How To Use A Rowing Machine

If you've never been to a gym before or have entered one for the first time recently, then you probably can imagine how daunting the experience of trying one out for the first time is.

No matter how many people tell you otherwise or however many threads you read online, every piece of equipment in there seems more akin to a medieval torture device than something to aid you in exercising. 

How To Use A Rowing Machine

Now once you have a go on each or – let's be honest here – watch from afar, trying to be subtle, as someone else uses the machine, so you understand what to do, you realize that they are not that bad.

In fact, people tend to have favorite machines that they cling to.

However, some just escape our knowledge of how to use them, and they are often the simplest machines. 

One of these machines that people struggle with is the rowing machine.

We all know the actions, we all can guess about what you need to do on it, yet people still struggle with them.

As such, we've decided to provide you with some concrete answers to these devilish devices, so the next time you step onto one, you can power through your workout. 

Benefits Of A Rowing Machine

The benefits of using a rowing machine are numerous, but we'll list down a few of the most important ones below for both gym use and if you have a rowing machine at home:

  1. Rowing machines help you tone up your upper body muscles.

  2. Using a rowing machine helps build muscle definition, especially in the shoulders and chest area. It also targets your back muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, abs, calves and even helps improve posture.

  3. Rowing machines are great for cardiovascular exercises because they require fast-paced movements which will get your heart rate up. This means that if you row longer, you'll burn extra calories.

  4. You can use rowing machines at home without having to buy any additional equipment. All you need is a pair of dumbbells (or no weights at all) and a stable surface.

  5. They're easy to set up and take apart. Just like any other exercise equipment, you don't need any special tools to assemble or disassemble a rowing machine.

  6. The best part is that you don't have to spend hours working out when you use a rowing machine; you can work out quickly and efficiently.

  7. With a rowing machine, you can also target different parts of your body depending on where you put your hands. For example, if you place your palms together while sitting on the seat, this will target your arms and triceps, whereas placing your palms facing forward will work mainly on your biceps.

  8. If you want to lose weight, you should try rowing. Rowing burns more calories than walking. How many calories does rowing burn? A study published in Obesity found that those who used rowing were able to burn between 100 and 150 calories per hour.

  9. Rowing machines can work better than running on the treadmill because you won't tire yourself too much.

  10. Rowing can be done anywhere. Unlike other forms of cardio exercise, rowing doesn't require an expensive space or a lot of time. Even if you live in an apartment, you can easily use a rowing machine in your living room.

  11. You can use a rowing machine to work out regardless of whether you're indoors or outdoors. And since there aren't many things you need to worry about when using a rowing machine, this makes it easier to stay focused.

  12. Since rowing focuses solely on your upper body, you don't risk injury while exercising. So, you don't have to worry about hurting your legs or back.

So as you can see there are many benefits to rowing or rowing based exercises, so it might be an idea to take up rowing.

But this still doesn't answer the question on everyone's lips: how do you use a rowing machine?

How To Use A Rowing Machine Correctly

How To Use A Rowing Machine Correctly

First, you need to sit on the rowing bench facing the machine interface and the handle.

Sit tall with your back straight, before placing your feet on the foot pads. Keep your back as tall and straight as possible to give your core a good workout. 

Your feet should be strapped into the foot pads with your knees bent and your body as close to the handles as possible.

Now grip the handle in both hands. Your hands should be at a distance slightly wider than your shoulders. 

The starting position should see the handle on the other side of your knees away from your chest.

Now, push off with your legs and extend them as far as they can go before pulling the handle close to your chest with your hands.

Once you reach this extent, pull yourself back in with your legs to the starting position. 

After this, it is a matter of rinse and repeat, until you've done your set time.

A word of warning: the rowing machine is a lot more intense than people suspect.

We've seen avid, healthy, gym-goers brought down in minutes by the intensity of rowing.

Go for 3 to 5 minutes at first, instead of reps, and then see how you feel. 

How Should You Incorporate A Rowing Machine Into Your Workout?

The best way to incorporate the rowing machine is as a cardio workout.

It is a great way to get the heart pumping and can be great as an inclusion into HIIT workouts.

Just remember that rowing is very intense, so use it in small bursts instead of the main focus. 

Another way to incorporate the rowing machine is as an intensive ending to strength training.

Strength training will normally start and end with short bursts of cardio to keep the heart pumping properly during these workouts.

Therefore, it might be a good idea to end with a machine that is good for your core, shoulders, back, legs and heart in the rowing machine, though it will be a hard end. 


The difficulty in using the rowing machine is not the machine itself most of the time, but the intensity that comes with using it.

We often feel we must be doing something wrong if we have a hard time within the first 30 seconds, but that is not the case.

No matter how you are coping with the rowing machine, with this guide, you should find it easier or at least put your mind at ease before tackling this new workout. 

Kevin Harris