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Rowing Interval Training For Weightloss And Muscle Building

 Written by 

Mauro Castillo

 Last updated on 

Rowing Interval Training has various benefits that even beginners that just bought a rower can benefit from.

It is so popular that most rowing machine monitors have pre-installed interval workouts already set for the users.

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This article will cover how rowing interval training can help us in our weight loss and muscle-building journey.

Strap on!

What is Interval Training?

Interval Training (IT), as the name suggests, consists of periods of high-intensity work interspersed by short bouts of passive recovery periods (1.)

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It’s an efficient full-body workout commonly found in training methodologies like CrossFit, Bootcamps, and Military routines.

One of the most popularized methods is the TABATA training, named after its inventor, Dr. Izumi Tabata.

It consists of 8 rounds of 20s work and 10s of rest, which amounts to four minutes total of work.

Although TABATA is the most common, there are endless variations of interval training. Every time you alternate periods of high-intense work with periods of rest or low-intense work, it’s called interval training.

Whether you have a target pace or are rowing at a race pace, interval training will tackle your entire body.

Benefits of Interval Workouts

Interval workouts have many benefits, from increasing your heart rate to adding variability to your body workouts.

Our ever-evolving society constantly pushes us to better manage our time and get the most out of the present. Interval training does a great job of this.

With only a few minutes and a target pace, you can get a fully-structured and time-efficient rowing workout that will leave your entire body in sweats. 

Increase Your Heart Rate

Most interval training is a mix of high-intensity work and low-intensity work or rest. That modality prioritizes big and fast bouts of effort.

The more the body submits to greater stress levels, the more the heart needs to pump blood, and as a result, your heart rate skyrockets.

This is good news for our brain, muscles, and the entire cardiovascular system since studies have shown that it improves cardiovascular health by increasing cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in young, healthy men and women

Maintaining a higher-than-normal stroke rate is a great way to dial in a furious workout.

More Calorie Burning

Rowing machine workouts are perfect tools for helping us lose weight through exercise. Especially when rowing intervals at your fastest pace.

Since most rowing intervals are full-body high-intensity workouts, they increase the calorie-burning rate on the spot and keep your metabolism fired up even after the session is done, helping you burn more calories throughout the day.

With only ten minutes of a rowing interval workout at a moderate intensity (20-30 strokes per minute), you can burn close to a hundred calories

Although, it is worth mentioning that the “calories measurement” found on most rowing machine monitors is not the equivalent of “energy calories burned.”

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Training Variability

Rowing machines workouts are known for targeting almost all major muscles in the body. Combining this with interval training can only add to the equation.

One of the problems most people face with exercise is a lack of adherence and consistency. They tend to stop after only a few weeks.

With a classic interval workout, you get the best of both worlds; intensity and variability.

Every day brings a new and different workout. On one session, you can measure time and distance; on another; you can target calories and even aim for a consistent watt/stroke ratio.

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You can have a mixed workout combining movements such as air squats, push-ups, planks, and pull-ups.

All these variables can help you keep the training fun and challenging throughout the workout.

Time Efficient

One of the crucial benefits of rowing intervals is that they are an effective workout.

In a matter of minutes, you can get a lot of training done and enjoy the physiological benefits of your favorite interval workout.

This is key for people that travel often and have ever-changing schedules. Instead of Netflix and chill, you can get on your rower and blast a high-intensity interval or an endurance workout to boost your mood.

20-30 minute sessions or even a couple of minutes will be more beneficial than doing nothing. This is called “exercise micro-dosing.”


A training protocol without a proper warm-up is incomplete. They are utterly important when performing rowing interval workouts or any intense training.

Because these training modalities significantly increase our heart rate, it is necessary to ramp up the pace gradually, so we get the best out of our session.

You’ve never seen an F1 car going all out without previously warming up the tires and taking a few practice laps around the track, checking the split times.

It is the same with our bodies.

So, before moving on to the rowing interval workouts, make sure to spend a few minutes on the rower building up from a few strokes per minute to a faster pace.

