By Joshua Levesque, Certified Trainer

Rowing is great cardiovascular exercise that utilizes the entire body. Very few machines in the gym can match up to the simplicity and efficiency of a rower ergometer. Rowing is an explosive activity utilizing the entire posterior chain. It would probably be easier to name the muscles you don’t use during rowing than the muscles you do. Let’s find out why rowing should be part of your training regimen.

Rowing Machine Workout

Rowing as a sport, uses a combination of both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Most research has shown that the best benefit from rowing is received from high intensity interval training (HIIT). Rowing athletes are quite phenomenal as they have to maintain high levels of anaerobic activity for prolonged periods of time.

Research has shown that rowing athletes can maintain high-power output for prolonged periods of time, and interval training is the best way to keep up this prolonged high-power output. Some of the main benefits from rowing come from the nature of high-intensity training along with the full body explosiveness that the rowing modality elicits. There are two ways to approach a rowing workout, by either focusing on distance completed or time completed. Here are a few examples:


Rowing Workout Distance
Distance (meters) Set Completion Time Work/Rest Ratio
250 m 1 1:1
250 m 2 1:2
250 m 3 1:3
250 m 4 1:5
250 m 5 1:3
250 m 6 1:2
250 m 7 1:2
250 m 8 1:N/A

The above workout method is made up of 250 meter sprint intervals. The objective is to complete this workout under time, with a work to rest ratio based on time completed. The 5th set is the hardest. The first three sets are some warm-up sprints which consecutively increase the rest until a short rest after a sprint followed by a sprint under fatigue.

The goal of this workout is to decrease the time of completion of the 5th set and the total workout. The rest ratio is based off of time completed. 1:1 means rest the same time it took to complete. 1:2 is a rest ration twice the amount of time it took to complete. A rest ratio of 1:3 is rest 3 times the amount of time of completion. And finally a 1:5 is the short rest period with half the time the prior set took to complete, which happens prior to the 5th and hardest set under fatigue.

Feel free to print off this table and fill in your time of completion and fight to better yourself each workout by decreasing the overall time of completion in each set.

Below, is another example of a rowing workout. This one is duration based.


Rowing Workout Timed
 Time (seconds) Set Distance (meters) Work/Rest Ratio
40 s 1 1:1
40 s 2 1:1
40 s 3 1:1
40 s 4 1:1
40 s 5 1:1
40 s 6 1:1
40 s 7 1:1
40 s 8 1:1

This workout relies on time, but we would measure the total distance completed and overall mean average of each set. The goal would be to keep up the same distance throughout each sprint and increase the overall distance of the workout. Feel free to take this table too and fill in the distance completed during each set.

Take Home Message

Rowing is great cardiovascular exercise, especially when performed with intervals since the movement itself is explosive. Rowing is a great exercise if you are looking to increase power output and work capacity. Start implementing rowing into your training at least once a week and start to experience the benefits.

About Author:
Joshua is a highly educated trainer with multiple advanced level certifications. With a Master's degree in Human Movement Studies, he has been working in the fitness field, specifically strength and conditioning for 7 years. Keep up with Joshua at

Experience: MS, CSCS, USAW-2

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