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The 5 Best Rowing Workouts for Runners

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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You’re probably reading this article because someone told you that you should consider indoor rowing as an activity to add to your fitness regimen for better running results. Now if you’ve read those articles, they’re generally very short and they say that rowing is a full-body exercise and something that you should use. But why?

Is it the right form of training for runners to buy at home and have as an alternative training tool? Is rowing a good cross-training tool for running? Is it the right machine for you to use?

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Sometimes due to things such as overuse injuries you’re unable to run but still need to keep your conditioning up. Or maybe you want to have a little variety in your training. In any case, rowing is a great alternative to running and offers many benefits for runners. We’ll share those with you in this article. Also, we are going to provide you with the 5 best rowing workouts for runners.

So is a rowing machine the right choice for you to insert into your training? That’s the question we’re hoping to answer today. Let’s check it out. 

Why Should Runners Use Rowing: 3 Benefits of Rowing for Runners

rowing vs running
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Let’s explore some of the advantages of using the rowing machine and whether those fit into parameters that make sense for runners. 

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Sunny Water Rowing Machine

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Here are 3 key benefits of rowing workouts for runners:

1. Improved Muscular Strength and Endurance

Rowing builds strength, muscular endurance, and power in the process all of which aid in running performance. A stronger core, back, and arms assist in maintaining better posture, which has a positive effect on running form. Better running form means more efficient running, which aids in injury prevention.

Muscular endurance is defined as the ability of a muscle to sustain repeated contractions against a resistance for an extended period. That being said, the enhanced muscular endurance that comes from rowing complements the benefits of the strength gains. It allows you to maintain better form for an extended amount of time due to reduced muscle fatigue.

Running requires rapidly exerting force to propel yourself forward repeatedly from stride to stride. Rowing trains the ability to exert force rapidly developed in the legs from the drive phase or the quick push-off during rowing. The power translates to a quicker foot strike and turnover when running.

Runners can do strength and endurance with this machine because of its resistance adjustment settings. You can program any type of workout that your heart desires on this thing.

2. Improved Aerobic Capacity

Rowing targets more than your arms and legs—it also works the core muscles, glutes, shoulders, and back. It makes a rowing machine an excellent full-body cross-training option for runners.

Rowing is an efficient option to build aerobic capacity. It activates 86% of the body’s musculature, which makes it an excellent method of exercise for VO2 max development. To develop your aerobic capacity, do slow, long rowing workouts

3. Rowing Is a Low-impact Workout

Running puts a lot of stress on your bones and joints. At the same time, rowing is a low-impact workout. However, it’s not the only low-impact exercise that exists, but it inherently does reduce the risk of injuries and the impact on the body. If you can’t run and you can’t jump and you have arthritis and achy joints, guess what? 

This is a fantastic option for you to consider using a rowing machine. Because by sitting on the seat and having it be more of horizontal force production, you don’t have the same effects of gravity driving you down, while trying to fight against that. Instead, we get to work in this horizontal pattern versus a vertical pattern.

Rowing Machine Workouts for Runners

people doing resistance training on rowing machine
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Everybody’s abilities are different. And if you do a workout that is identical to your friend’s and your ability or fitness level is different, then the adaptation is different. Personalization is what the elite level coaches get at the highest level of running and that is what you will be getting from rowing exercises. 

The more you focus on the rowing motions, the better workout your body gets. It behooves you to pay attention to proper technique, making the workout more complete and making it a more advantageous, full-body workout. 

Let’s look at 5 effective and efficient indoor-rowing workouts to make you better at running. Here are 5 rowing machine workouts for runners:

1. Anaerobic Threshold Workout

You can improve your anaerobic zone through high-intensity workouts. The more intensity and time you add to your training sessions, the better the effect on your anaerobic threshold.

One of the popular anaerobic threshold training sessions is long intervals. Begin with your easy 15-minute wamp-up. Then row 10 minutes at Anaerobic Threshold Intensity rating 25-28 strokes a minute. Rest for a2 minutes keeping rowing at a light pace. Repeat! Then finish your workout with a 5-minute cooldown. 

2. The Rowing Workout for Endurance

If you want to simply work on your base aerobic volume or program long workouts with medium resistance, you can do that too by programming it exactly as you want with different durations of intensity. Long workouts make you sweat and improve your lung capacity and your aerobic endurance. Also, they add a great cardiovascular effect.

For example, start at 10 3-minute row efforts at 23-26 strokes per minute with power. Row at a fast but controlled effort with 3 minutes of recovery. When you are absolutely tired that is the time to focus on the correct rowing technique and then intensity. Finish your workout with a 5-minute cooldown.  

3. Sprints

Sprints are challenging. Try multiple 15-second all-out sprints at max intensity followed by full recovery (usually 20-30 seconds). Don’t forget about a 5-minute cooldown. If you’ve just finished a workout, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to keep moving at a very light pace. 

This workout will help you to increase speed and elevate your cardio fitness gains. Set the rower timer for 15-second repeats and get to work!

4. The Rowing Workout for Strength

Perform 5 800-meter repeats at 23 to 28 strokes per minute, with a one-minute rest in between. This intense workout is intended to work on your leg strength and your ability to handle the load and put you under aggressive duress.

5. Active Recovery

Being non-weight bearing and low-impact, a rowing machine is an ideal active recovery for runners.  Perform 30 minutes of nonstop rowing at low intensity. The goal here is to stay at a conversational pace and help your body recover. This workout also increases your calorie expenditure.

Best Rower for Beginner
Sunny Water Rowing Machine

Based on our testing, this is the best rower for beginners. For less than 500$, this silent water rower will last you for years. It also comes with a 12-year warranty.

  • Affordable
  • Quiet
  • Amazing warranty
See latest price See all Rowers below 500$

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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