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Rowing Machine Benefits

Rowing Machine BenefitsWant a full list of rowing machine benefits?

I would need to write a whole book to cover them all, so I’ll have to stick with the top 5!

Believe it or not, rowing machines don’t only benefit off-season rowers, they benefit anyone who wants to be physically fit.

The sad part is most people who want to be physically fit don’t use a rowing machine!

This leads me to believe a majority of people don’t understand the rowing machine benefits!

During a gym’s busiest hours, usually between 5:00pm and 9:00pm, I can always count on one piece of equipment being available.

No it’s not one of the 20 stationary bikes, treadmills, or ellipticals. It’s usually just 1 or 2 machines off in the corner.

Can you guess which machine I’m talking about?  Yes, it’s a rowing machine!

The same machine that’s more efficient at burning calories and building muscle than any other single piece of fitness equipment.

In case you’re like most people and don’t know the rowing machine benefits, I’ll list the top 5 benefits of a rowing machine below:

Top 5 Rowing Machine Benefits

While there are 100s of benefits connected with rowing, I can’t list them all.

I’ll list the top 5 benefits to get you motivated to start rowing and start reaching your fitness goals!

#1: Full-Body Muscle Workout

Rowing Machine Benefits

  • Rowing machines provide a solid full-body workout. The entire rowing motion involves all major muscles of the lower and upper body.
  • Throughout the entire rowing motion, you’re working out your legs, core, back, and arms. You’re also developing stronger hands and forearms since your hands are gripping the handle the entire time.
  • When you start the rowing motion (in the “catch” position), you push off with your legs. This works out your quads, hamstrings, buttocks, and calves.
  • The next phase of the rowing motion is “the drive”. This phase begins by straightening your legs, while beginning to lean back and pull the handle to your chest. The “Drive” will work out almost 84% of the muscles in your body!
  • During the next phase of the motion called “the finish”, you will have pulled the handle to your lower chest and leaned backwards slightly. You’re entire core is engaged and ready to spring yourself back forwards.
  • The last phase called “the recovery” is when you return back to the “catch” position or the beginning of the motion.  Again this requires your core and all your stabilizer muscles to spring yourself forward. You also engage your hamstrings to help slide your body to the front of the rowing rail.

Since most rowing machines come with adjustable resistance, you can make the workout more challenging or easier based on your preference.

If you want to know more about the muscles used during a rowing stroke then check out my article: “Muscles Used on the Rowing Machine?“.

Below is a video that shows a proper rowing stroke and some of the rowing machine benefits.

#2: Great Aerobic & Anaerobic Workout

While one of the best rowing machine benefits is a full-body workout, let’s not forget this doesn’t only mean our muscles. We also want to get a great cardiovascular workout as well!

Rowing machines provide one of the most challenging aerobic and anaerobic workouts out of all the exercise machines. Think of aerobic exercise as a long, steady session and anaerobic as a short, sprint session.

Similar to running and biking, when rowing you control the intensity of your workout by how fast or slow you row.

However, unlike biking or running,  rowing works out your whole body while building and defining muscle. This arguably makes it more challenging and better at burning fat.

The benefits of using a rowing machine for your aerobic & anaerobic workout include an increase in stamina, lowering of blood pressure, strengthening of your heart and respiratory system, and keeping your arteries clear and healthy.

#3: Burns a Lot of Calories

A rowing machine is a lean, mean calorie burning machine (as cheesy as that sounds).

When rowing vigorously, you can burn between 600 – 1,000+ calories per hour!

That’s on par with running on a treadmill at an incline and more than a stair climber, elliptical, or stationary bicycle.

Benefits of the Rowing Machine

Rowing machines are so good at burning calories that rowing studios having been popping up like crazy in all major cities! Fitness trainers are even beginning to incorporate them more and more into their routines.

I have even read about multiple Hollywood actors who use them exclusively to lose weight for major movie roles.

If you want to know more about burning calories on a rowing machine, just check out my article.

#4: Saves Time

A huge benefit of rowing machines is their ability to save you precious time!

Total body workouts save you time because you simultaneously work out your upper & lower body, plus you get a cardio workout.

Doing each group separately (Upper, Lower, Respiratory) can take three times as long and in some cases burn less calories.

Who wouldn’t want to build muscle, burn fat, and get a cardio workout all at the same time! This tripling up effect is a great rowing machine benefit.

