It’s hard to find a cardio machine that works your body harder than an indoor rower. It requires equal effort from your upper and lower body, extreme cardiovascular fitness, and ridiculous muscular endurance to blast out rep after rep. And it’s great for fat loss, too. An 84kg guy can burn 377 calories (1578 kj) by rowing vigorously for only 30 minutes, report researchers at Harvard University. Want to try it for yourself? Check out these four fat-blasting, muscle-pumping rowing workouts.
Not only do you need extreme stamina to row long and fast, but you also need perfect rhythm and form. If you don’t, you’ll lose precious energy with each stroke.
Unfortunately, maintaining the same number of strokes per minute (spm) over long distances can be extremely challenging, says Jason Bohot, certified indoor rowing instructor for RowZone in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That’s why this workout keeps the distance the same—1,000 meters—but increases and decreases the spm each set. It teaches you to focus on cadence first and foremost so you have the fuel to make it to the finish line.
Do this: Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes. Then set the level to medium and begin your workout. You’ll do 3 total sets of 1,000-meter rows. Aim to maintain 28 spm during the first set, 24 spm during the second set, and 26 spm during the final set. Recover with 4 minutes of easy rowing between each set.
Sprints skyrocket your fitness and peel away fat. The reason: When you go as hard as you can for 15 to 30 seconds and then take the setting way down, your heart rate is still through the roof even while you’re coasting. “Doing this over and over again during a workout will burn a ton of a fat and tone your whole body,” says Josh Ozeri, co-founder of indoor rowing facility Brooklyn Crew in Brooklyn, New York. Pair your sprints with your favorite motivational music—like in the workout below—for an even bigger boost.
Do this: Load your iPod with 30 minutes of up-tempo motivational tunes (150 to 180 beats per minute). Check out songbpm.com to find out a song’s bpm.
Warm up during the first song, and then put the setting to medium. Begin your workout during the second song. When the chorus hits, start rowing hard. Each sprint should get close to 30 spm. Maintain that intensity until the chorus ends, then use the verses for recovery before going hard during the next chorus. Complete the playlist, then cool down.
You need muscle and stamina to finish a standard 2-kilometer race, but you need a ton of willpower, too. “A long row is 90 percent mental,” says Nell Shuttleworth, owner of RowFit Chicago. Make the distance less daunting by tackling shorter intervals of 500 meters for a total of 3 kilometers. It preps your body and mind for long distances without causing burnout.
Do this: After warming up, set the flywheel to no more than a 3 to 5. Row 500 meters as hard as you can, and then rest for 2 minutes. On your next interval, row 500 meters, and then rest for only 1:45. Do four more 500-meter rows, decreasing your rest time by 15 seconds after each interval. Despite the decreasing rest, your goal is to keep your 500-meter splits the same each set.
Every other rowing workout will feel like a cakewalk after this one. That’s because it’s created for Olympic athletes. It’s a great way to figure out if you’re in top shape, or if you still need some conditioning, says Bernhard Stomporowski, head coach at the California Rowing Club.
Do this: Perform a 10-minute warmup that includes a couple two-minute sprints to prep your body for the workout. Rest for 3 to 4 minutes, and then begin this descending ladder workout. Stomporowski recommends leaving some fuel in your tank because the final interval is long and tough. Cool down after the last interval with easy rowing.
Interval 1: Sprint for 1,000 meters, rest for 3:00
Interval 2: Sprint for 750 meters, rest for 2:30
Interval 3: Sprint for 500 meters, rest for 2:00
Interval 4: Sprint for 250 meters, rest for 2:00
Interval 5: Sprint for 750 meters, cool down