The Benefits of Indoor Rowing

The Benefits of Indoor Rowing

Indoor rowing has fast emerged as a popular fitness trend over the past few years. More interest can be attributed to the benefits of indoor rowing that have drawn in consumers and professionals alike from water-based rowing into gyms and homes.

The idea is pretty simple: An individual or a group of people each mounts their own rowing machine, and then workout through a 30 minute or one-hour session that is designed to mimic true water-based rowing.

With the right technique, you can enjoy a number of benefits while focusing on multiple fitness components.

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Rowing Technique For Maximum Benefits

Rowing is not just about pulling the cord on the rowing machine. To get the maximum benefits while avoiding straining yourself, there is a specific technique that you should learn.

It is called the “Catch – Drive – Finish – Recover” technique.

  • The Catch – This is the starting position where you have to sit properly, straighten your body, contract your abdominal muscles and take hold of the bar of the indoor rowing machine. Your knees should be bending and your spine straight.
  • The Drive – This is where you drive back your feet by straightening your legs and pull the rowing machine bar with your arms. This movement needs to be quick and horizontal.
  • The Finish – At this point, your legs should be completely extended, shoulders pushed backward and the bar positioned against your upper abdominal muscles.
  • Recover – This ends the exercise by stretching your arms out while your body is moving forward. Your knees should be bending and the seat moving to the ‘catch’ position.

We have included a video demonstration that fully covers the “Catch – Drive – Finish – Recover” technique below :

Benefits of Using Rowing Machines

  • Improves Cardiovascular Fitness – Rowing is one of the most effective exercises to enhance your cardio-respiratory system. This is because it engages every major muscle group in your body leading to increased heart rate and lung ability to provide oxygen to the blood, heart and the rest of the body. Cardiovascular fitness helps deliver energy and nutrients to your cells.
  • Builds Muscle Strength and Improves Endurance – Considering the overall workout effectiveness that rowing has on the whole body, muscle strength is greatly improved. The repeated pulling and pushing against the resistance of the rowing machine has spurring physical adaptations that enable your muscles to grow and develop more strength. The ability to exert force repeatedly without corresponding fatigue improves muscle endurance.
  • Low Impact Exercise With Great Results – Both competitive and recreational rowing have a unique benefit in comparison to most sports. They exercise all your major muscle groups including your legs, arms and back. When the rowing technique is executed properly, it is a safe motion that provides little room for serious injury unlike weight-bearing forms of exercise.
  • Weight Loss – Indoor rowing promotes weight loss and helps maintain a healthy balance of fat-free mass in your body. Rowing will enable you to burn more calories with less effort than you would do by engaging in other sports or exercise forms like running. The low impact rowing exercises will ensure that you build strength in your upper body and core while avoiding excessive tear and wear on your body and joints. The result is a healthy body composition.
  • A Low-Cost Form of Exercise – Whether you are planning to use a rowing machine in a gym or buy your own, the investment is relatively lower than other cardiovascular fitness equipment. Popular indoor rowing machines from leading companies in the market are being sold below the $1000 mark. High-end commercial group cycling bikes and other gym equipment will cost you much more than that. Classes in gyms are also affordable with rates ranging between $15 and $30, charged depending on the gym you attend and the number of classes you purchase.
  • Accessibility – Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a river or lake, not to mention a boat. Rowing machines are practically available in almost all gyms and fitness centers throughout the year. Anyone can give them a try and even buy one for home use. If you are considering buying, consider quality and read reviews and buyer feedback.

While everyone wants to enjoy the benefits of indoor rowing, it is important to understand that it’s not without risks. Poor rowing technique or form can lead to injury, particularly on the lower back.

If you are new to rowing, get tips from a trainer to ensure that you are doing it right. Just like other forms of exercise, start slow and work your way up.

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20 thoughts on “The Benefits of Indoor Rowing

  1. This is really a great post.
    I liked that you went into detail about the different techniques that you can use when rowing.
    I have a rowing machine at home but knew nothing until now about the different techniques i could be using.
    You also go into great detail about the benefits of rowing i never knew their were so many!

  2. Hi Chris,

    That’s a great info about rowing machine exercises. I don’t think I’ve ever tried actually (my daily routine is running as cardio and barbell for muscles). Do you think exercising with a rowing machine only would be good enough to keep the muscle & health going? I don’t normally go to gym therefore probably it’s a good idea to own an indoor rowing machine myself.

    Thanks again for the great article.

