How To Use A Rowing Machine To Lose Weight?

Have you been eyeing that rowing machine in the corner of the cardio room, wondering why anyone would use it? Noticed the ellipticals and treadmills have a constant stream of users while only a few dedicated souls stop to row?

It’s not your imagination. The rowing machine is grossly underutilized in weight loss regimens. Think rowing machines are just outdated pieces of equipment no one needs in today’s exercise and physio savvy world? Think again.

The rowing machine can be an exceptional partner in your weight loss journey. Here’s how to use a rowing machine to lose weight.

How Does a Rowing Machine Work?

It’s easiest to understand how a rowing machine can help you lose weight if you understand how it works.

Like other great cardio machines, the rowing machine works your entire body. Each complete stroke requires you to use your lower and upper body. There’s no way to complete the stroke if you’re cheating the workout—and that makes it your friend.

You know what I’m talking about. Those other cardio machines where cheating is as simple as letting go of the handles while your lower body does the work. Or, maybe you’re just going to lean on your arms a little to give yourself a rest.

You can’t do that with a rowing machine. If you don’t use your body accurately, you just can’t finish your stroke. Let’s check out how your muscles work together while rowing.

At the start of your row, in the “catch” position, you’re working the backs of your legs and your lower back. As you push off and extend your legs, you engage the backs of your legs and your quads. You’re also using your lower and upper back.

In the final steps of your stroke, you’re working muscles from your calves on up to your traps. Along the front of your body, you’re engaging your quads on through to your pecs. And let’s not forget how you’re working even tiny muscles in your arms.

Your body is working the entire time you row—and it’s working hard. Your heart rate climbs. Your heart and lungs are working hard, becoming more fit, and using oxygen more efficiently. Before you know it, your body is burning calories—and losing fat.

How to Use a Rowing Machine

It’s not difficult to use a rowing machine, but it may take some practice for you to get comfortable with it. We’ll look at each step in the process of a single stroke. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be rowing in no time.

The Set Up

  1. Make the resistance on your machine low—there’s no need to rush into rowing. Test it out and get the moves down before upping the ante.
  2. Take a seat.
  3. Place your feet on the pedals and strap them in. You want them comfortable, but secure.
  4. Draw your knees into your chest, moving your seat and self to the front of the machine.
  5. Grab the handle.
  6. Pull, bringing that handle with you as you slide to the back of the machine.
  7. Your legs are straight, but not locked.
  8. Lean back slightly, engaging your core, and bring your hands and the handle up to the middle of your core. This is your starting position.

The Catch

  1. Extend your arms.
  2. Your body follows the motion of your arms, back straight.
  3. Your shoulders should be square, abs engaged.
  4. Slide your body forward, legs drawing up to your chest, until you are at the top of the machine. Here, your arms will be fully extended and your legs will be fully bent.

The Drive

  1. Push off with your feet first.
  2. Your body will be tipped slightly forward as you extend your arms and slide back.
  3. Continue to push through the bottoms of your feet, leaning back slightly as you complete this portion of the stroke.

The Finish

  1. Draw your hands and handle back toward the center of your core until you are resting in your starting position.

That’s it. Then, repeat. I always recommend starting slow and working your way up to more intense, longer periods of exercise.

How to Incorporate a Rowing Machine into Your Workout

Just knowing how the rowing machine works isn’t enough. Knowing how to incorporate the rowing machine into your workout routine is key to your weight loss success.

There are lots of good ways to bring the rowing machine into your workout routine. If you’re looking to build that stamina quickly, I’d recommend a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program.

HIIT programs are a thing of beauty. Using intense bursts of energy you’re going to give it all until there’s nothing left to give. It’s hard and it’s exhausting, but it’s undeniably effective. You’ll also find your workout goes by more quickly.

Here are two potential HIIT workouts you can do with your rowing machine:

  • Warm-up—pick a comfortable speed and row for three full minutes. When you reach minute four, sprint at maximum speed and effort for one full minute. Return to a comfortable pace for 60 seconds. Return to full speed for one minute.
  • Repeat.
  • Keep it simple. After warm-up, row 1,000 meters in six minutes. Finish early? Settle in for burpees until you reach the 10-minute mark.

Looking for more variety in your workout? You can have a great HIIT session using the rowing machine as your warmup. It loosens up your muscles while getting that heart rate up. Then you can launch into your favorite HIIT series.

More Effective Workouts

Using the rowing machine is a great step toward your weight loss. But you need to do more than just sit there. Push your workout into the next gear by following these tips to make your rowing machine workouts even more effective.

Watch Your Posture

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that posture is key to working your muscles most effectively. It’s true in everything you do. Sitting up straight will engage your core. Keeping your body in proper alignment will also help you avoid injury.

Use Your Legs

Don’t perform the exercise halfway. Focus on pushing all the way through the bottom of your feet. You’ll be working those large muscles in your legs extra hard. I guarantee you’ll see results you like.

Keep Your Body Guessing

Don’t fall into a rut with your workout. It happens to the best of us. But, I’ll let you in on a secret—you succumb to that trap and you’ll stop seeing progress. You stop seeing progress and you stop feeling motivated. We all know what happens after that.

Don’t be another victim of that cruel cycle. Mix your workouts up regularly and your body won’t see what’s coming. Not only will you get the physical benefits of mixing up your routine, you’ll get the visual results you crave

Looking to finesse your workout? Think you still have room to improve? Watch this video to make sure you aren’t making these common rowing errors.



There it is. The cold hard facts about why the rowing machine could be the answer to your weight loss dilemma. It’s a one-stop tool for a full body, low-impact, cardio exercise. It’ll burn your fat and whip you into the shape you’ve been dreaming of.

Now that you know what you’ve been missing—and what you could be gaining—try the rowing machine today. You won’t regret it.

Have you used the rowing machine to lose weight? Leave your success stories here to motivate others who are still on the fence. Have more questions? I’ll try to have the answers. Feel free to post below in the comments section.

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