Rowing machines are popping up in gyms all over the place. If you have never used one, be ready to kick your routine up to the next level! Rowing machines give you the unique opportunity to get a true total body cardiovascular workout.  Sure, you can move the arms on your elliptical, or hold some weights while running, but neither of those actions will result in quite the same upper and lower body workout as you will get using the rower. Here we’ll discuss the basics of rowing as well as the mechanics of a High Intensity Interval TrainingHIIT rowing workout.

Let’s get started with some basics about the rowing machine.

Rowing machines typically come with adjustable resistance, often in levels 1-10.


The general rule is higher the number, the higher the resistance. If you are new to rowing, start with a lower number for resistance. As you progress, simply increase the resistance to help you continue to see benefits.

Rowing machines also come with pedals and straps to go around your feet. Be sure the straps can be tightened around your midfoot-this may require that you adjust the pedals to fit your foot properly.

Once you have set your machine, you can begin to progress to the movement.

Bend your knees and move your body forward so you can lightly grasp the handle of the rowing machine with an overhand grip. When rowing, you want to maintain a tight core by sucking in your belly button and squeezing your abs.

This will help you maintain a stable posture and spine throughout the movement.

To begin the rowing movement, push back through your feet to extend your legs.

Your arms should also be allowed to extend as your body moves backwards. As your legs extend back, pull back on the handle with your arms, pulling your shoulder blades down and together and bending at your elbows.

Be sure you keep your shoulders down when pulling to avoid tightening your upper traps and levator scapulae, two muscles that can easily be overworked.

After you extend your legs and squeeze your arms back, begin to bend your knees and extend your arms again to return to starting position.

During this process, again be sure that you maintain an upright posture and avoid arching your lower back or hyperextending your knees.  The harder your pull back, the harder the exercise will seem.

Now that we’ve covered setting yourself up and the rowing movement, let’s discuss high intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT workoutsare meant to push the body to a new and more intense level.

It will help you push through plateaus and get the body you’ve been craving. It is important, however, that you are ready for these intervals before you begin to push your body to the next level.

If you are new to rowing, give yourself a few weeks to get used to rowing before trying intervals. One of the HIIT rowing workout I’ve designed is based on time, the other is based on distance.

For either workout, your goal is to row as fast as you can during the work intervals, covering as much distance as you can in as little time as possible. Be sure your resistance is high enough that you feel a resistance beneath you as you move, but not so tough as to hinder your speed or distance coverage.

hiit rowing workout2

Workout 1- Timed Intervals

For this workout, you are going to start with a 1:3 (work: rest) ratio. Begin with a 5 minute warm up on the rower, or another machine of your choice. After your warm up, begin with a 30 second work interval—sprint for 30 seconds, followed by a more relaxed (50%) pace for 90 seconds.

Repeat this 10 times (approximately 20 minutes) then cool down. As you get in better shape, increase the length of your work interval to 45-60 seconds, keeping the 1:3 work to rest ratio (for example, if you work for 45 seconds, rest for 135 seconds).

After you have mastered the 1:3 work to rest ratio, begin to decrease your rest to a 1:2 or even a 1:1 (1 minute sprint, 1 minute rest) to continue progressing.

Workout 2-Distance Intervals

For this workout we are focused on distance. You are going to try to cover as much distance as possible in the shortest amount of time, followed by a rest period, then repeat.

As always, begin your hiit rowing workout with a 5-10 minute warm up and end with a cool down. After your warm up, sprint to cover the allotted distance in the shortest amount of time you can. Start with a short distance, such as 200 meters. Sprint for 200 meters, then slow your pace to about 50% for 3-5 minutes.

Repeat this interval 3-5 times. For even better results, try to mix up the distance. For example, start with a 500 meter sprint, followed by a 3 minute recovery (50-70% pace).

Then sprint for 400 meters, followed by a 3 minute recovery. Sprint for 300 meters, followed by a 2 minute recovery.

Then a 20 meter sprint, followed by 2 minutes recovery, and finally a 100 meter sprint followed by your cool down.

I hope you enjoy these HIIT rowing workouts! Give them a try 1-2 times per week, or add them to your current routine and you are sure to see results!  If you enjoy the pacing and efficiency of these workouts, be sure to checkout other WatchFit HIIT workout routines.

Let me know how you like them! Until next time, be fit and stay well!

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Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
Lost 13 Kg in Total
Mel, 32y Location: London, United Kingdom Working with Pollyanna changed everything. I lost 13kg, got toned and have more energy than ever! Get same results!


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