Rowing Machine For Fat Burning: How To Use & Workout Plans

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Rowing Machine For Fat Burning

In the old days, rowing a boat across a body of water was deemed good exercise. The action of your arms on the oars also caused your torso to work and strengthened your legs as you planted your feet on the floor of the boat for stability.

Not many of us have the opportunity to row a boat anymore, but the fitness community, recognizing the benefits of this activity, has worked through the years to improve on the movement of rowing by inventing the rowing machine.

According to history[1], Chabrias, an Athenian admiral in the 4th century BC, introduced the first rowing machines out of wood to assist in military training so inexperienced oarsmen could learn technique and timing before they went on board a ship.

The first patented indoor rower was created in 1872 by W.B. Curtis to help water athletes stay fit on the land. Further improvements were made over the years leading to the high-tech models we see today for both commercial and home use.

Rowing Machine For Weight Loss

Today, there are many ways to help with weight loss including the popular use of CBD oil. Because rowing is a full-body exercise, it has great potential for also helping you lose weight. The calories you burn through rowing vary based on several factors, including the machine you are using, the duration of your workout, exercise intensity, and your body size.

The main reason rowing machines are effective is that rowing is a full-body, low-impact workout. Rowing activates nearly twice the muscle mass as other activities like running and cycling. A single stroke on the rowing machine works your quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, arms, and back muscles simultaneously offering as close to a total-body workout as available from a machine. This amounts to approximately 65 to 75 percent leg work and 25 to 35 percent upper bodywork according to the American Fitness Professionals Association[2].

A Harvard Medical School study[3] found that a 125-pound person can burn 210 calories in 30 minutes of a moderate rowing workout. A 155-pound person can burn 252 calories, while a 185-pound person can burn 294 calories.

Two main approaches to using a rowing machine for weight loss are continuous rowing at moderate intensity and an interval routine that alternates continuous rowing with short bursts of intense rowing. Both moderate, continuous exercise and high-intensity interval exercise can reduce body fat and weight through the burning of calories.

If you are just starting, begin slowly with a moderate routine working up to higher intensity. This takes time, and some bodies may suffer at higher levels of intensity. Either way, you will lose fat and burn calories. With a slower routine, it will just take longer.

Some rowers prefer interval workouts which is a combination of moderate rowing interspersed with short periods of intense rowing. This routine can speed up your rate of calorie burn and thus weight loss.

“During the intervals, the muscles burn a significant amount of their sugar stores, which triggers a reaction causing them to rapidly re-fuel by sucking glucose from elsewhere in the body. This process requires insulin, and over time the body responds by becoming more sensitive to small amounts of insulin. If insulin levels are high, the body is unable to burn fat as efficiently, so by making the body more sensitive to smaller amounts of insulin, you are able to re-engage the fat-burning machinery.”

According to Josh Jarrett, from Quantify Fitness of Nashville

He also noted that Intense exercise depletes the oxygen available to the muscles, forcing them to burn fat for energy instead. Interestingly, the body burns calories for hours after your workout ends to make up for the resulting oxygen debt.

How To Workout With A Rowing Machine?

Before you begin, it is important to learn to use the equipment properly to avoid injuries that could become temporary or permanent. The following is good form when using a rowing machine.

Body Position

  • Sit straight with tailbone against the seatback
  • Strap feet onto pedals
  • Grab the handle
  • Push back until your legs are straight
  • Move forward until your knees almost touch your chest
  • Keep your shoulders back and your chest open

If you are too far forward you may overexert your upper body, while being too far back will rob you of power on the pull.

Foot Position

  • Adjust the straps over your feet so they are snug
  • Adjust the footpads up or down so your forearms clear your knees without touching them

Workout Plans

As with any exercise routine, consistency and duration of your workout will give you the best results even when you’re busy. Calculating calories burned per hour on a rowing machine is a bit complex. Fortunately, the computers on today’s machines calculate this for you. The measurements include distance rowed in meters, energy expended in watts, and the amount of time you have been rowing in seconds.

Aim to complete 30–50 minutes of rowing five to six times per week while maintaining a moderate level of intensity.

Recommendations from Concept2 for a good weight loss workout:

Plan One

Two moderate 10-minute sessions with 2 minutes easy rowing in between. Distance covered between 5000–7000 meters.

Plan Two

Three moderate 10-minute sessions with 2 minutes of easy rowing in between. The distance covered is 10,000 meters.

Plan Three

20-30 minutes (or more) alternating 1 minute of hard rowing with 1 minute of easy rowing. 

If you are planning to use the rowing machine as your long-term weight loss equipment, it is better to grow consistently at a moderate intensity (damper setting 3-6). Thus, you will be able to row for an hour or more without getting tired. As long as you maintain 50-65% of your target heart rate, you will continue to burn calories while burning fat.


Any desire for weight loss must include consistency, dedication, and hard work. Success is simply based on burning more calories than you take in. Consequently, watching your calorie intake by following a healthy, nutritious diet should be part of your program.

+ 3 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Physical Culture Study. (2016). The History of the Indoor Rower – Physical Culture Study. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2021].
  2. ‌AFPA American Fitness Professionals & Associates (2021). Health, Fitness & Nutrition Certifications and Courses | AFPA. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2021].
  3. ‌Harvard Health. (2021). Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights – Harvard Health. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2021].

Medically reviewed by:

Sandra Cesca is a freelance healthcare writer with many year’s experiences working in the health industry. She covers allopathic, naturopathic, holistic, and complementary medicine. Sandra is also a cultural photographer and tour guide living her dream in tropical Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Medically reviewed by:

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