Rowing Machine Workouts: Are they good for recovery?

Pete Donohoe

Exercise is important. Plain and simple. However, what many people may not realise is that proper recovery is equally as important. Have you ever considered incorporating rowing machine workouts for recovery?

Why is recovery important?

Getting enough rest after exercise is essential for high-level performance, but unfortunately, many people still over-train which tends to do more harm than good.  Recovery plays a crucial role in sports performance for a variety of reasons. This is because rest is physically necessary so that the muscles can strengthen, repair, and rebuild. In fact, your muscles don’t actually grow while you are working out; they grow while you are resting in between sessions. This is why it is so important to build recovery time into any training program – it is the time that the body adapts to stress. Exercise or other physical activities cause changes in the body such as:

- Muscle tissue breakdown - Depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) - Fluid loss

Recovery allows your body to repair these damaged tissues and replenish energy stores. If you do not give your body adequate time to repair itself, your muscles may begin to feel inflamed, swollen, and weak. The good news is that rowing machines can help. 

Recovery 101

Before we dive right into this topic, it is important to understand that there are two types of recovery that your body needs. These are:

Active recovery Passive recovery

As the name implies, active recovery is when a person uses non-strenuous physical activity to keep their body nimble and bodily fluids flowing. Passive recovery is when a person uses rest with little to no physical exertion. So, which one is better? According to a study from the American Council on Exercise, an active recovery that is low impact and done at a moderate intensity is best for the performance of athletes. The reason has to do with blood lactate, which is a metabolic by-product that your body naturally produces during high-intensity exercise, which works to fuel your heart, brain, and muscles. Simply put, an active recovery will facilitate much better blood flow than if you were to stay inactive through passive recovery.  Active recovery has several benefits:

- Promotes blood flow to the muscles and joints, reducing inflammation - Reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and post-exercise discomfort by minimising the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles - Helps to avoid post-exercise fatigue that is associated with a heavy training day - Improves mental health and mood through daily movement - Contributes to more healthy, balanced lifestyle choices like diet on ‘non-training’ days - Increases your cardiovascular fitness and endurance 

With that being said, indoor rowing machines are an excellent choice because they get the heart pumping while still being low impact and non-weight bearing, which is ideal for active recovery.

Rowing for recovery 

Anyone looking to incorporate full-body exercise into their fitness would benefit greatly from rowing machine workouts for recovery. Whether you are looking to get an intense workout or want to recover, a rowing machine like the Hydrow is a great option because you are in complete control of the speed, pacing, and distance. Rowing machine workouts for recovery is a great option for the following:  

- Injury - Osteoporosis - Seniors - Lumbar spinal stenosis - Joint problems 

Increases Blood Flow

According to Michael Rebold, Ph. D., C.S.C.S, low impact workouts help increase recovery by increasing blood flow to your muscles and tissues. When your blood circulation increases, it helps your muscles obtain nutrients such as amino acids and oxygen which fuel your muscles so they can repair themselves. 

Increase Bone Strength

Recent research performed by the Washington University’s School of Medicine points to rowing as an effective way to exercise for managing osteoporosis due to its low impact, non-weight bearing nature. This incredible breakthrough found that this type of exercise increased bone mineral density and showed the greatest improvements in overall strength and lean body mass making an indoor rower an ideal option for those suffering from Osteoporosis. 

Builds Stamina 

Rowing has gained a tonne of popularity over the years because of the benefits that come with it. With consistent use, a person can increase stamina and increase their metabolism making it great for particular age groups, but not limited to. For example, studies suggest that indoor rowing machines are extremely beneficial for the elderly because it not only helps to build physical stamina but also can stimulate bone growth and help to strengthen bones. 

Works Multiple Muscle Groups

Research suggests that indoor rowing can help because it works several muscle groups that directly attach to the spine, like the glutes, abs, quads, and lats. Working these muscles greatly improves circulation and makes for an effective full-body workout.


