Rowing Machine Workouts: What are Rowing Basics?

Pete Donohoe

It’s no secret that rowing is a great workout with many benefits. But what are rowing basics? Rowing has become extremely popular, with gyms adding more rowing machines to their lineup of fitness equipment, row clubs popping up in cities throughout the country, and home fitness enthusiasts recognizing the convenience and accessibility of having an indoor row machine for their home. If you’re new to rowing or haven’t yet discovered the epic entire body workout that a rowing machine can provide, read on to familiarize yourself with the many benefits of an indoor rowing machine, tips on form, and some workout examples that you can try at home. 

Is Indoor Rowing Effective?

You may wonder how a rowing machine compares to other fitness equipment, especially if you’re considering purchasing one for your home. Can an indoor row give you the cardio workout of a treadmill or an elliptical? The short answer is yes – and then some. An indoor rowing machine works 86% of the muscles in your body, and combines a heart rate pumping cardio workout with strength training since it uses so many major muscle groups at once. Knowing rowing basics is the best way to get the most out of rowing machine workouts. At Hydrow, we understand that when it comes to fitness equipment, you’re looking to maximize efficiency, both in terms of the machine you purchase and workout you get from it. Most other fitness machines work isolated parts of the body, but a rowing machine offers a complete full-body workout, incorporating the strength of your lower body, arms, quads, back, glutes, core, and upper body.  No more worrying about whether its leg day, cardio day, or when the last time you got a great core workout in was – indoor rowing provides the ultimate total body workout. Not only does it work several major muscle groups at once, but it gives you simultaneous cardio and strength workouts, and burns major calories (almost as many per hour as running), since so many muscle groups are being worked at once. 

What Are The Benefits of Indoor Rowing?

The benefits of indoor rowing can be broken down into two categories – the benefits it provides for your body, and the benefits it provides to your lifestyle.  The physical benefits of indoor rowing include:

Low impact – because of its low impact nature, rowing is a fantastic workout not only for fitness enthusiasts, but also for beginners, people with physical limitations such as joint pain or injuries, as well as athletes who may be recovering from injuries and need to build endurance and stamina while minimizing the impact of their workout. Make no mistake, rowing is an intense workout, but because of its low impact nature, it’s versatile enough to be enjoyed by a wide range of athletes, from beginner to experienced.

Cardio and strength training in one machine –because of the many muscle groups worked during a rowing workout, you’re building strength while simultaneously burning calories. Whether you’re enhancing an already-established home gym, or looking for the most efficient equipment for a home workout, these features of a rowing machine make it one of the best investments you can make in your health.

Non-weight-bearing and easy on the joints – in addition to being low impact, rowing is an exercise that can be done without supporting your own body weight, and it doesn’t put added pressure on the joints. Many athletes appreciate this feature of a row, since you’re still getting an epic workout without the strain that can result from certain weight-bearing fitness machines. In addition to being easy on the joints, rowing can actually improve certain types of joint pain such as knee problems, since it strengthens the surrounding leg muscles, which takes pressure off of the knees. 

Now that we’ve discussed the physical benefits of a rowing workout and how it can help reach your fitness goals, let’s talk about how the convenience of an indoor rowing machine makes it such a worthwhile investment for your home. Whether you have a dedicated home gym already or are in the planning stages of creating a health fitness space in your home, it’s an investment in your health that you won’t regret. 

Fitness at your fingertips – let’s face it, some of the biggest reasons people skip their workouts are time and convenience. Having an indoor rowing machine won’t stop life from throwing you curveballs, but it will make it easier to squeeze in a workout, even when faced with a hectic day. 

No gym commute – instead of making a 30 minute round trip to the gym, you can spend that time working out, and that extra time to focus on yourself might mean that you get an extra five minutes of stretching in before your row, or extend your cooldown. 

The benefits of a group workout without leaving the house – Hydrow makes community a priority, and this recognition of the importance of the team dynamic is reflected in the many features available on your Hydrow machine. Track your progress and engage in some healthy competition via the community feed, or take advantage of the live and on-demand workouts designed by Hydrow’s world-class Athletes.

The Proper Way to Row

Proper form is important in any exercise regimen, such as lunges and push-ups, but since rowing uses so many muscle groups at once, it’s particularly important to practice proper form when you row, since poor rowing posture can have a domino effect and take away from the benefits you’ll get from your machine. In some cases, form mistakes such as failing to engage your core (and your back overcompensating as a result), may actually result in pain or injury.  Some important things to keep in mind for optimal rowing basics and proper technique are:

Engage your core -- a properly engaged core ensures that not only are you protecting your back muscles from overexertion, but you’re getting the most out of the awesome ab workout that a rowing machine provides. Rowing is 30% core, so if your core isn’t properly engaged, you’re definitely going to feel it. 

Relax your shoulders – this not only helps avoid neck and shoulder strain, but it makes it easier to maintain a correct rowing stroke.

Straighten your spine – when your back is hunched, your shoulders are doing all the work, and your arms will be doing enough work on their own, trust us!

We know that when you exercise at home, as opposed to in a group setting or with a personal trainer, it can be difficult to recognize if you’re using proper form. That’s why our experienced Hydrow athletes have created a number of videos available via the Hydrow app to help home rowers focus on proper form and posture when using the machine. You can choose from videos such as:

Strapping Your Feet In: Using Hydrow’s Foot Beds the Right Way

Sitting Properly on Hydrow’s Seat

Holding Hydrow’s Rowing Handle Correctly

Rowing Basics with Hydrow

In addition to videos targeting specific rowing posture issues, Hydrow offers “Intro to Hydrow” starter workouts, with drills to help you learn rowing and focus on good form, and the “Breathe” subsection of on-demand workouts, which offers low-intensity rows targeted at stress relief and mild cardio with a focus on form. We’re committed to making sure you get the most out of your rowing workout, and we’re confident that the instruction of our world-class Hydrow athletes can help you get there.  Once you feel confident in your form, you can explore the various workout categories Hydrow provides, and customize it based on what type of workout you’re looking for:

Trainer-led workouts: One of our lineup of acclaimed Hydrow athletes will run a workout that they have created out on the water, completing it with you. There are regular live trainer-led workouts, but we also have a large library of on-demand content organized into various levels of intensity.

 Journeys: These workouts feature no athlete and no set pace or instruction. Journeys let you concentrate on your stroke and your rowing experience with just a view of the bow or stern of the boat and the scenery that you are rowing through. This is where you can get a bit more creative in the workout structure within the given amount of time, while having a beautiful backdrop.

On The Mat: These are stretching, strength & conditioning, and pilates workout options, led by world-class trainers who are experts in their respective fields. These are great for limbering up before a row or stretching out afterward.

To bring the river home and learn more about the experience visit the Hydrow website.