Can a Rowing Machine Get You in Shape?

Mac Evans

There are numerous reasons to start a new workout routine, such as to lose weight, improve your health, or train for a race or event. But even if the specifics are different, the underlying motivation is the same: you want to get in better shape. 

That said, making the decision to pursue exercise is easy, but choosing which form of exercise will best help you achieve your goals can be difficult. Should you try running? Take up Pilates? Be all about the weights?

Now, we may be a little biased, but our top pick is a rowing machine to get in shape. Why? Rowing offers an efficient, full-body workout that combines strength and endurance to burn calories, build muscle, and more. Plus, it’s low-impact, which makes it accessible for all ages and fitness levels.

Will a rowing machine get you in shape?

Can you get in shape with a rowing machine? Absolutely. In order to achieve your fitness goals, you need to create a multi-pronged attack, one that involves cardio to strengthen your heart and burn calories, strength training to tone your muscles and build functional strength, and flexibility training that will give you optimal mobility as you get older. 

Spoiler alert: Rowing offers all these things in one efficient package that only requires adding one machine to your home gym. 

11 reasons why rowing can help you get into shape

If you’re not sure if rowing is the right strategy to help you get in shape, here are 11 reasons why it may be exactly what you’re looking for. 

Let’s dig in below! 

1. Rowing is a full-body workout

The act of rowing engages the majority of the muscles in your body, from the calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes in the legs, to the muscles of the core and lower back, to the upper back and shoulders. It’s the ultimate compound movement, giving you that total-body burn every time you sit down for a rowing workout.

2. Rowing is a great cardio exercise

Not only will rowing work almost all your muscles, but it is also an exceptional cardio workout. Increasing your stroke rate and/or adding resistance to the rowing machine can increase your heart rate as much or as little as you want. Plus, rowing is adaptable to different formats of aerobic exercise. 

Whether you’re looking for a steady-state workout to improve your endurance or sprints or intervals to spike your heart rate, you can do all that and more on the rower. 

3. Rowing is low-impact 

Since you sit on the rower, it is completely non-weight-bearing, meaning there is zero impact on the joints of the ankles, knees, and hips. This makes rowing an equally excellent option for former runners who have suffered injuries, people with arthritis in the knee or hip joints, or folks for whom higher-impact workouts simply aren’t an option.

4. Rowing is efficient

Because rowing utilizes so many muscle groups at once while also increasing your heart rate to provide cardio, even 10 minutes on the rower will do your body good. The combination of cardio and strength means that you don’t have to spend hours on your rowing machine to see gains toward your fitness goals.

5. Rowing burns a ton of calories 

You’re going to burn calories on your rower—that’s a given. But one of the parts of rowing that makes it so accessible is that there are different ways you can achieve the same high calorie burn. With running, for example, the only way to burn more calories is to run faster or further. 

With rowing, you have options. You can row for a longer period of time, 30 minutes or more. You can increase your stroke rate, or how quickly you’re moving up and down the slide. You can try to lower your split time, which is an indication of how much power you are rowing with. You can adjust the level of resistance (or drag, on the Hydrow) to make each stroke feel harder. 

All of these are going to challenge you and help you burn more calories.  

6. Rowing helps increase your strength and muscle tone

Rowing for 10 minutes at 24 strokes per minute is essentially the equivalent of doing 240 weighted squats with an upright row—strength gains, anyone? What’s more, the repetition and the lower amount of “weight” that you are using when rowing make it one of the best ways to tone long, lean, strong muscles as opposed to building bulk. 

7. Rowing improves your flexibility

The catch position in rowing can feel a bit awkward at first, but once you get used to it—and the more you are able to compress your body—the more it will improve your flexibility, especially in your hips. 

Why that’s important: People with limited hip flexibility and mobility are at an increased risk for back pain and impaired balance and may struggle with some of the basic movements they do on a daily basis, like bending, squatting, sitting, and standing.  

8. Rowing helps with mental focus 

Despite the fact that you are repeating the same movement over and over again during rowing machine workouts, there are many things you can focus on, such as maintaining proper rowing form, keeping a consistent stroke rate, or hitting a certain split. These different aspects, coupled with the repetitive nature of rowing, can help improve your focus, plus keep your mind from wandering away from your workout and toward your to-do list. 

9. Rowing can be done at any fitness level

Some types of workouts require a degree of skill or a certain fitness level for entry. To lift heavy weights, you need to have the grip strength and the knowledge to do the lifting. For high-intensity interval training, you need to be able to push your body to the limit to truly max out during the intervals. To run, you need to be able to, well, run. 

But apart from learning the basics of the rowing stroke, rowing requires nothing else. It can be adapted to every fitness and skill level. If you’re a beginner, you can format your workouts in a way that feels comfortable. And if you’re an experienced rower, you can up the challenge and push yourself.  

10. Rowing is highly adjustable 

Not only can rowing be done at any fitness level, but it can also be adjusted to every body type and flexibility level. As long as you are moving through the stroke properly, following the legs-body-arms, then arms-body-legs model, that’s all that matters. The flexibility and length of the stroke will come with time. 

11. Rowing is easy to do at home 

All you need is a rowing machine, which has a much smaller footprint than a treadmill or elliptical, making it easy to fit it into your home. Plus, with a rower like those from Hydrow, you can get all the workout classes you need to stay challenged and engaged with your exercise regimen. 


Can a rowing machine get you in shape? Sure thing. If you are approaching exercise with the goal of improving your fitness to better your health and your daily life, rowing is a top-tier strategy to help you get there. 

Of course, the first (and only) thing you need is a rowing machine, and one of Hydrow’s three options is sure to provide exactly what you are looking for. With an extensive library of Live Outdoor Reality classes taught by world-class Athletes, plus other workout class formats to supplement your rowing, you’ll notice results in no time.

Mac Evans

Meet Mac – goofball, Irish Step Dancer, and former D1 collegiate rower. A lifelong, dedicated athlete, Mac picked up rowing in college and hasn’t looked back. Mac finds motivation in the team aspect of rowing, and she thinks you will too.