Do Rowing Machines Really Help You Lose Weight?

Woman on Rowing Machine

Treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes…There are numerous kinds of exercise equipment for losing weight. Among all the options, rowing machines are often overlooked—which in my opinion is a shame! In fact, rowing machines are probably the most underrated piece of gym equipment out there and provide an extremely effective full body workout that is easy on the joints but allows you to burn a lot of calories at the same time.

In today’s article, I would like to introduce you to the principles of rowing training and give you a few tips and tricks for losing weight with a rowing machine. Have fun! 😉

How Effective are Rowing Machines for Losing Weight?

Losing Weight

With a rowing machine you can simulate the movements of a real rowing boat in your own four walls. If you’ve ever taken a look at the rowers at the Olympics, you probably have an idea of how effective rowing training is! If not, I can tell you that these athletes are probably among the most fit people in the world. Or in other words: Rowing leads to the body of your dreams!

It’s obvious that using a rowing machine won’t turn you into a top athlete within a few months, but you can still build a fit, healthy and athletic body in a short time.

Let me briefly explain why rowing machines are so effective.

Unlike running, cycling or other popular sports activities that mainly train the lower body, rowing is a full body workout.

When I talk about full body training here, I mean exactly that. With a rowing machine you can train up to 80% of your muscles at the same time. 80 PERCENT!

To illustrate this, I have put together a list of the main muscles targeted with a rowing machine:

  • Large Back Muscle (Latissimus)
  • Back Extensor
  • Trapezius Muscle/Neck
  • Rear Delts
  • Front Thighs
  • Hamstrings
  • Glute Muscles
  • Calves
  • Ab Muscles
  • Biceps
  • Forearm Muscles

If that is not an impressive list, then I just don’t know what is… 😉

Training on a Rowing Machine

At this point you might be thinking: “That’s all well and good, but how does this help me lose weight?”

Well, we only have to think about what such a large number of simultaneously activated muscles means. The more muscles we use, the more energy our bodies have to use to supply all these muscles.

And how does our body provide such a large amount of energy? Right, it burns our stored fat. And this should be music to the ears of everyone who is interested in losing weight. 

Rowing training boosts your fat burning and helps you lose weight in one of the most effective ways possible. On average, you burn between 700 and 1000 calories per hour while rowing.

In contrast to running, rowing is also very easy on the joints. Neither the joints nor the tendons are worn out and in general, it’s almost impossible to injure yourself on a rowing machine. There’s a reason why many say rowing is one of the healthiest sports in the world.

How Often Do I Have to Train on a Rowing Machine to Lose Weight?

There is no golden rule to follow. How often and how long you should train depends on your fitness level and your own goals.

In general, I would always advise you to listen to your body. If you have very sore muscles, you should probably take a day off. In short, sore muscles are caused by small muscle tears acquired during training. During the regeneration period, these muscle tears are repaired and the muscle becomes stronger. However, if you don’t let your muscles rest, they will not be able to regenerate properly.

When starting out on a rowing machine regime, I would recommend you train 3–4 times a week with the rowing machine. 30–40 minutes per workout is sufficient and should be enough to achieve the desired training effects.

However, the most important factor to losing weight is nutrition. If you don’t take care of your diet, it will be difficult to reach your goals even with a rowing machine. If, on the other hand, you stick to a healthy and well-balanced diet while also adding rowing training into your everyday life, then you will be able to lose weight very quickly.

How to Set Up Your Rowing Machine for Weight Loss

Rowing Machine Exercising

Rowing machines that use air and water resistance simulate rowing on real water most realistically. In these machines, the resistance is based on the power you invest.

The stronger you pull, the stronger the resistance becomes, just like rowing on real water.

However, the basic resistance can be adjusted. With air resistance machines you can usually adjust how much air flows into the cage and with water rowing machines you can choose the amount of water in the water tank.

With little air or small amounts of water you will feel as if you are sitting in a narrow racing boat, while with high settings you will feel more like you are rowing in a heavy boat.

This should not be confused with the training intensity. The setting of the air damper or the water volume will change how much resistance you feel but will not affect the actual resistance. This is only dependent on your own strength input. You can compare it to the gear shift on a bicycle.

On rowing machines with a magnetic braking system, the resistance does not adapt to your own power input and is adjusted manually.

