Rowing Machine for Weight Loss: Does it work, and how?

Peter Donohoe

If you’re looking to shed some body fat and starting to work towards your weight loss goals, it’s important to keep in mind that there are no magical quick-fix solutions to instantly give you that dream body you have always hoped for. Weight loss boils down to one thing: you must burn more calories than what you take in. 

Results come from hard work, dedication, and a consistent calorie deficit. Plain and simple. 

While there are tons of workout machines that can help you with your weight loss journey, rowing machines have become increasingly popular, standing apart from the rest of the machines for all of the incredible benefits it has to offer – weight loss being one of them. 

In this article, we will explore everything there is to know about the humble rowing machine and how it can help with weight loss.

Rowing Weight Loss

One of the most proven and effective ways to lose weight is to use a rowing machine. In fact, Harvard Health Publishing says that while most exercise machines work only certain parts of your body, rowing machines come the closest to providing a full-body workout, which can maximise your weight loss efforts.

By providing the most efficient total-body workout, rowing will support your weight loss and fat loss goals and will help you build muscle in the process.

What Muscles Are Used?

Did you know that there are over 650 skeletal muscles that make up your body? Each muscle plays an important role in supporting your overall health. Keeping them strong and healthy through exercise is of the utmost importance.

Most pieces of exercise equipment focus on strengthening one specific group of muscles in the body. For example, the treadmill and exercise bike activates the muscles found in your lower body like your glutes, calves, and hamstrings, but don’t fully utilise the muscles found in your upper body like your triceps, biceps, and shoulders. 

Rowing machines are superior because they provide a full-body workout by utilising almost every muscle group in the body with proper rowing technique. In fact, according to the International Sports Sciences Association, rowing machines use up to 86% of your muscles with every stroke on the rowing machine. 

How Do You Lose Weight with Rowing?

With a regular, consistent rowing programme and determination, you can burn fat and lose weight in a healthy way – without having to starve yourself or exercise for several hours per day to find a calorie deficit.

Tips to help you maximise your weight loss efforts using a rowing machine:

Sit Taller – If you really want to fire up your core, it’s crucial to maintain proper alignment and posture. Sit as tall as you can and avoid hunching or rounding your back. Lift your chest sitting up tall, gaze out in front of you with your chin up, and don’t drop your head. You’ll keep your airways open, and the rowing workout will be more effective.  

Focus on the Legs – By driving your legs into the heel-rest with each stroke, you’ll work more of the major muscles that make up your lower body like the glutes, which will help to burn more calories. Many people make the mistake of using their upper body as the main driver. To get the biggest benefit from your rowing workout, you should put those powerful leg muscles to use and feel the burn. Rule of thumb is that 20% of your efforts should come from your arms, 20% from your back and core, and 60% from your legs. 

Do Intervals of Power Strokes – After you stretch and complete your warmup, mix in three sets of power strokes. These are fast and explosive strokes that are really great for burning a ton of calories. While your rhythm should stay about the same throughout the interval, you’ll pull harder with your core and arms and push harder with your feet to row at a faster pace.

Try doing 10 power strokes at a rate of 24 strokes per minute, followed by 10 recovery strokes. Then, do a second set at 26 strokes per minute followed by another set of recovery strokes, and one final set at 28 strokes per minute. 

High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT type exercises (like this) are one of the best ways to maximise your calorie-burning efforts. Don’t forget to cool down afterwards, too.

Do Endurance Training – While HIIT style workouts prove to be a beneficial way to lose weight, slow and steady endurance workouts (usually referred to as steady-state rowing) can also supercharge calorie burn. Working at 85% of your max heart rate for a longer period of time can help you to burn loads of calories. Use medium intensity rowing at a rate of 26 strokes per minute for roughly 8 to 10 minutes at a constant pace.

Mix up your Rowing Routine – Another trick to keeping your body at its peak fat burning capacity is to keep your body guessing. The more you do a workout routine, the more efficient your body will become at that specific routine. This means it doesn’t have to work as hard, causing you to burn fewer calories. Prevent this by mixing up your training with shorter HIIT style workouts on some days, followed by longer endurance-style rows on others.

What Are the Benefits of Rowing?

While every exercise machine comes with its own unique set of advantages, the rowing machine for weight loss is arguably the most effective for almost anyone at any fitness level looking to get in shape and reach their fitness goals. 

Top benefits of an indoor rowing machine:

Maximise Your Calorie-Burning Potential – Every exercise will help you to burn calories in one way or another, but very few are as effective and efficient as a rowing machine. This is the incredible potential that can come from a rowing machine workout and the aerobic exercise, cardio exercise, and resistance training it offers all at the same time. 

Build All Your Muscles – Many workout machines claim they can provide users with a full-body exercise, but the truth is that many of these statements fall short of being true. As we mentioned earlier, while the treadmill and exercise bike will help to build leg muscles, these machines aren’t the best choice for building upper body strength. Rowing actually impacts every muscle group in the body – not just your legs and not just your arms.

Protect Your Joints – One of the biggest drawbacks of many exercise machines is the potential for injury following repeated use. However, since a rowing machine actually has you sitting down, rowing is much kinder to your joints than even the most well-padded treadmill. You are less likely to get an injury on an indoor rowing machine because of this low impact, and you will have significantly less wear and tear on your joints over time. 

Improve Your Balance – Rowing works your lower back and core muscles, which are key components to maintaining your balance. Strengthening these important muscles will also make it easier to perform a wider range of movements. Combine your rowing efforts with yoga or pilates, and your flexibility and balance will quickly become better than it ever has been.


So, can you use a rowing machine for weight loss? Yes, absolutely.

If you are working to lose weight, look no further because a rowing machine can help. Rowing is an excellent way to get in shape because it works to strengthen your muscles and cardiovascular system, all in one convenient workout, to help improve your overall health. 

Hydrow Rowing Machines are designed to create a compelling pathway to whole health for individuals of all fitness levels, providing a means for everyone to access the immersive experience and holistic benefits of rowing without actually having to get into a boat on the water.

➡️ Dive Deeper: Rowing Machine Benefits

Hydrow is all about bringing the powerful impact of rowing directly to you, including the sights and sounds of being on the water, paired with challenging workouts and guidance from world-class Athletes, providing a much-needed escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

We’re excited to help get you started on your journey not only into the world of rowing, but into a community of like-minded rowers looking to both challenge and support each other along the way, whether you’re rowing for weight loss, overall fitness, or just as a relaxing getaway!


Peter Donohoe

Peter is our head strength and movement specialist. As an Olympian, conditioning coach, and corrective exercise specialist, Peter’s methodology continues to influence the movement of athletes from many sports. Join Peter for On the Mat workouts and benefit from increased mobility and enhanced performance.