Rowing Machine Benefits: A Complete Guide

Key Highlights

  • A full-body workout, rowing machines offer many benefits that can improve your cardiovascular health, assist in weight loss, strengthen your muscles and enhance your mental health.
  • It also helps in improving your joint mobility and decreases body fat. 
  • One cardio exercise that engages both upper and lower body muscle
  • It also gives you a higher calorie burn comparatively making it an excellent choice for weight loss
  • It also helps you improve your overall well-being


Rowing machines are full-body workout machines that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. These machines help you improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen your muscles, and give a good muscle burn, the benefits are all-encompassing. You can use this machine to assist you in weight loss, muscle toning, and overall well-being as working out on them gives you significant positive effects on your physical and mental health. 

Understanding the Mechanics of a Rowing Machine

Rowing machines mimic the motion of you rowing a boat that offers a low-impact full-body workout. The action involves you grasping the rowing stroke which consists of the catch drive finish and recovery phases. You can adjust the resistance to suit your fitness levels in the machine. Hence it’s an ideal choice for beginners and advanced users alike. Once you master the proper form and technique, you can maximise the benefits of a rowing workout.

Different Types of Rowing Machines and Their Benefits

There are various types of rowing machines, each with its unique benefits. 

Air resistance rowers mimic the feeling of rowing on water, providing a smooth and dynamic workout experience.

Magnetic rowers offer quiet operation and adjustable resistance levels for a customised workout. 

Water rowers simulate the natural feel of rowing through water and provide a serene audio experience. 

Hydraulic piston rowers are compact and budget-friendly, making them ideal for home use with their adjustable resistance settings, catering to a wide range of fitness levels and preferences.

Top Health Benefits of Using a Rowing Machine

Cardiovascular Health Improvements

Indoor rowing is a great way to boost your heart health and overall fitness. It engages your entire cardiovascular system, strengthening your heart muscle and improving blood circulation. This translates to better oxygen delivery throughout your body, enhancing your aerobic capacity. A full-body workout on a rower will increase your heart rate while providing a solid cardio session, and it will be gentle on the joints

Full-body Workout: Engaging Multiple Muscle Groups

A rowing machine engages multiple muscle groups together. The complete stroke involves your upper and lower body, working major muscle groups like the legs, back, arms, and core. This makes the workout a more efficient and effective one, especially for the  ones who want the maximum out of their workout in a short period

The Role of Rowing Machines in Weight Loss

According to Harvard Health Publishing, rowing can burn approximately 210-440 calories in 30 minutes, depending on factors such as body weight and intensity. Incorporating rowing into your fitness routine can aid in weight loss and contribute to overall fitness goals.

Calorie Burn and Metabolic Rate Increase

The rowing machine can help in burning more calories while increasing your metabolic rate since your whole body is involved during the exercise. Regular rowing sessions can improve your overall aerobic fitness, which can help you maintain a healthy metabolism and cardiovascular health.

Effective Fat Burning Compared to Other Cardio Equipment

The American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA) states that rowing consists of 65-75% leg work and 25-35% upper body work. This exercise machine gives you a fat burn that is more effective in comparison to other cardio equipment. As we know, exercise bikes mainly target the lower body but the rowing machine engages the lower and upper body along with the core. Additionally, rowing machines offer the opportunity for interval training, which has been shown to effectively burn fat.

Strengthening and Toning Muscles with Rowing Machines

The pulling motion of rowing strengthens muscles in the arms, shoulders, back, and core, while the leg drive works the quadriceps, glutes, and calves. This comprehensive muscle engagement leads to improved muscle strength and toning.

Building Core Strength and Stability

Rowing machines are particularly effective for building core strength and stability. The rowing motion requires a strong core to maintain proper form and execute the exercise correctly. The muscles in the core, including the abdominals, obliques, and lower back, are engaged to stabilise the body during the rowing motion. This builds strength and stability, leading to improved posture and reduced risk of lower back pain.

Enhancing Muscle Endurance and Power

Rowing machines are highly effective for enhancing muscle endurance and power. Regular use leads to a noticeable improvement in how long your muscles can sustain effort and the force they can generate. This translates directly to better performance and overall strength across various activities.

Mental Health Benefits of Rowing

Rowing allows for a break from daily stressors and provides an opportunity to focus on the present moment. The release of endorphins during exercise also contributes to improved mood and reduced anxiety.

Stress Reduction and Mental Clarity

Rowing machines can help reduce stress and enhance mental clarity. Their rhythmic and repetitive motion can have a meditative effect, allowing you to focus on the present moment. Like other forms of exercise, rowing promotes the release of endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting hormones. 

The Meditative Aspect of Rowing

Rowing encourages a meditative state by allowing you to concentrate on your breathing and body movements. This creates a “one mind, one body” focus, similar to meditation, helping you remain fully aware and present in the moment for a more holistic experience.

Rowing for Improved Posture and Flexibility

The rowing motion engages your core muscles, helping to align your spine and correct postural imbalances. By strengthening the muscles that support your spine, rowing can alleviate lower back pain. Additionally, the dynamic movements involved in rowing increase flexibility in your shoulders, hips, and lower back, contributing to better overall mobility and reduced risk of injury.

