Rowing is a fun and effective way to shed some poundage. You mimic the motion of a real rowboat either at the gym or at home. Here are the deets on the calories you can burn plus other benefits.

A calorie deficit — when you burn more cals than you take in — is the best way to lose weight. While there’s no exact magic number, experts say a deficit of 500 calories a day is a good start.

Combined with a healthy diet, rowing is a great way to work toward your goals.

Calories burned by rowing

The actual number of calories you can burn by rowing depends on factors like:

  • age
  • body size
  • health status
  • basal metabolic rate
  • the machine you use
  • workout duration and intensity

Here’s a general idea of how many calories you can burn based on body weight, intensity, and duration:

Light
(15 min/1 hour)
Moderate (15 min/1 hour)Vigorous (15 min/1 hour)
135 lb (61 kg)53/214107/427130/519
145 lb (66 kg)58/231116/462140/561
155 lb (70 kg)61/245122/490149/595
165 lb (75 kg)66/263131/525159/638
175 lb (79 kg)70/280140/560170/680
185 lb (84 kg)74/294147/588179/714
195 lb (88 kg)78/312156/623189/757
205 lb (93 kg)81/326163/651198/791
215 lb (98 kg)86/343172/686208/833
225 lb (102 kg)89/357179/714217/867

Can help you shed fat

Endurance exercises like rowing are a great way to burn fat. But research suggests you’ll get the best results when you do a combo of cardio and strength training.

You can do strength training with:

  • free weights
  • medicine balls
  • resistance bands
  • weight machines
  • suspension equipment
  • your body weight (e.g., yoga)

And don’t forget food: You have to keep your body fueled for each sweat sesh. Plus, a healthy diet is super important for fat loss.

Compared with running

Even though running and rowing are pretty darn different, they burn about the same amount of calories (depending on your body size, intensity, and other factors).

But! Rowing might be better for you in the long run. Running is a high impact exercise and can put a lot of stress on your joints.

Here’s the lowdown on some other benefits of rowing.

Full-body workout

Rowing is a fab full-body workout even though it might seem like you’re using only your upper half. According to a 2016 study, 60 percent of rowing power comes from your legs — the other 40 percent comes from your upper body.

Rowing works most major muscle groups, including your:

The only major muscle groups it doesn’t target are your triceps and chest (pectoralis major and minor).

So, rowing might give you a better full-body workout than other cardio machines (ellipticals, stationary bikes, or treadmills).

Muscle and strength gains

Rowing is a killer cardio workout (obvi), and some people claim it’s also a great way to build muscle. But TBH, there’s not a lot of research to back this up. Plus, most muscle-building workouts are all about high resistance and fewer reps, and that isn’t the rowing vibe.

So, again, for the best results, it’s a good idea to add some resistance training to your rowing routine.

Might help heart health

A little mo’ cardio can boost your heart health.

Studies suggest that folks who exercise on the reg have lower resting heart rates, lower blood pressure, lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels, and higher HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels. Regular exercise may also lead to a decrease in BMI in some people.

All this can reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.

Rowing for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week can help you hit these healthy-heart goals.

Rowing has four basic phases:

  • Catch. As you grasp the handles, lean forward at your hips and straighten your arms.
  • Drive. Push against the foot pads with your legs and pull your body back.
  • Finish. Pull your arms back, with your hands moving in a straight line. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • Recovery. Tilt your torso forward and bend your legs.

Here’s how you put it all together:

  1. Sit on the seat.
  2. Secure your feet into the straps.
  3. Turn on the electronic tracker. (Some models do this automatically.)
  4. Grab the oar.
  5. Lean forward and begin the catch.
  6. Transition to the drive motion.
  7. Move to the finish position.
  8. Enter the recovery phase (aka return to the start).
  9. Repeat.

Here’s a breakdown of the best rowing routines for beginners, pros, and everyone in between.

Beginner rowing workout

If you’re new to #RowingLife, welcome to the team! Your first goals should be:

  1. Focus on technique.
  2. Get comfy with a basic workout.

This beginner routine will help you find your rhythm. Do it for 20 minutes, 3 days a week until you increase your stamina.

Time (minutes)Rate (strokes per minute)
Warmup520
Main workout1024
Cooldown520
Total20440 strokes

Keep in mind: It’s gonna take some time to gauge your strokes per minute (SPM). Thankfully, most machines do this for you.

Intermediate rowing workout

This workout kicks it up a notch. It’s only a bit longer than the beginner workout, but it’s def more intense.

You start with fewer SPM for longer time and build up to more SPM for a shorter duration.

Time (minutes)Rate (strokes per minute)
Warmup1020
Round 1522
Round 2424
Round 3326
Round 4227
Round 5128
Cooldown1020
Total30766 strokes

Advanced rowing workout

Ready to really pump up the volume? This advanced workout will push it to the limit with high intensity interval training (HIIT). Studies show that HIIT can help increase your VO₂ max, which might reduce fatigue.

PSA: This workout is for experienced rowers only.

Time (minutes)Rate (strokes per minute)
Warmup1020
Round 1726–28
Rest518–20
Round 2726–28
Rest518–20
Round 3726–28
Cooldown1020
Total511,126–1,188 strokes

Methods for increasing intensity

Once you become a 10/10 rower, you might want to increase the intensity of your workouts. If that’s the case, try intervals. They’re super fun and can help you achieve great results.

You can also try to incorporate other exercises into your rowing intervals.

Here’s an example:

  • Row for 5 minutes.
  • Do 15 push-ups.
  • Row for 5 minutes.
  • Do 25 crunches.
  • Repeat.

And hey, don’t be afraid to make it your own! Once you find the right groove, you can really get creative with it.

Finding the right rowing machine is all about what’s best for your body and your budget. Here’s a rundown of the four main types:

  • Flywheel rower. This is the most common type of rowing machine. It uses a fan blade that spins when you pull the oar. Resistance increases as you row harder.
  • Hydraulic rower. A piston filled with air or liquid provides the resistance. This is usually the most adorable and compact type of rower, but it may not always have the best range of motion.
  • Hydro rower. Resistance comes from a water-submerged flywheel. It’s probably the closest sensation to an actual rowboat.
  • Magnetic resistance rower. The magnetic brake system can be adjusted to your desired resistance level. One perk is that it’s super quiet.

Buy a rowing machine online.

Rowing is an amazing workout with lots of possible benefits, including weight loss. It’s also a great alternative to running, since it burns about the same amount of calories but has less impact on your joints. Just remember to start slow and build up intensity over time to prevent injury.