Getting the best out of rowing machines


Just finished a session on my rowing machine and was thinking, “am I even doing the right thing for my goal”. So who better to ask but the wealth of knowledge on here.

So here’s my bio but if you need anything else ask.

Start weight 01/01 - 281.7 lbs
Current weight - 242.3 lbs
Goal - 196 lbs

Start fat percentage - 31.5%
Current - 25.3%
Goal - 15%

Weight is my main focus, the fat has come down as a result of the weight loss rather than a driving force behind the loss. Once I hit my goal weight I’ll switch the focus to toning and fat percentage.

I struggle with running due to historic knee issues and I despise it. 95% of my weight loss has been down to diet till now but I’m increasing my activity through walking and a little bit of football. I like rowing and have a decent rower in my office at home. Can do an hour 3 times a week without a change in my routine which is tough due to a young family.

So, currently I do 1.5 miles which takes just under 30 minutes and have set up a little HIIT routine with 8 low resistance, 2 high, 8 low, 2 high, 10 low.

So, is this the right thing for my goal and anything else people suggest?


I’m sorry @Andy_Gallon, I don’t have much advice to offer here, but I’d like to jump on the “Does anybody have any advice” bandwagon, if that’s alright?

One thing I find when using the rowing machine is that when I tuck in, bringing my knees closer to my body, I feel like my fat is squashing my diaphragm (lovely image, I know) and it just winds me before I can achieve any sort of cardiovascular benefit; is this expected of someone overweight, or am I missing a trick?

Hope you don’t mind me jumping in here too @Andy_Gallon, but it’s something I’ve always wondered myself.


No problem, I’m not sure you have the style quite right as that doesn’t happen to me but I’ll eagerly await the experts response.


@maxnas anything you can add? Saw your personal trainer comments and you made a lot of sense so obviously know your stuff.


I think in the beginning the most important aspect of losing weight is DIET, exercise is almost irrelevant. Yes, it helps but the few hundred calories one expends via exercise does not make much difference.

Now, after one gets close or to goal weight then the focus becomes diet (still and always) and exercise. Not as a vehicle to lose weight but to get fit so one is not “skinny fat”.


100% spot on!


Hey Andy

all these different forms of cardio are just 'tool’s, as they all effectively burn calories depending on the rate at which you are using them,

there’s nothing more magical about a rower for cardio than a bike, or walking, etc etc (cavet, rowing will also engage your upper body ‘pulling’ muscles very effectively)

so it just comes down to personal preference really mate.

If you enjoy rowing, you’re far more likely to stick to it that something else that you hate,

but as Tanks said, which was spot on… it’s mostly about your diet/nutrition.

Foor example, I can get guys in single digit body-fat without even having to touch cardio if they don’t want to do cardio

(although I do think a few hours of cardio a week is brilliant for overall health & fitness.)

but if you enjoy it, and it burns a few extra calories off, go for it… just understand it’s an extra, not the key. :blush:

You can’t out exercise a bad diet (well, most people can’t, some full-time athletes can)

training for performance (in the macro sense)
nutrition management for body composition (in the macro sense)

but both will have some crossover


Thanks guys, as I say everything to now has been diet but I’m starting to increase activity levels. Just wondering if I should focus on a particular rowing routine or just get on and do the miles. the machine has many routines from random to specific increasing resistance but I have no idea what will compliment my goal.


hey dude,

well ultimately on the back end, whatever the activity will ad up to = more calories burned

so it really doesn’t matter ‘what’ your doing, as much as ‘consistency’ in doing what you’re doing.

in short, you don’t need to focus on any one particular routine…BUT, by focusing on one particular routine, you can track your progression easier (ether via time or increased intensity)

as far as using exercise as a tool, along side diet… use whatever you enjoy, but make sure you’re progressing

hope this makes sense?

happy to help with anything else if this doesn’t make sense btw :blush:


Thanks @maxnas. That’s probably all I needed to hear. I didn’t want to be doing something that was going to hinder weight loss but as you say, any calories burned will improve my deficit.

I’ve got other activity I’m doing so confident my plan is and will continue working.


Andy_Gallon - diet not exercise, I totally agree with that statement. However, if you are going to use rower, and why not, keep heart rate down to rate 65% maximum which, if you’ve never done a max heart rate test, is at rate at which you could still hold a proper conversation with someone (unusual when you’re rowing I know, but it’s the equivalent used when likening it to cycling). That rate is in the fat-burning zone.

Don’t worry about the lesser distance covered than you normally might do, it’s the fat-burning mode that’s the important bit AND, although you’ll probably notice it yourself in your office, but when you’re on a static rower, no matter how far the clock says you’ve gone, you always end up in the same place!


I’ve not rowed (or coached) for years but afaik the concept 2 website has some good training plans. Why not have a hunt through that & set yourself a distance goal? 10k? Half marathon? If you really really want to hate your life there is nothing quite like a full marathon on an erg :open_mouth:


Could be technique. I get a little bit more ‘squashing’ than I used to but not to the point where I can’t do the work. I just have a shorter stroke than I used to (ooer missus)

Check out some videos on technique. So many people just jump on and thrash away without thinking much about what they’re actually doing…


One key thing I often see is…where are your hands ending up? Bring them in right to your nips at the back end of the stroke, then fast away, over your knees and out of the way before the knees come up and you start ‘folding’. Often people tuck arms into their gut then start the fold. Fast hands, slow legs. Bum should be about the last thing to reach the front - don’t ‘lead’ with your ass.


Thanks @ilpirata. I’m thinking if I try for the fat burning zone and just try and do longer each day. Maybe 0.1 miles longer. Over time I’ll get much longer.

Did 1.5 miles last time, so I’m getting better!


Promise you’ll do one a a half miles tomorrow by 12 o’clock post on this site and I’ll match you - just for the hell of it. No post from you with at least a promise and I’ll have the day off the rower - so if you like inflicting pain on others, get posting!


I did 1.5 tonight and will do the same tomorrow night but no chance tomorrow morning as I’m in child care duty.

But like the idea of inflicting paid on others!


Cheers @Andy_Gallon , I like a man who likes to inflict pain on others. I’m off to gym now then. Hope the kids play you up!


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