5 Tricks To Get A Killer Workout On A Rowing Machine

5 Tricks To Get A Killer Workout On A Rowing Machine Hero Image
Photo: Caley Crawford

Rowing is a full-body, high-intensity, low-impact workout. It’s incredibly efficient as it works all muscles in every stroke. I believe it is the greatest way to condition your body and mind to do almost anything; it is incredibly functional. I’m a dancer and former CrossFit athlete, and rowing has done wonders for my stamina and overall strength.

1. You're in charge of how hard your workout is.

The thing I love the most about teaching rowing is that one client could be an erg (the part of the machine that measures your effort) expert, and the other a beginner, yet both will get an incredible workout. You create your own resistance on the erg, so you decide how hard you want to push yourself.

2. When you row correctly, you should be using 60 percent legs, 30 percent core, and 10 percent arms.

Some of the hardest workouts I do consist of only rowing. If you like to mix up your workout routine, rowing is a great twice-a-week filler, as it complements pretty much any other type of fitness. You can replace any workout with rowing, but you can’t replace rowing. The conditioning you get from rowing is unlike any other.

3. Proper form when rowing is crucial.

The machine is only going to be beneficial if you row correctly. Think and move in this manner when rowing: legs-core-arms on the drive, and arms-core-legs on the recovery.

The main misconception I see in gyms is that people think you need to row fast in order to get a workout. Rowing is so much more about power than speed; I work a lot on ratio with my clients (one count for the drive, two counts for the recovery). Take your time on the recovery to set up for a stronger, more efficient next stroke.

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4. Be aware of how you sit on the machine.

A cue I give in class is “Your imaginary back pockets on your pants should be showing in the back.” You should be sitting tall on your "sits bones." Sitting on the seat correctly is step one of a solid stroke. The only way to hit the right body positions/angles during your stroke is to sit correctly on the seat.

5. If you've been rowing regularly, kick your workout up a notch.

At Row House in New York City, we offer an endurance class, that is 50 minutes straight rowing, which really tests your aerobic threshold. It’s intense! We also hold the occasional “Half Marathon Row,” which is 21,097 meters. It usually takes people anywhere from 85 to 110 minutes to finish. The most challenging workout would be rowing a 2K, and frequently challenging yourself to beat your previous time.

In the book Boys in the Boat, author Daniel James Brown states, “Physiologists, in fact, have calculated that rowing a two-thousand meter race — the Olympic standard — takes the same physiological toll as playing two basketball games back-to-back. And it exacts that toll in about six minutes.” I believe it, and when you learn to row well, you will too.

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