Mastering the Rowing Machine: Benefits and Techniques for Proper Form

Finally, the rowing machine is gaining the recognition it deserves. Often viewed as an alternative to “break up the routine” from treadmills, bikes and ellipticals, more fitness enthusiasts are adding this versatile powerhouse into their regular workouts. With low-impact exercises, ease of use and health benefits that cater to beginners and seasoned athletes alike, the popularity of the once-overlooked rowing machine will only grow.

In this guide to mastering the rowing machine, we’ll dive into proper rowing and stroking techniques, some rowing workouts we think you’ll love and why indoor rowers are quickly becoming a fitness favorite.


What are the Top Benefits of Rowing?

Rowing machines (also called erg rowing machines) offer incredible physical benefits that push nearly every part of the human body, including some areas missed on more traditional exercise equipment. 

Here are a few reasons to try the rowing machine:

Fantastic, Full-Body Results

As you power through every stroke, the action you make on the rowing machine that mimics moving an oar through the water to propel forward, you’re getting way more than a great cardio workout. You’re fully engaging your legs, back, arms and core. By simultaneously working these muscle groups, rowing becomes a full-body exercise that stands apart from many other cardio machines. 

As you continue to incorporate rowing into your fitness routine, expect results for your:

  • Legs: When you push your legs while stroking, you’ll target your quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors and calves. 
  • Back: The pulling motion of a stroke fully engages your back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi (lower back), rhomboids (upper back) and trapezius (neck and shoulders). 
  • Arms: Give your biceps, triceps and forearms a real workout during each finishing phase of a stroke, the movement when you pull the handle toward your lower ribs. 
  • Core: You’ll achieve maximum ab and core engagement by maintaining good form. 
  • Cardiovascular System: By elevating your heart rate, rowing provides excellent cardio exercise. 

Low-Impact AdvantagE

Rowing is terrific for anyone recovering from injuries or looking to protect their joints. Unlike more high-impact exercises like running, the smooth gliding motion of the low-impact rowing machine minimizes joint stress while delivering a complete workout. 

Versatile for All Fitness Levels 

Effective and adaptable, rowing offers an excellent workout at any fitness level. From beginners kickstarting their fitness journey to gym regulars wanting to try something new to professional athletes searching for a full-body endurance challenge, indoor rowers offer options for everyone.


Setting yourself up for an effective rowing workout

Here’s what you need to know about setting up the rowing machine: 

  • Resistance Level: Adjust the machine’s weight resistance level — which simulates the feeling of rowing against water — to best align with your current fitness level. The higher the resistance setting, the more pull and tension you’ll feel during every stroke. To avoid overexerting yourself, start with a lower resistance and increase it gradually.
  • Foot Straps and Seat Positioning: Keep your feet secured tightly within the foot straps for better stability and control. Adjust your seat so that your knees slightly bend even as you extend the legs during a stroke. This allows for a full range of motion and can prevent strain.

How to row and stroke during your workout

Now that you’re safely strapped in and ready to row, it’s time to learn how to do a rowing stroke. Every row consists of four distinct phases — Catch, Drive, Finish and Recovery — and follows the order of legs, body and arms:

Catch: Setting yourself UP

  • Grip the handle firmly yet comfortably 
  • Lean slightly forward by hinging at the hips 
  • Maintain a straight back 
  • Keep your shins vertical 
  • Extend your arms forward

Drive: Making the move

  • Slightly lean back 
  • Follow the drive order of legs, body and arms 
  • Use your heels and leg muscles to propel your body backward 
  • Pull the handle towards your lower ribs using your core and arm muscles 

Finish: Completing the movement

  • Lean back further with your chest slightly facing upwards 
  • Keep your hands near your lower ribs 
  • Extend your legs until there is just a slight bend in the knees

Recovery: Reverse the sequence

  • Straighten out the arms 
  • Slide the body to the front of the machine  
  • Bend the legs back into the Catch position 

Repeat that sequence, and you’re off and rowing!  

Try to keep your motions smooth and under control. A slower, controlled rowing workout is more effective than a fast, jerky one as it minimizes the risk of injury and ensures a balanced session. Stretching before and after your workout can also enhance flexibility and prevent muscle soreness and injury.


Best rowing machine workouts

Mix up your routine and avoid exercise burnout while keeping your fitness regimen engaging and results-driven. Try out some of our favorite rowing workouts that you can easily tailor to fit your personal fitness goals:

Interval Training

  • We love the interval training approach for many exercises, and rowing is no different. Working out in short, intense spurts boosts cardiovascular fitness and accelerates calorie burning. 
  • ROUTINE RECOMMENDATION: Intensely row for 1 minute. Recover for 1 minute. Repeat for 20 minutes. Try adding time and resistance as you increase your strength.

Steady-State Cardio

  • Steady-state cardio is ideal for building endurance, burning fat and honing your rowing technique. While anyone can benefit, this is a perfect exercise for beginners. 
  • ROUTINE RECOMMENDATION: Choose a comfortable resistance for your level and evenly row at a moderate, consistent pace for 30 minutes. Pay close attention to your form. Increase time and resistance as you get stronger and more confident while rowing.

HIIT Workouts

  • Great for more experienced rowers and fitness enthusiasts, HIIT workouts are incredibly efficient for calorie burning, overall fitness improvement, and integrating a variety of exercises into a single workout. 
  • ROUTINE RECOMMENDATION: Alternate between shorter, high-intensity bursts on the rowing machine and brief recovery periods. Then, move to another machine and/or form of exercise before moving back to the rowing machine. Repeat.


Choose EōS for Your Rowing and Fitness Needs

Now that you know how to master the rowing machine, put that knowledge into action at EōS Fitness. We offer top-notch rowing machines and experienced Personal Trainers to assist you in perfecting your form and reaching your fitness goals.

The benefits of an EōS Fitness Membership include: 

  • Access to state-of-the-art fitness equipment 
  • Expert guidance from certified Personal Trainers 
  • A supportive fitness community 
  • Amenities like cutting-edge strength machines, outdoor exercise areas, saunas and more

Elevate your fitness journey today. Claim your Complimentary 7-Day Pass and experience the difference at EōS Fitness.


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