Rowing Workouts for Beginners: Top 11 for 2023

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Are you looking for a dynamic and effective way to enhance your fitness levels and embark on a new journey to well-being?

If so, rowing might be the perfect answer.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about rowing workouts for beginners.

We’ll cover the best starter workouts, proper technique, helpful tips for beginners, and the top reasons why rowing deserves a place in your workout routine. So strap in and get ready to row your way to fitness.

Top 11 Rowing Workouts for Beginners

Rowing workouts offer flexibility and adaptability to suit your specific fitness level and goals. Let’s explore each beginner workout more thoroughly to help you understand and execute them effectively.

1. The Basic Row

  • Details: 10 minutes of rowing at a comfortable pace.\
  • Purpose: Familiarization with the rowing machine and its motions.

As a beginner, the best place to start is with a basic row. Simply get onto the machine and start rowing at a pace that’s comfortable for you. You’re not aiming for a specific distance or time here; the goal is simply to get used to the movement of the machine.

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As you row, pay attention to your form—how you’re sitting, where you’re feeling the tension, and the sequence of your movements. Use this workout as a warmup or a cool-down for your other workout routines.

2. Interval Training

  • Details: 1 minute of rowing followed by 1 minute of rest, repeated 10 times.
  • Purpose: Improve cardiovascular fitness and build stamina.

Interval training is great for working on your cardiovascular fitness and building stamina. For this workout, you’ll row intensively for a minute, aiming to cover as much distance as possible. After each minute of rowing, take a minute of rest. During the rest period, let your heart rate come down, but stay focused—remember, you’ve got another round coming up. This back-and-forth cycle should be repeated ten times. Over time, you can increase the intensity or the duration of the rowing intervals.

3. Steady State Rows

  • Details: 20-30 minutes of consistent pace rowing.
  • Purpose: Build endurance and aerobic capacity.

Steady state rows are an excellent way to work on your endurance. For this workout, your goal is to maintain a consistent pace throughout the entire row. It’s not about how fast you’re rowing; it’s about how consistently you can maintain your pace. Aim for a pace that’s challenging, but sustainable. As your fitness improves, you can increase the duration of your steady state rows or try to maintain a faster pace.

4. Power Strokes

  • Details: 10 powerful strokes followed by 10 slow strokes, repeated for 10 minutes.
  • Purpose: Improve power and strength.

Power strokes are all about explosive power. For this workout, you’ll alternate between ten powerful strokes and ten slow, easy strokes. During the power strokes, focus on driving with your legs and pulling the handle to your chest as forcefully and quickly as possible. During the slow strokes, concentrate on your technique and let your muscles recover. By alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity strokes, you’re training your muscles to recover quickly and preparing them for more prolonged periods of intense effort.

5. Pyramid Workout

  • Details: Start with 1 minute of rowing and 1 minute of rest. Increase rowing time by 1 minute each round until reaching 5 minutes, then decrease by 1 minute each round until back to 1 minute.
  • Purpose: Improve both aerobic and anaerobic capacity.

The pyramid workout is a type of interval training that will test both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity. You start with a minute of rowing and a minute of rest. Each round, you increase the rowing time by a minute until you reach five minutes. After that, you start decreasing the rowing time by a minute each round until you’re back to one minute. As the rowing intervals get longer, you’ll have to manage your effort to ensure you can make it through the entire interval. The pyramid workout is great for building endurance and mental toughness.

6. Row and Rest

  • Details: 3 minutes of moderate pace rowing followed by 2 minutes of rest, repeated 4 times.
  • Purpose: Improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

The “Row and Rest” workout is another form of interval training, but with a slightly longer duration. You’ll row for three minutes at a moderate pace, then rest for two minutes. The aim is to maintain a steady and consistent pace throughout each three-minute rowing interval. After four cycles of rowing and resting, you’ll have completed a solid 20-minute workout that has challenged both your stamina and your endurance.

7. Stroke Ladder

  • Details: Start with 2 minutes at a low stroke rate (e.g., 20 strokes per minute), then increase the stroke rate by 2 every 2 minutes until reaching 30 strokes per minute, then decrease in the same manner.
  • Purpose: Improve stroke rate control and efficiency.

The Stroke Ladder is a workout designed to help you work on your stroke rate control and efficiency. You start by rowing at a low stroke rate—around 20 strokes per minute—for two minutes. After that, you increase the stroke rate by two every two minutes until you reach 30 strokes per minute. Once you’ve reached that peak, you start decreasing the stroke rate by two every two minutes until you’re back to 20 strokes per minute.

