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Why Row? Seven Benefits of Rowing Machines

Woman and Man Rowing on Indoor Rowing Machines


The word is out! People at all fitness levels are discovering the perks of indoor rowing. Here we present seven benefits of rowing machines for health and fitness.


1. Rowing Machines Blast Calories

A large person can easily burn 1000 calories an hour when rowing. That might seem incredible, but remember that this is a full-body activity. A single stroke involves coordinating your hamstrings, abdominal muscles, biceps and all other major muscle groups. WaterRower reports that people recruit 84% of their muscles when using their machines! Other fitness machines tend to focus on just the upper or lower body and burn fewer calories per hour.

Based on user weight and effort, here are some scientific estimates of rowing machine calorie burn per hour, based on light effort (5o Watts), medium effort (1oo Watts), and strong effort (150 Watts).


  • 150 lb rower: 250 cal (light), 500 cal (med), 610 cal (strong)
  • 200 lb rower: 330 cal (light, 670 cal (med), 810 cal (strong)
  • 250 lb rower: 420 cal (light), 840 cal (med), 1010 cal (strong)
  • 300 lb rowerL 500 cal (light), 1000 cal (med), 1220 cal (strong)


2. Rowing Improves Cardiovascular Fitness

What exactly is cardiovascular fitness, and how is it improved with rowing? Cardiovascular fitness involves your lungs, heart, blood vessels and muscles. It refers to how much oxygen you can inhale and deliver to your muscles, and the muscles’ ability to use that oxygen for movement.


Rowing is excellent for your heart and lungs because it recruits every major muscle group. This muscle activity stimulates your heart, encouraging it to deliver additional oxygen and nutrients. Basically your body complies but is alarmed by the demand. As if planning ahead, your heart and lungs adapt so that the next time this work is required, it’s easier. Voila! Rowing improves cardiovascular fitness.


3. Rowing Boosts Muscle Strength and Endurance

Rowing machines train your entire body to improve muscular strength and endurance. As you repeatedly push and pull, your muscles adapt to the demand. The repeated motion of rowing helps improve muscular strength, which is how much weight a muscle group can lift in one effort. (For example, maybe you can lift 50 pounds although not repeatedly.) Rowing also improves muscular endurance, or how much weight a muscle group can repeatedly move over time. The more you train, the longer you’ll be able to sustain a physical activity such as weight lifting, biking or hiking.


4. Rowing is Low Impact

Rowing and other “low impact” exercise is gentle to your joints. It lets you avoid the injuries that are associated with high impact exercise. When you run, for example, there is clearly an impact on your knees, ankles and other joints. When you row, your body moves smoothly and isn’t jarred.

That said, it’s important to row properly. Using the wrong technique can cause muscle strains and other problems.


5. Rowing Can Be Social

Indoor rowing can be a solo venture or a group activity. Group rowing classes such as Indo-Row have become especially popular in the past few years, replacing the role of high-impact spinning. These classes have energetic instructors, motivational music and engaging workouts.

The brand Concept2 is particularly popular for group training. Several of their machines have the ability to sync up to one another for competitive side-by-side rowing.

Man and Woman Rowing on Indoor Rowing Machines


6. Rowing Machines Are Relatively Low-Cost

Rowing machines are especially affordable when compared with other cardio equipment such as treadmills and elliptical trainers. The world’s most popular rowing machine, the Concept2 Model D, sells for about $900 and is commercial strength. The top commercial treadmills and ellipticals, on the other hand, cost thousands more. That said, the cheapest rowing machines only carry residential warranties. Some of these units cost as little as $250, although these could hardly compete with a Concept2. Our rowing machine reviews help you sort through the options in all price categories.

Renting is an option too. WaterRowers can be rented for under $10/week with a minimum commitment of three months.


7. Rowing Supports Limitless Potential

Rowing can be as challenging as you’d like. If you use a WaterRower or certain air rowers, the machine’s resistance will respond to your effort. The harder and faster you row, the more resistance is created. If you push yourself, then your cardiovascular health, muscular endurance and strength won’t outgrow your rowing machine.


Final Thoughts

To best enjoy the benefits of rowing, resist the urge to go all-out during your first session! Take the time to learn proper form. As with any exercise, start slowly, and let your body gradually adapt to its healthy new routine.

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