man setting up foldable rowing machine

How To Use a Rowing Machine To Lose Weight

In the world of cardio exercises, rowing is definitely at the top. 


Provides a full-body workout? Check. 

Low impact and easy on your joints? Check. 

Helps you lose weight? Check. 


It’s no wonder that many often turn to the rowing machine when they’re looking to shed a few pounds. Below is everything you need to know about rowing for weight loss. 


Benefits of using a rowing machine

First, let’s talk about the many benefits of using a rowing machine. The act of using a machine that mimics the motion of rowing a boat has become a popular exercise in recent times due to all the benefits it offers:

  • It’s a full-body exercise. Even though it might seem like you’re only using your legs when you row, only 60% of your power actually comes from the legs. The other 40% comes from your upper body, which means rowing is actually a full-body workout and works most of the major muscle groups in your body, including your core muscles. So, rowing is a great way to maximize your workout efficiency. 
  • It’s low-impact. Since you row sitting down, this exercise is easy on your joints (especially your knees) because there’s less weight for them to support. This reduces your risk of injury and is great for people who have joint pain or arthritis. 
  • Boosts heart and lung health. Due to the intensity of the exercise, your heart works harder to transport blood to your body while rowing, which strengthens your heart muscle. When you row, your muscles also need more oxygen, so your lungs work harder to supply the additional O2, which helps in boosting and strengthening your lung capacity as well. 
  • Burns calories. Rowing elevates your heart rate, which burns calories and aids you with your weight loss goals. 
  • Builds power and endurance. Rowing is both a cardio workout and a strength training exercise, so it helps you build strength and endurance.
  • Suitable for people of all fitness levels. No matter your fitness level, you can use a rowing machine comfortably because it's a low-impact exercise.

What muscles do you use when rowing?

A rowing machine engages 86% of your muscles with each stroke, which means you end up working most of the major muscle groups in your body. Each part of the stroke puts different muscles to use. Let’s look at what they are:

Part of the stroke Muscles worked
The catch Calves, hamstrings, glutes, triceps, lats, rhomboids, trapezius muscles
The drive Quads, hamstrings, glutes, abdominal muscles, biceps, lats, deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius, and spinal erector muscles
The finish Quads, glutes, abdominal muscles, biceps, forearm muscles 
The recovery Calves, hamstrings, glutes, triceps, trapezius muscles, abdominals, deltoids

Is rowing good for weight loss?

Rowing is a great workout for burning calories when you’re trying to lose weight. It’s a cardio workout, meaning it elevates your heart rate to around 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. Known as the fat burning zone, this is the heart rate at which your body starts burning calories. 

So, the short answer is yes. Rowing is good for weight loss because it helps you burn calories. However, to actually shed some pounds, rowing alone isn’t going to be enough. You need to develop a calorie deficit by combining your rowing workout regimen with a proper diet, which means your calorie expenditure should be greater than your calorie intake. 

For example, if you consume 1000 calories a day, you need to burn 500 calories or more to maintain a healthy calorie deficit. Rowing helps you contribute to this deficit, and will lead to weight loss if you watch the number of calories you intake. This means no rewarding yourself with a slice of cake after an intense rowing session!

Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?

Since rowing targets muscles all over your body, including the ones in your belly region, the answer is yes. Using a rowing machine does help you lose that stubborn belly fat, provided that you couple it with proper diet training. However, you can’t spot reduce belly fat alone because—surprise— spot training is a myth. You’ll have to lose fat overall even if your end goal is reducing belly fat. 


In particular, moderate to high-intensity rowing workouts work best to burn the excess fat in your belly. 

How to use a rowing machine for weight loss

The key to using an indoor rowing machine to lose weight lies in practicing proper rowing technique and maintaining the right posture. Sit tall with your upper body straight to fire up your core and use your legs as the main driver.


Once you master the rowing stroke, you can increase your exercise intensity while engaging your core muscles for maximum calorie burn

How long should I row to lose weight?

When it comes to rowing to lose weight, consistency is key. You need to clock in around 20-50 minutes of high or moderate intensity rowing for five days a week if you want to see results, depending on your fitness level and current weight. 

Is 30 minutes of rowing enough for weight loss?

Yes, 30 minutes of rowing is enough for weight loss for intermediate rowers, if you workout at a moderate or high intensity at least 4-5 times a week, and combine your workouts with proper nutrition and diet. 


Is 20 minutes of rowing enough for weight loss?

20 minutes of rowing is enough for weight loss if you’re a beginner rower, provided you go for a high or moderate intensity workout 4 to 5 times a week and follow a strict diet plan. 


How long does it take to see results from rowing?

As long as you stay consistent, row for at least 20 minutes a day at a moderate to high intensity, and monitor your calorie intake, you’ll start seeing results in as little as a few weeks. 

How many calories can you burn rowing?

An average adult who is rowing at a power of 100 watts and weighs 135 pounds (or 61 kgs) burns around 450 - 700 calories per hour. At double the power (200 watts), the same adult burns around 750 - 1150 calories. So, the higher the intensity of your rowing, the more calories you burn. 

Calories burned in an hour by a person weighing 135 lbs (61 kgs):

100 watts

150 watts

200 watts




Calories burned in an hour by a person weighing 150 lbs (68 kgs):

100 watts

150 watts

200 watts




Calories burned in an hour by a person weighing 175 lbs (79.3 kgs):

100 watts

150 watts

200 watts




These numbers are just an approximation, though. Each person is different, so the exact number of calories you burn depends on several factors such as your body weight, the duration of your rowing machine workouts, and your rowing intensity.