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This workout is not about power or speed; it’s about maintaining a consistent rhythm and being in control of your stroke rate.

8. 500m Sprints

  • Details: Row 500m as quickly as possible, then rest for an equal amount of time, repeated 4 times.
  • Purpose: Improve anaerobic capacity and power.

For the 500m sprints, your goal is to row 500m as quickly as you can. This is a test of your anaerobic capacity and your power. You’re aiming to maintain a high stroke rate and powerful strokes throughout the entire 500m. After each sprint, you rest for an amount of time equal to your rowing time. This allows your body to recover before the next sprint. After four rounds, you’ll have completed a demanding and powerful workout.

9. Row and Stretch

  • Details: 5 minutes of steady pace rowing followed by 2 minutes of light stretching, repeated 3 times.
  • Purpose: Improve flexibility and promote recovery.

The Row and Stretch workout combines rowing with some light stretching to create a balanced and restorative workout. You start by rowing at a steady pace for five minutes. After that, you get off the machine and do some light stretching for two minutes. This could involve stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, back, or shoulders—whatever feels tight. By incorporating stretching into your workout, you’re promoting flexibility, recovery, and injury prevention.

10. Distance Challenge

  • Details: Set a goal distance (e.g., 2,000m) and row it in as little time as possible.
  • Purpose: Improve speed and endurance.

The Distance Challenge is a simple but effective way to test your speed and endurance. You set a goal distance—2,000m is a good starting point—and your goal is to row that distance in as little time as possible. This workout is a race against the clock, and it’s a test of how quickly and efficiently you can row. As your fitness improves, you can try to beat your previous time or increase the distance.

11. Time Challenge

  • Details: Set a goal time (e.g., 20 minutes) and try to row as far as possible in that time.
  • Purpose: Improve endurance and distance.

The Time Challenge is the reverse of the Distance Challenge. You set a goal time—20 minutes is a good place to start—and your goal is to row as far as you can in that time. This workout is all about endurance and maintaining a consistent pace for the entire duration. It’s not about how fast you’re rowing, but how long you can keep rowing. As your endurance improves, you can try to beat your previous distance or increase the duration of the challenge.

Tips for Beginning Rowers

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Starting with rowing workouts can be a bit challenging, but here are some tips to ease your journey:

  1. Start Slow: Don’t jump into intense workouts immediately. Give your body time to adapt to the new movements and demands of rowing.
  2. Focus on Form: Proper form is essential in rowing to prevent injury and make your workouts more effective.
  3. Gradually Increase Intensity: As your fitness improves, gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. This could mean rowing for longer, rowing at a higher stroke rate, or rowing with more power.
  4. Warm-Up and Cool Down: Include a warm-up and cool-down in your workout routine to prepare your body for the workout and aid recovery.
  5. Listen to Your Body: If you feel any pain or discomfort while rowing, stop and check your form. If the pain continues, consider seeking professional advice.

Focus on Proper Technique

a woman rows while focusing on proper technique

The key to effective and safe rowing is mastering the right technique. This involves four stages: the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery.

  1. The Catch: Sit tall with your knees bent and shins vertical. Your arms should be straight, and your body should be leaning slightly forward.
  2. The Drive: Push off with your legs while keeping your arms straight. As your legs straighten, lean back slightly and pull the handle to your chest.
  3. The Finish: At the end of the drive, your legs should be straight, your body leaned back slightly, and the handle at your chest.
  4. The Recovery: Extend your arms, lean your body forward, and then bend your knees to slide back to the catch position.

Remember, power in rowing comes mostly from the legs, so focus on driving with your legs and using your arms and body to finish the stroke.

Top Reasons to Consider Adding Rowing to Your Workout Routine

Rowing is a versatile exercise with many benefits. Here are the top reasons to consider adding it to your workout routine:

  1. Full-Body Workout: Rowing works multiple major muscle groups at once, providing a comprehensive workout.
  2. Cardio and Strength Training: Rowing combines cardiovascular training with strength training, making it an efficient exercise choice.
  3. Low-Impact: Rowing is a low-impact exercise, making it great for people with joint issues or those recovering from injury.
  4. Calorie Burning: Because it’s a full-body workout, rowing can burn a significant number of calories.
  5. Flexibility: With the range of workouts available, from intervals to long distance, rowing can suit a variety of fitness goals and levels.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating rowing into your fitness regime can transform your workout routine and bring you closer to your fitness goals. With a focus on proper technique, a gradual increase in intensity, and the right workouts, beginners can reap the myriad benefits of rowing. As always, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your workouts accordingly. Happy rowing!