While Peloton might have rule over the current WFH workout roost, when it comes to the OG does-it-all-at-home-and-the-gym workout, you can’t beat the rowing machine. More commonly known as the erg or ergo to those in the know, the rowing machine beats both the exercise bike and the treadmill for its ability to work both your upper and lower body equally. Low impact so it’s kinder on your joints, a rowing machine workout will also help you build stamina for other athletic pursuits.
“A rowing machine workout is a great way to maximise output in a short space of time,” says Carl Van Heerden, personal trainer and the creator of the lung-busting ROW class at super-sleek boutique gym chain Core Collective. “By combining rowing with dumbbells or kettlebells, you’ll get your heart rate up and blitz through body fat in the same time it normally takes you to warm-up.”
If you’re new to the erg, simply want to hone your technique, or need a new HIIT workout to level up your training plan, read on to find Van Heerden’s handy rowing machine workout guide.
4 Tips For Nailing Your Rowing Machine Technique
1. Keep Your Heels Down.
If you think about a squat, any good coach will tell you to evenly distribute your weight through your whole foot. We do this to engage the entire leg and not dominate either the quads or hamstrings. This same balance is important for indoor rowing because 60 percent of the power produced comes from your legs. If you don’t learn to push through your entire foot, you’ll be missing a lot of force and setting yourself up for poor movement habits.
2. Push (Don’t Pull)
Your arms are only responsible for 10 percent of the power produced with indoor rowing. So if you’re trying to pull harder, you are not really maximizing your output. However, if you think about a big forceful push from your legs with your feet flat, you’re tapping into that 60 percent force driver.
3. Sit Tall
If you tend to round excessively at the front of the stroke, you’ll most likely tend to extend at the back of the stroke. The problem with this is that your spine flexes under load, and it does it every time you take a stroke.
You can fix this by simply sitting tall on the machine with your core braced. Keeping your back in this strong position will make sure you can transfer power to the rowing machine when you need to and improve your times and speed in your indoor rowing workouts.
4. Hips Don’t Lie
If your legs produce 60 percent of the power for each stroke, while your arms only give you 10 percent, there’s a missing 30 percent? This is where the hips come in. Think about trying to jump as high as you can. You can’t jump if you don’t open your hips.
If we apply this to rowing on the erg, as you push through your legs, you need to swing your hips open. The legs and the hips then work together to create a strong, connected, accelerating drive of the machine, giving you the greatest amount of power.
The Rowing Machine Workout(s)
Here are two rowing machine workout examples. One is a HIIT workout (High Intensity Interval Training) while the other is a LISS workout (Low Impact Steady State). On the rowing machine, both are effective forms of exercise which lead to improved cardiovascular endurance, fat loss and lean muscle gain.
An example of a 30min LISS session:
- Warm up and mobilise (5 minutes)
- Three rounds of a 1,500m row at a steady pace. In-between each rowing set, complete 30x goblet squats, 20x dumbbell snatches & 10x V-ups for a full body workout.
- Cool down and stretch (5 minutes)
30min HIIT session would be:
- Warm up and mobilise (5 minutes)
- Then complete the following with minimal rest between sets
- Set 1: Three rounds of 40 seconds high effort rowing with 20 seconds rest. Straight into three rounds of 40 seconds of Push-ups with 20 seconds rest.
- Set 2: Three rounds of 30 seconds high effort rowing with 30 seconds rest. Straight into 30 seconds of Kettlebell Swings with 30 seconds rest.
- Set 3: Three alternating sets of 20 seconds high effort rowing with 40 seconds rest. Straight into 20 seconds of Dumbbell Thrusters with 40 seconds rest.