  3. yes this is a really great equipment:))
    i use to go in the gym in the winter, but now i start summer job and I am really busy 🙂
    Exercising from the comfort of your home is a great idea:)))It really save your time and i think the rowing machine, is doing a great job with all groups of muscles:))
    thanks for sharing and I am really tempted to have one:)
    have a nice day

    1. Yeah I like exercising at home myself Cristina – saves so much more time! Only problem is – you need to have the room for equipment first 🙂

  4. Wow. I’ve always thought this particular exercise machine was fun. I’v only seen it in movies and I don’t think I’ve seen it in gyms. But I am not the average gym goer lol. I like your review on this machine. Although it looked cool to me, it never dawned on me that it is made to simulate actually rowing a boat! I like how simple it is and how it gives you a great workout! I always thought it look very simple and it didn’t seem like much of a workout. So reading the benefits of using a rowing machine definitely gave me some good info and it definitly does more than what I originally thought. I’d love to buy one of these! Thanks for your review!

  5. Hi Chris,

    I usually just use the rowing machine to warm up for a few minutes before lifting, I think they are really useful machines and are becoming increasingly similar to actual rowing in water. The video was really helpful, explaining how to use the rowing machine with proper technique. It’s always great knowing how to do something properly.

    How often do you row and how far do you normally row? I find that around 2000m I struggle to keep going due to boredom or tiredness.

    1. Ah that’s the key mate – controlling that boredom! I always exercise to music – iPod, mp3, whatever you use! I find that music is key to helping me push forward in my training, try it!

  6. First off, the video is great – it is always nice to have a description, but to see it in action is priceless.

    I have tried rowing, but I never really incorporated it into my exercise routine…mostly because I really did know the proper posture and technique…you article is very helpful in that respect.

    I’ve always liked the idea of the rowing machine and a couple of my mates swear by the effect it has on their arms and legs but what about if you have a bad back?

    I only ask this as I remember you replying to a past comment and mentioning you had chronic back problems. I also suffer from bad backs from time to time.

    I can’t see the correct posture supporting your back with a rowing machine….or am I wrong!

    Thank you for the great information – great to be talking with you Chris!

    1. Hello there Paul – great to see you here supporting us once again!

      Really glad you enjoyed the article and the video provided. First off – the ONLY reason I don’t use a rowing machine these days is indeed because of my back. I dread to think of the chiropractor’s bills I will have at the end of every month.

      You are correct – the posture setup with rowing machines will not do my back situation any favors I’m afraid. Could I ask how bad your back is? Maybe then I could judge on whether or not a rowing machine setup is suitable for you…or not!

  7. Thank you for all of this info. I love indoor rowing and agree with the benefits of it. Do you have any suggestions for what to do if you have lost a lot of weight and have loose skin?

    1. Hi Kristin,
      We haven’t actually published an article on losing loose skin yet – you’ve sent us a timely reminder here! Thanks for mentioning this as it would make a great post topic 🙂

  8. Hello – I enjoy rowing a lot, ideally it’s outside in my kayak on a lake.  But in the winter I’m rowing indoors typically 3 times a week.  I never really thought about there being a proper technique, so thank you for that information.  I totally agree with all the benefits you listed.  It really is a great method of exercise. 



    1. Hi Michele!

      Oh you are lucky to have a lake outside so you can row ‘properly’ – I would love that. We have a beach outside our front door but the currents are too extreme to row!!!

  9. I’ve always enjoyed watching a crew row the Charles river here in Massachusetts, and always knew it was a great workout. I never seem to find it in the gym though so I would need to buy one. My question is where can i find a good row machine for a great price.

    By this being a low impact workout do you recommend a high intensity approach or is technique the most important?

    1. Hi Shannon,

      You can’t find a rowing machine in your gym!!!!! What gym are you using? 

      I’d say the best place to find a decent variety is probably on eBay or Amazon. 

  10. I loved learning about the correct techniques for using an indoor rowing machine! I used to do a lot of indoor rowing at the gym, but in hindsight probably didn’t have the correct technique and was probably lucky I never injured myself. I’d love to get back into rowing, the benefits are too good to be missing out on – not really even sure why I stopped. But thank you for giving me back my motivation! Would you have any tips for recognising when you are using bad technique without needing to hire a trainer because sometimes awareness of your own body is challenging if you’re not in front of a mirror?

    1. Well that’s quite an easy one to answer Josie. With all types of cardio – if you feel something pulling within your body or you are starting to strain in pain…there’s a good chance you are using a bad technique! 

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