When recovering from an injury or a tough day at the gym, there are very few ways to exercise without pain. A rowing machine, however, gives people the opportunity to really push their boundaries without straining their joints. This is because when you have a good indoor rowing machine like the Hydrow Rower, there is little to no impact, so you run minimal risk of developing painful inflammation or tearing a tendon. 

Other benefits of rowing

Rowing machine workouts for recovery is effective, but there are several other benefits. Rowing is an incredible and versatile sport that has helped people all around the world to achieve a number of different fitness goals. It is a great source of cardiovascular exercise that can help with many things such as:

- Build muscle - Boost stamina - Actively increase bone density

Today, you do not have to be a professional rower to reap the benefits of rowing.  An indoor rowing machine like Hydrow is essentially a piece of equipment that mimics the motion of rowing on water. Becoming increasingly popular all around the world, an indoor rower has a tonne of full-body benefits. Some of them include: It is a total body workout Did you know that rowing is a full-body workout that utilises 86% of the muscles in your body? Many people are under the impression that rowing only works the arms, but this could not be further from the truth. According to the American Fitness Professionals Association, a proper rowing stroke consists of only 25 to 35 percent upper body work and 65 to 75 percent lower body work. The major muscle groups that rowing targets are the:

- Upper back - Obliques - Arms - Abdominal muscles - Pectoral muscles - Quadriceps - Calves - Glutes

Effective aerobic exercise It doesn’t matter if you are 21 or 101 – a fitness plan that includes cardio or aerobic exercise is a crucial contributor to your overall health. A rowing machine is an effective way to raise your heart rate and increase your oxygen intake because it requires the use of many major muscle groups within the body. Since it is such an intense workout, the heart must work hard to transport and pump more blood that carries oxygen to your muscles, which can improve heart strength. Although anyone could benefit from aerobic exercise, an indoor rowing machine may be beneficial for those who have or could be susceptible to heart disease. It can be meditative Many people notice that there is a mind-body connection with rowing. Although you may find the most calming benefits by rowing outside on the water, you can still achieve some level of this indoors. This is primarily due to the smooth, gliding motion that you create and the repetitive movements that allow your mind to forget any worries you may have. This involves the four phases of the stroke, which are catch, drive, finish, and recovery.  The soothing nature of rowing also releases endorphins. These feel-good hormones work to keep your sorrows and stress at bay to keep you feeling your best.  Efficient One of the main reasons why many people do not exercise is simply due to not having enough hours in the day. Indoor rowing machines like Hydrow, work to give you the most grind for your time. According to a Harvard study, vigorous rowing can burn up to 12.5 calories per minute. This means that you can essentially burn the same amount of calories – or even more – in a shorter period of time than if you were to run on a treadmill, for example.    Low impact  Unlike running, rowing is low impact. This is because the motion is natural, adding very minimal stress to your joints. Low impact exercise puts little to no strain on the body and is great for those who are suffering from knee joint pain, osteoporosis, or arthritis. In addition, indoor rowing also has a much lower risk of injuries when compared to other popular pieces of equipment and makes a great choice for those needing recovery. 

The bottom line

Rowing machine workouts for recovery proves itself to be beneficial for just about anyone. Whether you want to take it easy to help with recovery and strengthen your bones or if you want an intense fat-burning workout to help get in the best shape of your life – a rower can do it all. If you are considering an indoor rowing machine, you will notice that there are a tonne of options available when you begin your search. It is important to take into consideration your personal goals and needs when deciding which rower is best for you. For example, if you need a little bit of support on your fitness journey to keep you accountable and on track, the Hydrow rower  would make an excellent choice. This is because with Hydrow, not only are you getting a state-of-the-art rowing machine, immersive experiences from the comfort of your home, and world-class, result-driven workouts, but you will also benefit from the Hydrow community – which is like no other – supporting you on your fitness journey every step of the way.