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Rowing Machine Exercise to Lose Weight: Burn Calories

Do you want to lose weight? You may be reasonably careful about your diet, or maybe you don’t watch what you eat at all. Meanwhile, that extra layer of fat you seem to have accumulated slowly gets bigger and bigger.

So, what to do to get your body into weight loss mode? Well, as pretty much everyone knows by now, there are two ways to lose weight:

  1. Pay attention to your food intake, especially fattening food (hint: prepared foods have added sugar, fat, and additives, so avoid packaged foods, especially snack foods, like chips.) Cutting your calorie intake is the first rule for losing weight
  1. Exercise more to burn more calories, which will result in your losing weight. That’s the second rule of weight loss

And what is one of the best all-around exercises for both strength, stamina, and weight loss, especially if you’re not keen on weight lifting? Rowing machines! Workouts with the right rowing machine technique can result in a real calorie burn!

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What Are Calories?

Calories are units of energy. Our bodies need the energy to perform day-to-day activities and come from the foods we eat.

Our metabolism burns calories by breaking down our food and transporting the nutrients to where they are needed: carbohydrates break down into glucose and sugars, fats into fatty acids, and protein into amino acids.

Our bodies then make a choice: use the food now for energy or store it to use later on.

The average person needs around 2,000 calories a day, but this will change based on your height, weight, age, and daily physical activity. So, the more you exercise, the more calories you will burn, which leads you to lose weight.

For reference, one pound of fat equates to 3,500 calories. This means that you can lose one pound of fat (1) a week by burning an extra 500 calories a day.

How Many Calories Are Burned on a Rowing Machine?

The number of calories that you burn from rowing is based on your diet plan, body weight, and how hard you train:

  • If you weigh around 125 pounds, you will burn around 420 calories per hour rowing at a moderate pace. At an increased intensity, you will burn around 510 calories per hour.
  • If you weigh around 155 pounds, you will burn around 520 calories per hour rowing at a moderate pace. This will increase to around 630 calories per hour at an increased intensity.
  • If you weigh around 185 pounds, you will burn around a 620 calorie-burn rate per hour rowing at a moderate pace. This will increase to around 750 calories per hour at an increased intensity.
  • If you weigh around 240 pounds, you will burn around 650 calories per hour rowing at a moderate pace. At a very vigorous pace, more than 1,000 calories burned per hour.

These numbers are from the Harvard Health Site, but please note that these are just estimates and will be different based on the factors I mentioned earlier.

Rowing For Calories Vs. Rowing For Meters

Some people row to burn calories, but others row to reach a certain distance. While it may look like we are doing the same thing, there is a slight but critical difference between us.

When you row for meters, every time you pull back the handle, your machine will show your distance traveled. When you stop rowing, the display will briefly continue to increase the number of meters you row.

On the other hand, when you row for weight loss, you see the number of calories you’ve burned increase. When you stop, the number of calories you burn stops straight away.

So, the key to rowing for weight loss is focusing on the stroke. Pull it back hard to burn calories as quickly as possible.

Each stroke should equal another calorie burned. This may even go up to two calories burned per stroke – if you can do that, you’re a beast!

Aim for around 20-25 strokes per minute for 1,500 calories per hour. This will keep you at the one calorie per stroke mark. This explains it a little more.

Best Rowing Workouts for Losing Weight

Before starting any rowing workout, always warm up to loosen muscles and increase heart rate. For rowing, start slowly for around 5 minutes and before starting your workout. One way to warm up is with a ‘ladder drill.’ Here, you row at a certain number of strokes per minute. At each minute, increase your rowing stroke rate, and then after you reach the peak of strokes per minute, slow down again.

For example, start on your rowing machine at 18 strokes for the first minute, then 20 strokes/1 minute, 22 strokes/1 minute, 24 strokes/1 minute. Then back down to 22 strokes, 20 strokes, 18 strokes at one minute each. (2)

Here are a number of ways to use a rowing machine to burn more calories, but here are the top 3.

Interval Training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a series of sprints that are broken up by lower-intensity recovery periods. You will burn a lot of calories during the sprinting phase but continue to burn them when the workout is slower. The American College of Sports Medicine has pointed out that rowing is a great form of aerobic exercise that fits into a HIIT program.

Sprint for 20-30 seconds, followed by a slower resting period for 40-60 seconds. Repeat the sprint/slow/sprint/slow routine for 20-25 minutes. It may not take long, but you will Harvard Health Site. It will also increase your muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism, which also helps lower your fat level.

