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How Long Should You Use the Rowing Machine to See Results? The Answer Might Surprise You

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

Workouts are rarely “one size fits all,” and rowing machine workouts are no exception. Health and fitness goals also vary from person to person. 

To determine the appropriate amount of time you should spend on the rowing machine, you need to first set a goal for yourself. What do you want to accomplish? Examining the benefits associated with a rowing workout can help you determine your goals, so let’s look at those first.

A woman use a rowing machine
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What Health Benefits are Associated with Rowing?

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Rowing machine workouts are incredibly popular– and for good reason! The wide range of health benefits that this form of exercise provides makes it appealing to people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Here are some of the biggest benefits rowing has to offer:

  • It’s an effective, full-body workout. Rowing consistently will enable you to see and feel improvements faster.
  • The rowing machine is an excellent aerobic workout that improves cardiovascular health, blood pressure, and more.
  • The rower provides a high-intensity workout while going easy on your joints. It’s low-impact!
  • With proper form, rowing targets your back and abdominal muscles, helping you achieve better posture as you get stronger.
  • The ability to adjust speed and resistance allows for a modifiable workout that can be catered to each user.
  • It can be great for busy schedules because you can burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.
  • Rain or shine, you will be able to exercise on an indoor rowing machine! When you’re consistent with your workouts, you will reach your health and fitness goals faster.

None of these benefits will be possible though if you’re not using proper rowing technique. As with any form of exercise, maintaining the correct form throughout the entirety of a movement should be your number one priority. Not only will it reduce your risk of injury, but it will also ensure that each workout is as effective as possible!

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What Does Proper Rowing Technique Look Like?

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The rowing machine provides a full-body workout, so understanding the role that each body part plays, the correct positioning for each, and efficient breathing technique is extremely important.

Key Terms to Know for Your Workout

  • Duration – The length of your workout
  • Frequency – The number of times the workout is to be performed.
  • Stroke – A complete motion on the rower including the catch, drive, finish, and recovery.
  • Stroke Rate – The number of strokes completed per minute.

Positioning and Breathing

Catch: At the front of the movement, your feet should be planted on the foot stretcher with the strap crossing over the ball of your foot. Your knees should be bent, with your back straight and your head in a neutral position. Lean forward with your arms fully extended out in front of you. You should have a firm, overhand grip on the outer edges of the handle. You will want to take a deep breath at this point.

Drive: As you drive back through your legs, continue to maintain good posture. Your legs should be almost fully extended as your body begins to lean back.

Finish: At this point, you can begin to engage your arms. As you pull the handle in, it should land in the area below your chest and above your navel.

Recovery: Exhale as you release your arms and return back to the starting position.

Two key points to keep in mind:

1. One of the most common questions is, “How far should I be leaning?” You should never lean too far back or too far forward while rowing. If viewing yourself from your right side, the angle of your torso should only ever move between 11 and 1 on a clock.

  • No farther than the 1 in the catch position.
  • No farther than the 11 in the finish position.

2. The order of operation while rowing is very simple. It goes legs, arms, arms, legs. You will push with your legs, pull with your arms, extend your arms, and flex at the knee to return to the starting position. Repeat and keep it fluid!

How Long Should You Spend On the Rowing Machine?

The duration of your rowing machine training highly depends on your goals. Here are the different durations you should aim for regarding your objectives.

How long on the Rowing for Fat Loss?

If fat loss is your goal, row for 30 to 50 minutes, 5 or 6 days per week. Maintain a steady pace at a moderate intensity. Aim for a stroke rate of 24 to 30.

30 minutes of consistent, moderate-intensity rowing will burn 300 to 400 calories. Furthermore, 50 minutes of rowing at the same moderate pace will burn between 500 and 600 calories.

Let’s break that down per week to see what you need to do to reach your goal:

Duration: 30 minutes/day – Frequency: 5 days/week – Calories burned: 350 daily or 1750 weekly

Duration: 40 minutes/day – Frequency: 5 days/week – Calories burned: 450 daily or 2250 weekly

Duration: 50 minutes/day – Frequency: 5 days/week – Calories burned: 550 daily or 2750 weekly

Duration: 30 minutes/day – Frequency: 6 days/week – Calories burned: 350 daily or 2100 weekly

Duration: 40 minutes/day – Frequency: 6 days/week – Calories burned: 450 daily or 2700 weekly

Duration: 50 minutes/day – Frequency: 6 days/week – Calories burned: 550 daily or 3300 weekly

Looking at this chart, we can see that in order to lose one-half pound weekly, you will need to row for 30 minutes, 5 days a week. If you want to lose approximately one pound per week, you will need to row for 50 minutes, 6 days per week.

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Supporting Your Goals Through Proper Diet

When it comes to losing fat, the importance of a proper diet can not be emphasized enough. Exercise will increase the rate of fat loss, but if your diet’s a mess, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.

Think of calories in terms of energy. To put it simply, if you consume the same amount of energy that you’re expending, your weight will stay the same. If you consume more energy than you expend, you will gain weight. To lose weight, you must expend more than you consume.