You can even do activation exercises focusing on breathing and proper rowing technique.

Competitive athletes and expert rowers never skip a proper warm-up.

Types of Intervals Workouts

Different types of rowing interval workouts suit every need. Each variation contemplates a mix of time, effort metrics, and bouts of rest or passive recovery.

It’s fair mentioning that there isn’t a type of interval better than the other. It’s all about personal preference and convenience.

Nevertheless, we recommend trying out each of them on different occasions to understand better how they could fit into your lifestyle.

Short Intervals

Usually less than 4 minutes in length. Meaning that every time you get on the rower, you spend less than 4 minutes consecutively doing work.

Taller athletes perform very well in short intervals because they can generate more power faster.

With this in mind, the variations are endless. Here are a few examples you can try:

  • 45 seconds hard pace / 1:15 easy pace (repeat 2-3 times)
  • 3 minutes at a moderate pace / 2 minutes rest (repeat 4-5 times)
  • 1-minute hard pace / 1-minute easy pace (repeat 8-10 times)
  • 500 meters / 2 minutes rest (repeat 4 times)

These workouts can become a pain cave if you perform them as prescribed. And again, feel free to modify and adjust it to your current level for more well-rounded fitness.

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Long Intervals

These are more than 4 minutes in length or longer. There aren’t any intermediates here; you can go as long as you can hold a proper technique and form.

Long intervals are vital for cardio routines and aerobic fitness in general. Shorter athletes tend to do well here.

Below are some workout examples that you can try at any time:

  • 1000 meters / 2-3 minutes rest (repeat 2-3 times)
  • 4 minutes at an easy-moderate pace / 3-4 minutes rest (repeat 3-4 times)
  • 2000 meters / 3-4 minutes rest (repeat 2 times)
  • 5 minutes at an easy pace / 3-4 minutes rest (repeat 2-3 times)

Long intervals are the perfect option for active rest days. The intensity stays low, and the body can move with almost zero joint impact.

They are also a great tool to strengthen the mind and be conscious about breathing.

Short-rest Intervals

The primary goal of these intervals is to keep resting periods between 10-30 seconds while keeping your heart rate high.

These may be the go-to intervals for those looking to build muscle and get the most out of their time with high-effort rowing workouts.

Give these exercises a try and watch your heart rate go through the roof:

  • 1:30 hard pace /:30 seconds easy pace (repeat 8-10 times)
  • 20 strokes hard pace / 5 strokes easy pace (repeat for 6-8 minutes)
  • :20 hard pace /:10 easy pace (repeat 8 times for a TABATA interval)

Variable Length Intervals

These intervals play around different ways of spending high-quality rowing time. Some are known as pyramids, step-downs, and step-ups.

The possibilities are endless:

  • 5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5 minutes hard pace, with a minute of rest equal to the work time
  • 3x600m; 3x600m, resting 2 minutes between sets
  • 400 meters, 800 meters, 1600 meters, 800 meters, 400 meters, with 3-5 minutes rest between work intervals.
  • 21-15-12-9-6-3-6-9-12-15-21 calories, with 1-minute rest in between work intervals.

There are several fun options to experiment with the variable length intervals.

Cool Down And Recovery

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Most rowing interval workouts can take a toll on the body when performed at high-intensity levels.

Almost all of them will take your heart rate through the roof, which is why a cool-down and recovery are essential.

These few minutes will allow the heartbeat to lower to baseline, and the body will clear the lactate from muscle degradation.

After the rowing session, stretch your low back muscles, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

This will keep your ligaments and joints healthier for longer, allowing you to return to the rower more often.

How Long Should Rowing Intervals Be?

It depends on your fitness level and the intensity you can sustain with a proper technique.
4-minute intervals are perfect for elite rowers, while 15-20 minutes sessions are a solid option for beginners.

Is Rowing A Good HIIT Workout?

Yes, It is a great HIIT workout. You can get much work done quickly, increasing your heart rate, building muscle, and burning extra calories.

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