3 top rowing machine workouts to burn fat and build muscle at the same time

These rowing machine workouts will help you torch fat and improve your strength, and can be done in the gym or at home

Rowing machine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's a reason the best rowing machine offers are snapped up so quickly. Rowing, whether on the water for real or on a machine in your local gym, is one of the best exercises you can do.

Combining a full-body cardiovascular workout with resistance training, rowing machine workouts are among the best ways to burn fat and build muscle simultaneously.

Rowing has been found to reduce fat mass and increase muscle mass, according to one study from the Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine. Doing both at the same time improves your body composition, which is your body's ratio of muscle to fat. Less fat and more muscle helps you become healthier and more athletic, as your body has to take in more oxygen to deliver to your muscles.  

Whether you've got a rowing machine at home, or you've still got access to the gym and are wondering how best to use this essential piece of kit, we've got a trio of workouts suitable for beginners to more advanced fitness enthusiasts.  

1. Beginner's rowing workout

With its intense rate of work, rowing is suitable for HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. This beginners workout, which operates in rounds, will get you used to this idea. Between periods of 18 strokes per minute (a steady three-second-per-stroke pace), you'll be isolating different parts of your body, like your arms and back, to help build up the strength for more intense workout. 

It's a great starter workout for the rowing machine, and to make it even easier, you can simply follow along with the video above.

2. Go Row 20-minute workout

This is how champions do it. This conditioning workout from the British Rowing team uses the same HIIT principles, getting your muscles firing and your metabolism burning fat, offering a slightly more intense workout. 

In addition, the British Rowing workout mixes rowing with calisthenics exercises like squats and crunches, which are designed to work the same muscles as rowing in a slightly different way. 

Exercise variation increases muscle thickness according to the journal PLOS One, as your body doesn't adapt to conserve energy. The end result is a workout that's much more efficient for conditioning than simply rowing on its own. 

Advanced 20-minute HIIT workout

Eight rounds at maximum intensity, with 90-second active recovery breaks in between. A top rowing machine workout from health service AbundantYou, this is a very tough 20-minute workout suitable only for advanced trainees.

However, should you decide to tackle it, the results will speak for themselves. Because the rowing machine works your leg, abs, back, arms and core, all these muscles need oxygen, which tires you out very quickly. Your body is working at maximum intensity, which (when done on a regular basis) makes you very fit indeed. 

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.