The easiest way to determine how many calories you need to consume each day is to use an online calculator. But health and performance are about more than just calories. It is essential that you eat the right balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) each day, along with an appropriate number of calories, to support your fitness goals.

Find out what you should be eating each day by using a macronutrient calculator. This particular calculator will take your age, sex, height, weight, activity level, and goal into account. For fat loss, select “active” as your activity level and set your goal to either “mild weight loss of 0.5 pound” or “weight loss of 1 pound”.

Also be sure to read our article, Conquer Your Gut: Top 10 Workout Nutrition Do’s And Don’ts, to get tips on how to eat a healthy diet!

How long should you spend on the rowing for General Health?

For general health, the DHHS recommends performing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, each week. With this in mind, you will want to follow one of the two exercise routines below:

Row for 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week at a moderate intensity. Aim for 24 to 28 strokes per minute.

Row for 15 minutes per day, 5 days a week at a vigorous intensity. Your stroke rate should be between 30 and 38.

To maintain your general health you will want to eat a wide range of healthy foods. That said, you also want to eat the right portions. Using the macronutrient calculator above, determine how much you should be eating each day. Select “moderate” as your activity level, and “Maintain weight” as your goal.

How long on the rowing machine for Muscle Building?

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Rowing is good for more than just improving your cardiovascular health. It’s fantastic for increasing lean muscle mass, as well. And while many people initially view rowing solely as an upper-body workout, it actually targets most of the body’s major muscle groups. Not only does it challenge the arms, shoulders, back, and core, but also the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves! If muscle growth is your goal, it’s best to keep your routine short, but intense.

Perform high-intensity and low-to-moderate-intensity intervals of 20 to 30 seconds, on and off, for 10 minutes per day. Your stroke rate for high intensity should fall between 30 and 38. Aim for 20 to 24 strokes per minute during the low-intensity portions.

As with any other muscle-building routine, you are advised to give yourself time to recover. In this case, we recommend up to 3 rowing sessions per week. Space them out so you get at least one day of rest in between.

Don’t forget the importance of proper nutrition here, either! Open the macronutrient calculator linked above, select “mild weight gain” as your goal, click on calculate, and then choose “high protein” to get your numbers.

Anaerobic Conditioning

Anaerobic conditioning includes HIIT-type exercises, weight lifting, and calisthenics. Anaerobic workouts utilize stored glucose for energy, instead of oxygen. In addition to muscle maintenance and growth, anaerobic exercise melts fat and promotes bone health.

Rowing duration for Endurance

If you’re looking to become an endurance athlete, training on an indoor rowing machine is an excellent option. That said, it’s not for the faint of heart. Building up your power and endurance on the rowing machine will take some time, but here’s what to do.

  1. Warm up at a gentle pace for 10 minutes. Aim for 18 to 20 strokes per minute.
  2. Step it up to a moderate pace for 30 minutes. Keep your stroke rate between 24 and 28. At every 5-minute interval, sprint at a high intensity for 30 to 45 seconds before dropping back down to moderate intensity. For your high-intensity sprints, stick to a stroke rate of 30 to 38. This will help you build power and stamina.
  3. Finally, you’ll want to cool down at a low-intensity pace for 5 to 10 minutes. Aim for 18 to 20 strokes per minute here, too.

Begin by completing 3 rowing sessions per week. As you build up your stamina, you can increase it to 6 days a week. You can add a day every 2 to 4 weeks.

With endurance being your goal, you will need to provide your body with plenty of fuel to make it through the challenging routines! Using the macronutrient calculator above, select “moderate activity” as your activity level and “maintain weight” as your goal.

Aerobic conditioning

Aerobic exercise is more commonly referred to as “cardio” because it enhances cardiovascular health. Other cardio workouts include walking, biking, and swimming. Aerobic exercise fuels your muscles with oxygen to help them move through the workout. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, aerobic exercise increases “good” HDL cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, improves lung function, and works to keep blood sugar levels in check.

Additional Tips for Reaching Your Goals

While performing a regular rowing workout (and following a proper diet) will help you achieve your fitness goals, there are some things you can do to get there faster!

  1. Add your rowing routine to your current workout plan. Don’t quit hitting the weights! Combining rowing with tried and true muscle-building exercises and strength training routines will help you get into the best shape of your life.
  2. Don’t skip your rest days. Recovery is just as important as your training.
  3. Speaking of rest, try to get plenty of sleep, too. Aim for 7+ hours each night. This will help your body repair itself which in turn, will boost performance and get you to your goals faster!
  4. Drink plenty of water each day. Do your best to finish a gallon! Staying hydrated is crucial to performance.

The Bottom Line

Always keep in mind that consistency is an absolute must. This applies to your diet as much as it does your fitness routine. It takes time and effort to see real results. Performing a workout that caters to your specific needs will save you time and get you the results you seek.

Figuring out how long to use the rowing machine was the starting line. Now that you’ve crossed it, it’s time to put in the work!

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