pattern for 15-20 minutes.
HIIT workouts allow for a more varied exercise routine, as you can play around with your rowing style daily and no two workouts have to be the same. This makes you more likely to stick with it, and not abandon your routine due to boredom.
The low impact nature of the rowing machine means that it is an ideal exercise for beginners, who are looking to work their way into a weight loss routine. This makes the prospect of exercise for weight loss less intimidating and encourages a consistent routine.
A rowing machine isn’t just a cardio exercise – it is ideal if you are looking to strengthen and tone your muscles.
The motion of the rowing machine works both the upper body (arms, back, and shoulders) and the lower body (hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves), plus it engages the abdominal muscles and core. The result is a full-body workout that strengthens the muscles in your whole body.
HIIT workouts are the best way to use the rowing machine for muscle-building. The short, intense bursts of movement result in a breakdown of muscle fibers, which then results in muscle growth. The ideal duration for this would be between 15-30 minutes, depending on whether you are doing other exercises in your routine.
A suggested HIIT workout is intense rowing on a high resistance for 30 seconds, followed by a 30-second slow row ‘rest’ period, and then repeating the pattern. This should be done for a minimum of ten minutes, but try to push it as long as you can. You can play around with your HIIT patterns, to suit your preferences and ensure variation.
The resistance adjustor is highly important when trying to build muscle, as the higher the resistance, the harder you are working your muscles. Even during the ‘rest’ periods in HIIT workouts, you should try to keep the resistance up a few levels, to ensure maximum strengthening capacity.
If your goal is to go beyond just light muscle strengthening, and you want to build some major muscle, it is recommended that you accompany rowing with a weight training routine.
This will mean a shorter rowing workout, such as a ten-minute HIIT session on the rowing machine, with other exercises such as weighted squats and lunges, deadlifts, bicep curls, pull-ups, etc.
You can slot your rowing workout in either before or after weight training. It works well as a warm up exercise, but can also serve as a recovery exercise.
You might not necessarily have specific fitness goals in mind, and instead, want to just maintain a healthy body and lifestyle without any major weight loss or muscle building – a rowing machine is still a stellar option for this.
Rowing for 20-30 minutes a day at a steady pace and low to a moderate resistance level is a good way to maintain your body’s weight and composition, and keep your fitness levels at a healthy point.
Rowing also comes with all the cardiovascular benefits, such as higher bone density, strengthened immune system, lower risk of disease, and improved mental health.
Anaerobic exercise results in a breakdown of glucose without oxygen, or in other words, a higher intensity exercise is done in a shorter time.
This naturally means that you would spend a shorter duration on the rowing machine, such as 5-15 minutes. However, you would carry out a HIIT-style workout, whereby you push out intense bursts of movement either throughout, or at intervals.
Aerobic conditioning results in the lungs and the heart is conditioned to pump blood in a way that increases oxygen to the body, specifically the muscles and organs. This is achieved through longer, continuous movement at a moderate level.
This will be a longer rowing time, that spans between 30 to 90 minutes. You will row at a more moderate pace that is fairly consistent throughout the workout, with a lower resistance, which in turn keeps the heart rate from shooting up and allows you to complete the long workout without burning out.
How Long Should You Row on a Rowing Machine (FAQs)
How long should a beginner row on a rowing machine?
If you are new to rowing, start with a 5-minute workout to test the waters. You can then take a short rest period, and try another 5 minutes. As you become comfortable with the movement, you can increase these periods by a few minutes, until you can do a full 15-30 minute stretch.
Can a rowing machine help lose belly fat?
While you cannot spot reduce areas, such as using a rowing machine for back fat or belly fat, rowing will result in an overall weight loss, which will include belly fat. This can be achieved with a routine paired with a healthy eating plan, and results should be visible if consistent.
Should I row every day?
While it is important to maintain a regular exercise routine, it is recommended that you have at least one rest day per week. This allows the body to rest and recuperate and prevents the risk of serious burnout and/or injury over time. You are also more likely to stick with a routine in the long term if rest is incorporated.
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