5 rowing workout plans to get you started

For these workouts you’ll want to watch the time and your stroke rate. Stroke rate refers to the number of strokes you take per minute, and is indicated by SPM. Most rowing machines display your stroke rate on the monitor.

Beginner rowing workout

As a novice, your goal should lie in mastering how to row properly. Start slow with 20 minutes of steady state rowing. 



Details Time (in minutes) SPM
Warm-up 20
Main workout 10 24
Cool down 5 20
Total 20 440 strokes


Repeat this workout for 3-5 days till you get the hang of it, after which you can increase the duration and your stroke rate. Maintaining a steady rowing rhythm works as endurance training and helps you burn more calories.

Intermediate rowing workout

This moderate intensity exercise starts with a lower stroke rate for 5 minutes, and gradually increases the number of strokes while decreasing the duration. 



Details Time (in minutes) SPM
Warm-up 10 20
Round 1 5 22
Round 2 4 24
Round 3 3 26
Round 4 2 27
Round 5 1 28
Cool down 10 20
Total 30 766 strokes


Since you vary the intensity of your strokes throughout the exercise, you end up burning more calories. Perform this rowing routine at least 3-4 times a week to burn fat. 

Advanced rowing workout

This workout alternates between power strokes and rest periods where you’ll indulge in steady-state rowing. 

Details Time (in min) SPM
Warm-up 10 20
Round 1 7 26-28
Rest 5 18-20
Round 2 7 26-28
Rest 5 18-20
Round 5 7 26-28
Cool down 10 20
Total 51 1126-1188 strokes

This type of high intensity interval training results in the afterburn effect which allows your body to burn calories even after your workout is done. Don’t attempt interval training unless you have a solid six months of rowing experience. 

Nine-minute rowing finisher

This is an every-minute-on-the-minute workout where you sprint using power strokes for a few seconds and then ease off towards the end of the minute. It’s also a great strength training workout finisher. Set your rowing machine timer for 60-second repeats. 


  Sprint for Rest for
Minute 1 10 sec 50 sec
Minute 2 20 sec 40 sec
Minute 3 30 sec 30 sec
Minute 4 40 sec 20 sec
Minute 5 50 sec 10 sec
Minute 6 40 sec 20 sec
Minute 7 30 sec 30 sec
Minute 8 20 sec 40 sec
Minute 9 10 sec 50 sec


Repeat this routine 1-2 times a week for maximum calorie burn. 

Ladder drill

This rowing workout consists of slowly increasing your stroke rate each minute till you hit the peak of 32 strokes per minute. After that, slowly decrease your stroke rate with each minute till you get back to the original speed. 


Warm-up 5 min 20 SPM


Interval 1:


Round 1 1 min 22 SPM
Round 2 1 min 24 SPM
Round 3 1 min 26 SPM
Round 4 1 min 28 SPM
Round 5 1 min 30 SPM
Round 6 1 min 32 SPM


Interval 2:


Round 1 1 min 30 SPM
Round 2 1 min 28 SPM
Round 3 1 min 26 SPM
Round 4 1 min 24 SPM
Round 5 1 min 22 SPM



Cool down 5 min 20 SPM



Here are some tips you can follow as a beginner to achieve your weight loss goals:

Tips for beginner rowers trying to lose weight

  • Add variety to your rowing workouts. Following the same exercise routine decreases the efficiency of the workout. For example, try a 40-minute moderate intensity workout on day 1, followed by a 20-minute HIIT workout on day 2.
  • Add resistance training to your workouts. During anaerobic exercise, your body pulls the energy stored in your muscles, including your sugar-based energy, because the oxygen demand far exceeds the current supply. Alternating between rowing (aerobic) and resistance training (anaerobic) helps you torch more calories. 
  • Maintain consistency. Working out once a week or whenever you feel like isn’t going to get you anywhere. Stay consistent by working out at least 3-5 times a week for best results. 
  • Keep your workouts simple in the beginning. It’s not advised for beginners to jump straight into HIIT rowing workouts. Instead, work out at a steady or moderate pace for at least six months before dipping your toes into advanced workouts.

Start losing weight by rowing at home

When it comes to losing weight, there are few things as effective as indoor rowers. Not only does it engage most of the major muscles in your body, eliminating the need to hop from machine to machine, it also boosts your heart and lung health, builds stamina, and doesn’t tire you out as much as other cardio workouts like running. And the best part? You can use this machine comfortably whether you’re 30 or 70.


Ascend rowing machines are durable, have multiple resistance levels, and come with advanced monitors to help you track your workout pace to help you lose weight.


Shop Ascend rowing machines to start losing weight at home. 

Justin Tardif-Francoeur

Justin Tardif-Francoeur

With over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry, Justin has a rich background ranging from personal training in bustling gyms to practicing massage therapy in health centers, and eventually running his own practice. An avid advocate for self-improvement, he tirelessly pursues the latest research to broaden his knowledge of human physiology and the body's potential. When he isn't enriching his understanding or assisting clients, Justin can be found embracing the great outdoors through paddle boarding, yoga, and hiking, or immersing himself in a challenging workout. His passion transcends personal growth, as he's equally committed to inspiring others on their own journey of self-improvement.



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