Is Rowing Good Cardio?

Laine Maher and Laine Karwoski
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For those looking to incorporate rowing into their fitness routine, it’s common to wonder, “Is rowing good cardio?”

It’s a fair question! Rowing machines are known for offering low-impact workouts, but it’s important to note that low-impact doesn’t always equate to low-intensity. In fact, rowing machines offer an intense and efficient cardio workout that will really get your heart pumping.

Are you ready to dive into the world of rowing and experience an exhilarating cardio workout? Say goodbye to mundane exercises and hello to rowing — an absolute game-changer for your cardiovascular health and overall fitness.

Let’s talk about the incredible cardiovascular benefits rowing brings to the table, along with some tips for getting in a great cardio workout through rowing. Get ready to have your heart rate skyrocket!

Is rowing a good cardio workout?

While running and cycling are known as two common cardio workouts, indoor rowers deliver massive cardiovascular benefits for several reasons, including: 

  • Rowing targets your major muscle groups

  • Rowing is a full-body workout

  • Rowing burns a ton of calories

Let’s dig in deeper!

Rowing targets your major muscle groups

First and foremost, rowing engages those major muscle groups in both your upper and lower body, giving your heart a serious workout. Rowing workouts push your cardiovascular system to new heights of strength and endurance, building your heart into a force to be reckoned with by pumping blood and oxygen throughout your entire body. 

Rowing is a full-body workout

But that’s not all! Rowing is a total-body workout, which provides perks beyond just killer legs or a sculpted core. We’re talking about a full-body transformation! When you row, you ignite a symphony of muscles, from your legs to your core, back, and arms. You’ll use everything you’ve got to produce power, which in turn, works your body the hardest. 

Rowing burns a ton of calories

Many people see cardio workouts as a great way to burn calories, and rowing workouts are especially calorie-torching. In just 20 minutes of rowing at a moderate intensity, you can kiss around 250 to 300 calories goodbye. Rowing isn’t just a cardio workout — it’s a fat-blasting, calorie-incinerating extravaganza that will leave you feeling amazing. 

Tips for getting in a great cardio workout with rowing

So, how can you take your rowing game to the next level? Here are three pro tips to maximize your cardiovascular health and unleash your rowing superpowers, including: 

  1. Focus on your posture and your technique

  2. Bump up your intensity over time

  3. Monitor your heart rate during your workouts

Let’s dive in! 

1. Focus on your posture and technique

First things first — technique, technique, technique! It’s time to master the art of rowing like a pro. You want to make those strokes count, and you do that with practice. 

Start by learning the basics of the rowing stroke, including:

  • The Catch: The closest point to the screen 

  • The Drive: The push away from the screen

  • The Finish: The farthest point from the screen

  • The Recovery: Going back toward the screen

One great way to focus on your form is to take workout classes led by experienced rowers, such as Hydrow’s Athletes. We are constantly working on our form in our rowing workouts and can help guide you through to make sure that you’re getting in the most efficient stroke every time. 

2. Bump up your intensity over time

Now, let’s talk about intensity. We’re all about that gradual rise to greatness, so we recommend beginning with shorter rowing sessions at a moderate intensity. Think of it as steady cardio (similar to going out for a run or jog), then slowly building up momentum until you’re ready to bust out faster paces. 

As your body becomes stronger and more conditioned, you’ll be able to gradually increase both the duration and intensity of your workouts (and be amazed at the cardiovascular endurance you’ve built up along the way!). 

3. Monitor your heart rate during your workouts

To keep track of your cardio status, embrace the power of heart rate monitoring. Get yourself a heart rate monitor and keep an eye on that ticker during your workouts. It’s like having a personal guide to help you focus within your target heart rate zone for maximum cardiovascular benefits. Your heart will thank you for the extra attention!

Examples of rowing machine workouts for cardio

If you’re looking to try out a rowing workout specifically focused on improving your cardiovascular health, check out these three picks from Hydrow’s library of over 4,000 workouts:

1. Try This 10-Minute, High-Intensity Rowing Workout in Stunning Alaska

Join Hydrow Athletes Nick and Dani as they navigate high-intensity rowing workout intervals (and icebergs!) beneath the Aialik Glacier near Seward, Alaska. This quick rowing workout takes just 10 minutes to work your entire body.

2. Tackle This 10-Minute HIIT Rowing Workout in Beautiful Norway

Join me in this 10-minute HIIT rowing workout in stunning Bergen, Norway. This express bootcamp HIIT workout will have you tackling quick, 30-second intervals to bring your rowing machine HIIT game to the next level.  

3. Test Your Endurance With This 15-Minute Rowing Workout in Switzerland

This 15-minute rowing exercise from Hydrow Athletes Mac and Nick will help you build your stamina and endurance while burning a ton of calories. Jump on your rowing machine and you’ll be immediately transported to the mountains of Switzerland, where Mac and Nick will lead you through two three-minute intervals at 24, two two-minute intervals at 26, and a one-minute interval at 28. 

Is a rowing machine good for cardio? Final thoughts

As a full-body exercise with massive calorie-burning potential, rowing is a terrific pick if you’re looking to up your fitness level, build strength, and incorporate more cardio exercises into your fitness routine. 

If you are looking for an indoor rowing machine for your home gym, be sure to check out Hydrow. Our rowing machine workouts are led by a team of world-class Athletes and will transport you to beautiful places around the world, offering you an efficient cardio workout that truly makes the time fly! 

Laine Karwoski

After a successful rowing career at the University of Wisconsin, Laine shifted her mindset to tackle 2 marathons while also working full time. This experience taught her the value of creating efficient, tough and exciting workouts that can fit easily into any schedule. With experience training for a variety of sports, Laine will make the most of your time on your Hydrow and will always be there to push you to new limits.