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Rowing Machine Workout for Beginners

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Rowing is a fun, low-impact exercise that almost anyone can complete. Whether one is looking to shed some pounds or build up their strength workouts, rowing is just the ticket for a lot of people who want to push their fitness to the next level. Read on to learn about the benefits of rowing, how to get started and an easy-to-follow beginner’s plan.


· Low Impact

Many cardio workouts put a lot of stress on one’s joints being they cause micro-trauma to areas that take the blunt of the impact (think of the knees and ankles). A lot of beginners, and even more advanced exercisers, find that injuries are usually caused by overexerting themselves during high-impact exercises like running or jogging. Because the user is sitting down on the rowing machine, there is zero impact on the joints meaning people can receive a joint strength-and-cardio workout without impacting their bodies.

· Strength Workout

Strength workouts aren’t limited to weights! Rowing is an excellent method to get a toned upper and lower body. Because users push with their legs, the hamstrings, gluteus maximus and quadriceps receive an intense workout that means users will have a toned bum and legs. For the upper body, rowers must workout their arms and upper back by pulling the handle as they push with their legs, meaning that toned arms and back are definitely in the cards for those who choose to row.

· Cardio Workout

Beginners tend to hear “cardio” and think of countless hours spent running or their old Jazzercise classes, but cardio workouts can be completed in a variety of ways. Cardio exercises require oxygen, so users build up lung strength (no more trips up the stairs that result in breathlessness). Cardio also helps exercisers lose weight, build a stronger immune system and increase their endurance. Many people find that rowing becomes their preferred method of exercise being it provides an excellent cardio workout while building strength.

· Improved Posture

Because users are working out their backs and core while rowing, good posture (as long as one is using proper form!) goes hand-in-hand with each and every workout. Rowing makes the user use proper posture as they pull the handle towards themselves and the new back muscles one will gain allow proper posture to continue well into everyday life. Finally, because rowing form is one of the easiest exercises to learn, users can easily learn how to use proper form to obtain the safest, most effective results possible.

· Overall Health

In addition to improving heart and lung health as well as losing weight and building muscle, rowing has a host of other health benefits. Those who row will see an increase in blood circulation, less stress/depression, even hormone levels, quicker recovery times, stronger bones, increased flexibility, and better balance while diabetics can improve their diabetes management. Finally, rowing allows people who complete other strength and cardio workouts to complete a lower impact exercise that changes up their normal workout out routine as well as being a viable option for those who are injured.

How to Get Started

Readers are probably pumped to start rowing, but where should they begin (for those looking to purchase a budget rowing machine, click here)? After buying a machine, beginner rowers should look to:

· Set Their Machine – Whether looking at machines at the gym or after setting up their own, beginners need to make sure their machine is on the lowest possible setting. While it can be tempting to start out as difficult as possible, users need to familiarize themselves with their machines and start small. Trust that beginners will quickly find their fitness levels improving to the point where they’ll be using more weight in no time.

· Learn ‘The Catch’ – Users should strap their feet into position before placing themselves in The Catch (the starting position). The catch requires the user to start by bending their knees until the body is close to the handle before grasping the handle and straightening the back while the torso is in a forward leaning position over the legs.

· Complete ‘The Drive’ – The drive needs to be initiated with the legs by pressing the feet into the foot plate so one can push off. After straightening the legs, the user should lean back at a 45 degree angle while keeping the spine straight and bending the elbows to bring the handle to the chest. It’s important to remember that one should move their legs, core and then arms.

· Thorough ‘Recovery’ – The recovery is simply returning to the catch, but should be followed in reverse order from the drive (meaning arms, core and then legs). Extend arms to the straight position before moving the core to the previous angle. Finally, bend the knees until they’ve returned to the starting position.

· Count the Reps – Users will want to count their reps during their workouts. One full rep equals starting from the catch and returning to it.

Beginner Workout Plan

It’s important to remember that rowing isn’t about fitting in as many reps as possible as much as it’s about practicing proper form and adding weight once one works themselves up to it. This easy 15 minute workout is perfect for someone looking to familiarize themselves with their machine and get a great workout

Warm Up – 5 Minutes – 20 Strokes Per Minute

Workout – 5 Minutes – 22 Stokes Per Minute

Cool Down – 5 Minutes – 20 Stokes Per Minute

As rowing technique improves, users can up the intensity of the workout while those with an established exercise routine can start out at a higher intensity than those just starting out.


Rowing is an excellent workout for those looking to have a strength and cardio routine rolled into one. For those who want more personalized instruction or to take their workouts to the next level, Fitscope offers a variety of workouts for rowers of all fitness levels. Not ready to take the plunge into rowing just yet? No problem! Fitscope offers a variety of HITT, treadmill, elliptical, yoga and many more workouts for those who want to get the best workout possible. Click here to learn more and reserve a free one week trial.

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