There are plenty of days where I just do a hard 20 minute rowing session and feel like my lungs are about to collapse and all my muscles feel like they were worked out. This would take me well over an hour to accomplish by first lifting weights and then hopping on the treadmill or bike.

This makes a rowing machine perfect for people who value time and efficiency with their workouts!

#5: Low Impact

Either due to injuries or old age, our joints don’t always work the way we would like them to work. This sometimes requires us to find low impact workouts that are easier on our hips and knees.

One of the most important and overlooked benefit of a rowing machine is its low impact and non-weight bearing features.

Unlike running, jogging, or jumping rope which are weight bearing, rowing is non-weight bearing and super easy on the joints!

This makes rowing ideal for people with weak joints, those recovering from surgery or injuries, and pregnant women.

Rowing Machine Benefits

I discovered the benefits of a rowing machine after experiencing knee problems from running long distance.

It truly is amazing that you can get a challenging full-body workout without feeling “beat up” like what running for a long period of time does to your joints.

There are some times when I intensely row for 45 minutes and when I stand up I immediately want to collapse because I wasn’t expecting my legs to feel like jello. However, my joints don’t feel achy or worn out like I do after running for the same period.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plenty of great rowing machine benefits. From working out your entire body, to saving your time and joints, rowing is truly a one of a kind exercise.

Not to mention, it’s also the best at burning calories, losing weight, and building lean muscle.

While there are definitely more than these top 5 rowing machine benefits, hopefully these have gotten you motivated enough to try out rowing in the future.

Rowing machines are usually found it all gyms but they are also very affordable for your home. They range widely in price and can be found in the high and low price ranges. Often for less than a treadmill or stationary bike.

The two best budget rowing machines are the Stamina Air 1399 Rowing Machine and the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rower. You can click the links for my reviews.

Two very popular higher end rowers are the Stamina Avari and Concept2 Model D. The Avari is the best high-end magnetic rower. While the Concept2 is the #1 bestselling rowing machine. Just click the links for my full reviews.

You can also check out my article about the Best Home Rowing Machine to learn about how I pick the top rowers and the best pick in each price range and resistance type.

Now that you know the benefits of a rowing machine, I wouldn’t be surprised if you start rowing at the gym or purchase your own rowing machine for use at home!

Using one has changed my life for the better – I’m sure it will do the same for you too!


  1. Rowing is a fabulous pre-knee surgery approach to exercise. It’s helped me lose weight and get the rest of my body back in shape while also building my leg muscles. Best of all, even though my knees are basically trashed out and need replacing, I can row without a lot of pain. Plus, building my legs up on the rowing machine has reduced the pain I have while walking. The weird thing is that most physical therapists are not at all aware of these benefits… they just don’t get it. So keep up the good work and spread the word!

    1. Amy,

      Thank you for stopping by! I agree, it is so weird that most PT’s are not aware of the benefits of a rowing machine. My left knee is pretty bad and I’m stubborn so I still have to run and play basketball every now and then (although my knee feels horrible afterwards) but when I row and workout really hard (to the point I want to vomit sometimes), I feel completely fine!

      Congratulations on the weight loss and I’m glad you don’t experience much pain anymore while walking.

      Thanks again and I will definitely spread the word!!!

  2. My LA Fitness gym has a rowing machine with a stationary seat. How beneficial is this ? Also the cables protude from above the person instead from below. And can be used for about a set of 6 different exercizes. How much benefit can come from this particular kind of free rowing machine ?
    I read that 30 minutes can burn to over 300 calories on a traditional rowing machine. How much could I burn in that same amount of time on a non moving seat at my gym ( Seat can be adjusted for height ). Any info would be appreciated. Thank You.

    1. Kevin,

      Could you send me a link to what type of rower you are referring to? Is it something similar to the Stamina Deluxe Conversion Recumbent/ Rower? Or does the seat not slide at all?

      If the seat does not move at all, like you stated, then the amount of calories you burn will probably be less than a regular rower. A big reason why rowers are so effective is because it gives you an upper and lower body workout and the rower you are describing will not give your legs any workout. I think the rower will still be extremely effective in giving your upper body a great workout but in order to get the full rowing machine benefits you need to use a rower that provide the full rowing motion.

      Hope this helped!

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