Indoor Rowing Machine Workouts For All Fitness Levels

Pete Donohoe

Ready to make rowing machine workouts a regular thing? Wondering which rowing machine workouts to try first based on your current fitness level? 

If you’re new to rowing, your first few weeks on a rowing machine should take into consideration your current and past levels of physical activity. Let’s ensure you’re choosing the right rowing machine workouts from day one to have the best possible experience.

How to choose a rowing machine workout based on your fitness level

You may be new to rowing, but that doesn’t mean there’s a perfect first rowing machine workout. Let’s quickly break down what your exercise priorities should be depending on your current level of physical activity.

If you haven’t worked out in a long time... or ever

If you can’t remember the last time you worked out, starting a new exercise regimen means your muscles will take some time to adapt. You want to stress and activate your muscles because this creates muscle adaptation over time will lead to strength gain, but you also want to take it easy at first.

Acclimate yourself to indoor rowing machine workouts through slower, shorter sessions to start. See how you feel the next day, and resist the urge to jump in and start doing an hour a day 7 days a week or a 30-day challenge that has no rest days – you’ll quickly burn yourself out. It’ll probably take you several weeks to find a rhythm that works for you and feels both invigorating and supportive.

If you’re feelin’ a little out of shape

If it’s been a while since you’ve exercised regularly, but you have in the past, you’ll want to spend a week or two reawakening your strength and building back up your cardio base. 

Jump in and try out different rowing machine workout formats, but give yourself some grace in the first few weeks. You likely won’t be able to reach the same levels of intensity or endurance you could in the past on day one. Stick with it and you’ll work your way back up in no time.

If you work out regularly, but are new to rowing

Perhaps you exercise on a regular basis, but haven’t worked out on an indoor rowing machine much in the past. You’ve hopped onto a rowing machine here and there at the gym or have spent a few minutes on one during a circuit training class, but that’s about it. Depending on your background, you’ll want to level-set your expectations.

- If your background has mainly been lifting weights, the cardio demands of a rowing machine workout might challenge you in the first few weeks. Pace yourself and know that cardiovascular endurance builds over time in very much the same way as muscle mass. - If you’ve previously been more of a cardio or endurance athlete, the feel of a steady rowing workout will be familiar to you. Since rowing recruits the majority of your muscle mass in every stroke, it’s likely you’ll be feeling it in muscles you didn’t even know you had after your first few workouts! - And whether your previous experience is more with weights or with cardio, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) humbles just about everyone. Interval training not only helps you get stronger but also keeps your metabolism elevated for several hours after a workout.

Types of rowing machine workouts offered by Hydrow

At Hydrow, we categorize rowing workouts into three different categories based on your goals for your session: Drive workouts, Sweat workouts, and Breathe workouts. Let’s go through each in a little more detail below. 

Breathe workouts

Breathe workouts are the foundational cardio and endurance workouts at Hydrow. You may have encountered these types of workouts before: Think steady jogs, swims, or cardio on an elliptical machine. Breathe workouts keep you engaged and help to promote stress relief and ensure you get a nice sweat without pushing yourself to your limits.

Sweat workouts

Sweat workouts are moderate in intensity and aim for a 2-to-1 ratio of work to rest. The work is work! Intervals are two to five minutes in length and are designed to challenge you, but are not an all-out effort. We suggest completing Hydrow’s assessment workout early on to correctly define your pace windows for your unique fitness level; these windows will help you get the most out of the intervals in sweat workouts.

Drive workouts

Let’s get strong! Drive workouts are dynamic, challenging, and usually pretty high energy. That’s because they challenge you to push yourself to the limit in 1-to-1 ratios of high-intensity intervals and rest. Drive workouts are Hydrow’s most intense offering, but are designed and suitable for all levels of fitness. Over time, you’ll see your stamina go up and your average split go down as a result of doing drive workouts regularly.

Hydrow machine workouts off the rower. Wait… say what?!

That’s right! While rowing does work the majority of your muscles, having cross-training options can help you get even stronger and ensure a balanced body from head to toe. Hydrow’s On The Mat workouts take place off the rowing machine and are designed to complement rowing to create a complete fitness solution.

Since Hydrow has a 22-inch HD touch screen that pans 25 degrees to the left or right, it’s easy to follow along and have the space you need. On The Mat workouts include strength, mobility, pilates and yoga. Available classes include:

On The Mat Warm-Ups 

Like to have a little bit of extra warm-up before you hop into your Hydrow workout? Standalone warm-ups are available and easy to access through Hydrow’s touch screen.

On The Mat Cool Downs

Want an extended cooldown to transition out of a particularly sweaty session? Tag an a la carte cooldown onto the end of any workout to ease back into your day. Your muscles will thank you tomorrow!

Strength and mobility workouts

Counter balance the strength and fitness gains from your rowing workouts with cross-training On the Mat workouts. These workouts are 10-30 minutes in length and range from functional strength instruction to circuit or bootcamp-style workouts. 

Yoga classes

Yes, we have a whole library of yoga workouts, too! Yoga classes range from 5 to 20 minutes in length and are offered in three classifications: Restore, Align, and Flow. 

Pilates workouts

To ensure length, flexibility, and a strong core, try incorporating Pilates workouts into your weekly workout routine. You’ll be glad you did, and these workouts often help you locate and engage core muscles in a new and different way.