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How to get the most out of a rowing machine with the best techniques and workouts

Rowing is a full-body workout that utilises multiple muscle groups while getting your heart pumping. It engages and strengthens your core, legs and arms, building power while burning calories and improving fitness. It’s a great cardio option for those with joint issues as it is relatively low impact

Want to incorporate rowing machines into your workouts? Start by learning how the equipment works and how to get the most out of it. 

How to properly use a rowing machine 

You’ll find rowing machines at most gyms. They’re typically powered by either wind or water resistance. This means the harder you work, the harder it will feel. 

The key to using the machine for maximum benefit is proper timing and technique. While most people think the faster you go, the more effective your workout, this is not the case with the rower. This machine, it is all about the mind and power. If you’re speeding along, chances are your technique won’t be correct and you may risk injuring yourself. An effective workout will look controlled and powerful and as you fully engage your leg muscles to make the most of every stroke. 

Watch Geoff, a Personal Trainer at David Lloyd Bolton, talk you through using the rowing machine:-

Watch Geoff, a Personal Trainer at David Lloyd Bolton, talk you through using the rowing machine.

Our Personal Trainers are always happy to go that extra mile to help you on your fitness journey — and you can book a personal training session via the David Lloyd Clubs app up to six weeks in advance. Until then, here are a few extra tips on making the best of the rowing machine: 

1. Check the resistance

Rowing machines have different settings that allow you to increase or decrease resistance to make it easier or more difficult to row. Typically, on an air rower, there will be a dial numbered from 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest resistance and 10 being the highest. When you change the setting, it increases the resistance you’re working against. If you’re using a water rower, there won’t be a setting as the resistance changes depending on how fast or slow you’re rowing. 

2. Think about your posture

You’ll be able to generate more power (and prevent injuries and strains) by keeping a good posture. Relax your shoulders, straighten your back and keep your core engaged.   

3. Strap your feet in properly

Believe it or not, there’s a reason for the straps. The key is to make sure the ball of your foot is pushed up against the foot pad platform, with the strap across the widest part of your foot. This will protect your feet and ankles as you slide back and forth. 

4. Focus on your strokes and rhythm 

  • Starting with your knees bent, and your bottom by your heels, your arms should be extended and gripping the handle. 
  • Roll your feet so you are pushing with your whole foot and extend your legs, sliding your bottom back and pulling the handle toward your chest. 
  • When your legs are fully extended, lean your torso back just enough to feel your abs engaged. Bend your knees and bring your body forward to the starting position.  

You should aim to keep your strokes smooth and consistent, covering the full distance of the row. This takes practice so take it slow and it will come over time. 

5. Power with your legs

People tend to think that rowing is about your arms, but this isn’t the case. Your legs should be powering your movement as they generate momentum for the arms to finish the stroke. Think about your row as 60% legs, 20% core, and 20% arms. 

6. Focus on your time or distance  

In a rowing workout, you can go for time or for distance to see how fast you can get your metres done or see how far you can go in a set amount of time.  

If you’re doing a speed workout, try rowing for 500 metres to set a time, and then rest for a minute before repeating.  

If you’re going for distance, focus on going far enough to build endurance. For example, you could try repeating intervals of 1,000 metres followed by 2 to 5 minutes of recovery.  

Types of rowing machine workouts 

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of the rowing machine, it’s time to get creative. Take some inspiration from some of the more inventive rowing machine workouts out there, including: 

Push-up and row   

The rowing machine works your legs more than anything else (as long as you’re doing it right!). Balance the workload by adding 10 push-ups for every 1-500 metres rowed. 

The distance pyramid    

Ramp up the intensity by increasing your distance intervals, then shorten them after you pass the halfway mark. 

  • Row 100 metres, then rest for one minute 
  • Row 200 metres, then rest for one minute 
  • Row 300 metres, then rest for one minute 
  • Row 200 metres, then rest for one minute 
  • Row 100 metres, then rest for one minute 

Tabata rowing   

Tabata workouts are a short type of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) that burn through calories in a hurry. These workouts last only four minutes, so they’re a great option when you’re pressed for time. 

  • Row at a high intensity for 20 seconds 
  • Rest for 10 seconds 
  • Repeat for a total of four minutes (eight rounds) 

30, 30, 30 

This one isn’t for the faint of heart! Challenge your whole body, using the rowing portion to get your heart pumping. 

  • 30-calorie row 
  • 30 single-arm kettlebell swings (15 per arm) 
  • 30-second plank 
  • Repeat for 3-4 sets. 

Rowing at David Lloyd Clubs  

When you incorporate rowing into your workouts at David Lloyd Clubs, you can tap into the expertise and support of our Personal Trainers. You’ll also be able to get the most out of high-quality equipment like the Concept2 rowing machine, which has long been recognised by competitive rowers as the gold standard for indoor training. 

Ready to row? Get started by finding your local David Lloyd Club.

Article Name
How to Get the Most Out of Your Rowing Workout
Rowing strengthens your core, legs and arms, burns calories and improves fitness. Find out how to make the most of your rowing workout.
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David Lloyd Clubs
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