In general, I would advise beginners to start with a low training intensity. Therefore, set the basic resistance level lower and row slowly. This also helps you to learn the right technique.

You can then gradually increase the intensity of your training.

The Proper Rowing Technique

In order to lose weight effectively, it is very important to learn the proper rowing technique. Since the technique can be learned much better with pictures than with text, I’ll drop a video to show you how to correctly row on a machine. I think the technique is very well explained there. 😉

Pay Attention to Your Heart Rate

In my opinion, the importance of the ideal heart rate when trying to lose weight is often underestimated. If we control our heart rate during training, we can achieve our goals much faster and more effectively.

Do you want to burn fat and lose weight? The most effective way to do this is to train with a heart rate that is close to 60 to 70 percent of maximum heart rate. You need to understand that your body reacts differently depending on the intensity of your workout. If you exercise below this heart rate range, your body will mainly use sugars and phosphates before burning stored fat.

This not only applies to weight loss, but basically to all fitness goals. The choice of the right heart zone during training plays an elementary role and contributes to the success or failure of training.

Therefore, my advice would be that you keep an eye on your heart rate and train as effectively as possible.

The Best Rowing Machines for Weight Loss

This article primarily deals with losing weight with a rowing machine. Since many people like recommendations for which machines to buy, I will briefly introduce you to the models that I consider the best.

The WaterRower

Waterrower Rowing Machine

The WaterRower is probably the most popular rowing machine that’s currently on the market. This stylish eye-catcher made of wood is well known by its regular appearances in the US series “House of Cards”, in which the main character uses it to stay in shape.

As the name suggests, the WaterRower is a rowing machine that uses water resistance. Therefore, it is a bit more expensive, but it is also very durable and it offers a unique rowing feeling in your own four walls. You can find all the advantages and disadvantages of water resistance rowing machines on my blog article on this topic.

I’d recommend you to take a look at the Waterrower for yourself. You will find all the details and more customer reviews here.

Concept2 Indoor Rower

Rowing Machine in the Gym

Just like the WaterRower, the Concept2 Indoor Rower is also very popular.

Using air resistance, the Concept2 Indoor Rower offers a first-class rowing feeling and a very high durability due to top-class workmanship and high quality in general.

There is also a very large Concept2 Community with many videos of athletes explaining how to train so you’ll always find a helping hand. The community is a lot of fun and keeps your training motivation high. You will find the Concept2 Indoor Rower here.

The Xterra Fitness ERG200 Rowing Machine

If a realistic and natural rowing experience is not that important to you because you are much more interested in the training effect, then I can recommend the Xterra Fitness ERG200 Rowing Machine.

This is a rowing machine with a magnetic resistance mechanism, which means that the resistance does not adapt to the strength of your rowing strokes but can be adjusted manually.

This does not make the training less effective—not at all! It just doesn’t feel like real rowing on water.

The big advantage of this machine is that it is much cheaper than the first two models mentioned above. Take a look for yourself! You will find this rowing machine here.

The SereneLife Rowing Machine

Can’t decide which resistance mechanism you want for your rowing machine? No problem. The SereneLife Rowing Machine combines the advantages of air resistance with those offered by a magnetic braking system.

This rowing machine provides both air resistance and a magnetic brake in one machine.

All in all, this creates an optimal combination of a unique rowing feeling, a very low noise level and a high durability.

Many customers are already completely convinced of this 2-in-1 solution! If you’re interested in learning more, you will find this machine here.

The Bottom Line: Losing Weight with a Rowing Machine

Rowing machines provide an extremely effective way to train that will also help you lose weight. Although they offer so many advantages and target up to 80% of your muscles at the same time, rowing machines are still underestimated. There are way too few people profiting from the effective workout they provide.

I hope all your questions have been answered and you now have an understanding of rowing training. If you are interested in a certain rowing machine or if you want to know the differences between the different resistance systems, then just have a look at my rowing machines category, where you will find more interesting articles on this topic.

If you have further questions or suggestions about losing weight with a rowing machine, feel free to write me an email or just leave a comment below. 😉

Benny Laker

I am the owner of High Tech Fitness. I love testing any kind of exercise equipment and enjoy sharing my insights with you.

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