Master the Row: Tips for Effective Workouts

Get the most out of your rowing sessions with these key tips:

  • Dial in Your Form: Proper technique is key to safety and results. Start with a tall posture, back straight, core engaged, and feet firmly secured.
  • The Power Stroke: Drive with your legs first, pushing through your heels while keeping your back straight. Then, lean back slightly and pull the handle towards your chest with your arms. Imagine your core connecting the leg and arm movements.
  • Find Your Rhythm: Maintain a smooth, controlled motion throughout the stroke. Avoid jerky movements or excessive leaning back.
  • Breathe Easy: Inhale as you push with your legs (drive phase) and exhale as you recover (returning to the starting position). Focus on a steady breathing pattern.

By following these tips, you’ll maximize your rowing workouts and reap the full benefits this exercise offers.

Optimising Rowing Technique to Maximise Safety and EfficacyAvoiding Common Rowing Mistakes

While rowing offers a low-impact, high-reward form of exercise, proper technique is paramount to ensure user safety and optimise workout effectiveness. Here are some key considerations to avoid common errors:


Maintaining Lumbar Neutrality: Throughout the rowing stroke, the lumbar spine (lower back) should maintain a neutral position. Avoid excessive flexion or rounding of the back, as this can place undue stress on the lower back musculature.

Controlled Recovery Phase: The recovery phase of the stroke should be executed with a smooth and controlled motion. Resist the urge to rush back to the starting position. Ensure a full extension of the arms, followed by a slight lean back and controlled flexion of the knees.

Handgrip Optimisation: Maintain a firm but relaxed grip on the rowing machine’s handle. Avoid excessively tight gripping, as this can lead to unnecessary tension in the hands, arms, and shoulders.

Resistance Calibration: Select a resistance level that provides a challenging workout while still allowing for proper form. Higher resistance settings that compromise technique can hinder progress and increase the risk of injury. Conversely, excessively low resistance levels may not provide an adequate workout stimulus.

Gradual Intensity Progression: It is crucial to begin any rowing session at a moderate intensity and gradually increase the workload over time. This allows for proper muscle adaptation and reduces the risk of injury.

Pre-Exercise Warm-up and Post-Exercise Cool-down: Always prioritize a thorough warm-up consisting of light cardio and dynamic stretches before commencing a rowing workout. Similarly, conclude your session with a cool-down routine that incorporates static stretches and light cardio to facilitate muscle recovery.

Choosing the Right Rowing Machine for Your Needs

Here are some factors to consider when selecting an indoor rowing machine.

Criteria for Selecting a Rowing Machine

While deciding on which rowing machine to choose, it important to consider the following factors

  1. Resistance type: The most common types of rowing machines are water, air, magnetic, and hydraulic resistance and they all offer varying feels and levels of resistance. 
  2. Rowing machine size: The most important factor to consider is the size and the space you have at your place for a rowing machine, as it fits comfortably in your space. 
  3. Weight capacity: Choose a rowing machine that supports your weight safely, most machines have a weight capacity ranging from 250 to 500 pounds
  4. Comfort and adjustability: Always look for a machine that has comfortable seating and adjustable footrests. These small details help you maintain proper technique and form during a workout
  5. Display and features: Look for a machine that comes with an easy-to-read display and one that tracks important metrics such as distance, time, stroke rate and calories burned. Some additional features like preset workout programs and connectivity options are helpful, too.

Recommendations Based on Fitness Goals and Space

Check these recommendations based on different fitness goals and space considerations:

  • If you have a limited space, go for a compact and foldable rowing machines
  • If you are a regular rowing expert, choose a machine that is durable and comes with a programmable workout. 
  • If you are on a budget go for one with basic features and adjustable resistance levels


Incorporating rowing machine workouts into your routine offers a wealth of benefits, both physical and mental. 

From building strength and endurance to improving cardiovascular health and reducing stress, rowing provides a well-rounded exercise experience. By mastering the proper technique, you can unlock the full potential of this versatile machine. Remember, selecting the right rowing machine for your fitness goals is crucial. 

LeeWarehouse Auckland offers a wide variety of rowing machines to suit all needs and budgets. Visit us today to explore your options and elevate your fitness journey!

Frequently Asked Questions

The number of times you use a rowing machine for a workout depends on your fitness level, goals and overall health. It is recommended that one can use the machine for an average of  150 minutes at a moderate intensity rowing per week. Make sure to include rest periods regularly to prevent injury and promote muscle recovery

Once you’ve mastered the basic rowing form, you can explore more advanced techniques to enhance your workout and target specific muscle groups:

  • High stroke rate drills: Increase your stroke rate for short bursts to improve cardiovascular fitness and power.
  • Slow stroke rate drills: Focus on slower, more controlled strokes with emphasis on full leg and core engagement for building strength and endurance.
  • Feathering the handle: This involves slightly rotating the handle during the recovery phase to reduce wind resistance and improve efficiency.

Beyond resistance type, consider features like a comfortable seat with adjustable padding, a footrest that accommodates various shoe sizes, and a performance monitor with a clear and easy-to-read display. Folding options can be valuable for space-saving storage, while pre-programmed workout routines can provide additional training variety. Jason at LeeWarehouse NZ will be happy to walk you through this.

Rowing machines are excellent for HIIT workouts due to their ability to quickly elevate your heart rate and engage multiple muscle groups. Alternate between periods of high-intensity rowing with short rest intervals to maximise calorie burn and improve overall fitness. Utilise the wattage display (if available) to gauge your effort during high-intensity intervals.

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