The best thing about HIIT is that you will continue to burn a large number of calories long after finishing the workout. HIIT will also grow your muscles and make you stronger. (3)

It takes a little time to get used to this rowing technique, but you’ll see the benefits as you develop.

Endurance Training

This is when you row for long periods but at a much lower intensity. Set a low resistance level and row with a steady rhythm. Because the pace is a lot slower, you can continue to row for much longer.

Aim to row for around 30 minutes, but after a couple of sessions, you can increase this to between 45-60 minutes.

Several endurance training sessions a week will improve your overall health and result in a higher calorie burn–up to thousands of calories. Endurance training also reduces your recovery time, which burns more calories in the long run. Plus, getting your heart rate up improves your whole cardiovascular system.

Keep your weight loss goals in mind as you fulfill your owing plan, and be sure to weigh yourself every day.

Power Strokes

The final way to burn calories by rowing is by using power strokes. After warming up, complete three sets of fast, hard strokes that explode you backward; this is also part of your strength training routine. Notice even how compared with an exercise bike or other exercise machine, that your back muscles just don’t get the exercise they need.

Maintain the same rhythm throughout the routine, pushing hard with your feet and pulling strong with your arms and core.

Do 10-20 power strokes at around 22-24 strokes per minute before ten recovery strokes. In the next set, do 10-20 power strokes at around 24-26 strokes per minute before another 10 recovery strokes. The final set should be between 28-30 strokes per minute.

Advantages of Rowing for Losing Weight

If you choose a rowing machine as your exercise routine to lose weight, you will find several advantages. First of all, it is a safe method of working out because it is a low impact workout. Unlike running, for example, it won’t put excessive strain or pressure on your knee joints – as long as you are using the right technique.

Second, there are several different workouts to choose from when using your rowing machine, so your workout doesn’t have to get stale. As you can see from above, there are many ways to take full advantage of your rowing machine at home while keeping your workout engaging, motivating, and interesting.

Third, rowing machines are relatively quiet, so you can work out at any time of the day without bothering others in your household. This makes it easier to stick to a regular exercise routine to help lose weight faster.

Finally, you can burn more calories with a rowing machine than you can with other types of fitness equipment. It is also a suitable method of exercise for just about anyone, even those that may be unfit and unsure if it is something they can start.

When using treadmills, elliptical trainers, and exercise bikes, you will find that you just can’t work as many of your major muscle groups as you can with a rowing machine.


The next time you wake up, do you want to look in that mirror and feel great? From what you’ve learned about burning calories to lose weight from rowing on a rowing machine, I know you can do it.

Plan on rowing at least two or better yet, three, four, or even five times per week. If you’re over 60 and want to know about some of the best rowing machines for seniors, go here.

Go here to see a review of the best home rowing machine

Rowing Machine Workout FAQ

Rowing machine versus elliptical – which is better?

A rowing machine can burn up to 800 calories per hour due to the amount of work you are making your glutes, arms, core, and back do. Elliptical machines, on the other hand, burn about 700 calories per hour on average, which is slightly less than the rowing machine. If you have a bad back or tight chest, you will find that a rowing machine is also going to be the better option for you.

Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?

There isn’t just one exercise that is known to target only belly fat specifically. Instead, your rowing machine workout concentrates on the body as a whole when it comes to fat loss. Since a rowing machine can help burn overall body fat, it will successfully help you lose belly fat as well.

How long should you row on a rowing machine to lose weight?

Using your rowing machine for only fifteen minutes per day may not be enough if your goal is to lose weight. Rowing only 15 minutes burns approximately 150 to 300 calories depending on your intensity levels. This allows you to drop approximately 0.5 pounds per week without dieting and just exercising.

What is the proper way to row to burn fat quickly and more effectively?

To burn fat more quickly, you need to maintain proper alignment to help your core. To do this, sit as tall as you can, lift your chest, look out in front of you, and don’t let your head fall. This allows your airways to stay open, and the workout will be that much more effective.

Is using your rowing machine as your primary exercise effective?

If you plan on using your rowing machine as your primary form of exercise, then you need to evaluate your goals. Rowing machine workouts can definitely burn a good number of calories, and this makes it one of the best and most efficient cardio machines as long as you form a routine and don’t only row sporadically.


  1. https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/calories-burned-rowing-5813.html
  2. https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/2-numbers-that-will-make-you-a-better-rower
  3. https://profitnessreview.com/rowing-machine-calories-burned/