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Row To Get Ripped – Your Ultimate Guide To The Rowing Machine

Row To Get Ripped?

The rowing ergometer was first used by rowing crews and elite level rowers to train in cold weather climates and during cold weather seasons.

However, the rowing ergometer can now be found in your local gym, as a preferred way of adding conditioning to the daily workout.

Just because it is not as common or simple as a treadmill or bike, doesn’t mean you have to avoid it, in fact it may be a BETTER cardio machine. For good reasons, the rowing ergometer can be a great tool to build a chiseled physique, get lean, and increase your conditioning / health.

What’s it good for?

For some people, nothing can be more boring than slogging away on a treadmill or a bike to get your “cardio” in. The rowing ergometer can provide a new challenge and add a fun alternative to your traditional cardio workouts. But, the benefits go way beyond that.

  • Full body workout: Unlike the bike or treadmill, the rower uses muscles from head to toe, which can make it a great tool to burn more calories and increase metabolism.
  • Time efficient: Jack up the intensity and do interval training on the ergometer to cut your workouts short but get the same results.
  • Build good posture: In a world where we sit in front of a computer all day and have forward rounded shoulders, the rower provides a way to sneak in additional pulling work and strengthen the upper back.
  • Less Risk of Injury: Unlike running or sprints the rower does not place excessive loads through the joints making it a safer option for some people with poor / altered biomechanics or lower body injuries.
  • Recovery: Not all workouts have to be hard, and getting blood flowing can actually improve recovery between intense sessions.

Rowing Technique:

You can take classes, watch hours of Youtube videos, and get instruction from a coach to optimize your rowing technique to get the best performance out there. However, unless you are a professional rower our main focus is an efficient and safe technique to optimize the fitness and fat loss benefits from rowing.

For the casual person interested interested in using it more as a tool for getting a training benefit while staying safe, here are a few tips:

  • Move through the hips, not your spine.
  • Drive with your legs. While it is a row, it involves both extension of the legs first and then rowing with the back.
  • Drive your elbows (pull) to your lower abs.

The Workouts:

Give these workouts a try to torch fat, improve conditioning, and have challenge yourself.

A. The Mirror

30 seconds on, 30 seconds off (or active recovery, e.g. very little) for 10 – 20 minutes.

A good place to start is to do this for 10 minutes and work your way up to 15 or 20 minutes.

To get the most out of this, make the 30 seconds on a sprint interval, going as fast as you can. You get the same amount of rest as you do work.

B: The 5K

For this one, the premise is pretty simple. You are going to row 5000 meters before stopping.

5000 meters is a long enough distance to develop endurance, while avoiding the potential of running into overuse injuries or losing muscle from steady state cardio (only joking!).

You can use this for recovery and additional calorie burn by going slower, focusing on form, and getting quality work in. You can even listen to a podcast and kill two birds with one stone, education & fat loss!

Or, if you want to challenge yourself, row the full distance as fast as you can.

C: The Song

Pick one of your favorite song and row flat out to cover as much distance as you can before the song ends.

Music can really get you fired up, and push you through when your momentum is fading. Not many songs would last longer than 3 – 4 minutes, but it can still be brutal if you put your effort into it. Consider this as one extended interval.

After the song rest for 2 minutes and repeat 3 – 4 more times with another song (or the same).

The best part is that you can have a repertoire of songs that you can track your personal bests in, aiming to always complete a chosen song in a shorter amount of time every week.

D: The Century Mark

Row 100 meters, and rest for twice as long as it took you to complete, then go again. Rinse and repeat for 10-20 times and you have yourself a brief but killer workout.

E: The 5 x 5 protocol

Just like the 800-meter dash is a challenging blend of speed and endurance in track and field, the 500-meter row is the equivalent test. You should be fast like a sprint, but be able to last the duration of the distance.

Row for 500 meters, rest 1-3 minutes depending on your conditioning levels, and then repeat again for a total of 5 bouts.

F: 20 – 20

This brutal interval workout will ignite both your heart and metabolism to burn some serious fat.

Quite simply, perform 20 seconds flat out, rest for 20 seconds and repeat.

20 times.

G: The Razor Blade

Saving the best for last, this one is a real challenge. To do this, you will complete the following:

  • Row 500 meters, then rest 60 seconds
  • Row 400 meters, then rest 50 seconds
  • Row 300 meters, then rest 40 seconds
  • Row 200 meters, then rest 30 seconds
  • Row 100 meters, and try not to passout.

Each set is slightly shorter and might be a bit easier to suffer through. But, you also do have decreasing rest periods to keep up with as well.

If you want to make it easier, you can keep the rest periods the same. But, who wants to make things easier?


The rowing ergometer offers a unique and novel way to condition your body and develop a lean physique. Instead of doing your traditional cardio methods, give these workouts a try and see how your body responds.

About the author


Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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