Have you ever considered taking up rowing for weight loss? While rowing machines are common enough in many gyms, most people will side step them and head for machines that they are more familiar with such as the treadmill, stationary bike, or the stair stepper. In today’s article we are going to show you how using rowing for weight loss and toning might be your new favorite gym activity. We are going to outline how many calories you can burn while on this machine, how it could help you lose belly fat, how long you need to workout on it to start seeing results, and much more.
Is Rowing Good For Losing Belly Fat?
Like many workouts out there, rowing to lose belly fat is a good idea. That said, we must remember that spot reduction is a myth. You cannot target fat loss to specific parts of the body. What this simply means is that while your belly/muffin top may be what’s bothering you the most, rowing will not just get rid of that.
This exercise will help you lose weight in all parts of the body, including the belly. Where you lose the fat first is also not under your control. Some people might lose fat in the arms before the belly and vice versa. Consistency is the only guaranteed way to end up with a smaller, flatter belly. As a matter of fact, scientific research shows evidence that spot reduction does not work
In a study published in 2011 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers took 24 participants and divided them into 2 groups. The people in the first group had to perform 7 abdominal exercises, for 2 sets of 10 repetitions, on 5 days a week for 6 weeks. The second group had neither interventions nor instructions of exercise.
In terms of diet, all the participants were placed on an isocaloric diet – a meal plan that calls for a moderate-carbohydrate and moderate-fat intake. This diet allows dieters to eat whatever they want as long as they consume the same amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats daily.
After six weeks researchers found that there was no significant effect from abdominal exercises on body weight, body fat percentage, android fat percentage, android fat, abdominal circumference, abdominal skinfold and supra-iliac skinfold measurements (5).
This further emphasizes the fact that spot reduction of belly fat is, indeed, a myth.
How Effective Is Rowing For Weight Loss?
Just because rowing will not help you reduce your belly fat by spot reduction doesn’t mean that you should stop considering it as an option all together. Even core/belly workouts like sit ups will not spot reduce your belly.
Rowing is indeed a great weight loss workout that will have you lean and healthy in no time. Here is how and why
It Is Almost A Full Body Workout
When you look at a person on this machine, you may think that they are primarily only working out their legs and perhaps their arms. This could not be further from the truth. This workout targets the major muscles in the lower body, core, and upper body namely the hamstrings, deltoids and lats, core, glutes, biceps, and forearms
This is further proven by a study published in 2016. Researchers found that while most of your rowing power comes from the legs, you also use quite a bit of upper body strength during the workout. 60 percent of this power comes from the lower body while 40 percent of it comes from the upper body (2). The only major muscles not affected by a rowing workout are the pecs and triceps.
That aside, full body workouts are much better than split or isolated workouts because they
- Are more time efficient which is perfect for ‘lazy’ or busy people
- Burn more calories – As seen above, when rowing for weight loss, you are working out a bunch of large muscles at the same time. This helps you burn way more calories than if you chose to do a simple lower or upper body workout.
- Offer greater hormonal response/boost – According to Men’s Journal because full body exercises work so many different muscle fibers at once, they lead to a greater release of testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 hormones, which leads to more lean muscle formation and less fat.
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It’s A Fantastic Calorie Burning Workout
The theory of ‘calories in calories out‘ is one that plays a huge role in fitness, especially in regard to weight loss. This theory maintains that how many calories you consume and expend will determine how much you weigh. To lose weight you must create a negative energy balance where you expend more calories than you consume.
Creating a negative energy balance is best done in two ways
- Eating on a calorie deficit
- Working out
As seen above, rowing to lose belly fat or even general weight loss is a fantastic idea as rowing is a full body workout that not only targets multiple major muscles but will also certainly leave you drenched in sweat.
So in terms of rowing calories burned, how many kilocalories can you burn in just 30 minutes? According to Harvard Health, depending on how much you weigh and how intense your workout session is, you can lose anywhere between 200 and 440 calories in just 30 minutes on this machine (1).
This, coupled with a healthy caloric deficit diet will have you achieving your weight loss goals in no time.
A Great Option For Bad Knees And Joint Pain
Unlike many popular cardio exercises like walking, running and jumping that have a high impact on the joints, especially the knees, rowing has much less of an impact making it one of the best cardio exercises for people with bad knees.
Not only can this exercise be safely done by seniors with weaker joints, but it can also be used by anyone suffering from arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation states that for persons with arthritis in their spine, shoulders or hips, they can safely use a rowing machine in its lowest resistance and with good posture (4). This workout is also good and safe for anyone recovering from a torn ACL muscle.
While this exercise is obviously great for just weight loss, it is not only good for this. Some more benefits of weight loss include.
When we think about inclusivity in fitness, our minds automatically think about how to make workouts better for overweight people. While this is certainly a great thing, we often forget about people with disabilities. Most workouts are not efficient or safe for persons living with disabilities.
One benefit of the rowing machine is that it works well for visually impaired people. One study published in the Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine journal showed that rowing is not only safe for these people but it also helps them lose weight and increase muscle strength and definition (3).
It’s A Meditative Activity
Seen as a ‘new age’ practice by many for decades, meditation is now slowly being accepted by many for its numerous benefits. This practice has been known to help reduce stress and anxiety, boost immunity, relieve pain and even improve cardiovascular health. The repetitive motions of the row stroke are said to help relax and pull you down into a meditative state.
Please note that many also claim that rowing outside is better in terms of meditation but if you cannot do it outside, create an indoor environment that can help you do this.
Helps Build Strength And Endurance
While the activity is mostly seen as a cardio workout, the rowing motions also incorporate some strength training into your routine. Over time, this exercise will help you improve on your endurance – you row for longer and at higher resistance, and power where your muscles get bigger, stronger and more defined.
It’s A Great Way To Make Your Workouts Less Boring
Other than lack of time and motivation, one of the other reasons why many people fail to reach their fitness goals is utter boredom. Routines are good, but following the same process over and over for weeks is bound to be boring.
Incorporating rowing for weight loss in your routine ensures that you have something new and exciting to try out other than just lifting weights, skipping rope or running on a treadmill. It also offers you and your body a new challenge that helps you stay engaged in what you are doing.
It Can Improve Your Posture
If you are among the millions of people who have posture and back pain due to sitting and looking at a computer for work, then this exercise is for you.
Not only does it help add some movement and activity in your normally sedentary lifestyle, but the basic rowing posture can actually help you in your day to day life. Basic posture on this machine requires that you sit up straight with your chest up and shoulders back and relaxed.
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Toned Legs And A Perky Butt
As seen above, most of the power used while doing this exercise comes from your lower body – from the hips going down. Lower body exercises are great to help tone your legs and glutes giving you that very enviable Instagram-worthy physique.
Adjustable For All Levels
Whether you are a true beginner, have had some small experience with working out or are a self-confessed gym rat, rowing is for everybody. The machine’s resistance level and rates are adjustable which ensures that it can be used by anyone.
Pocket Friendly For At Home Users
For many overweight people, going to the gym is a very scary experience. Home workouts offer the safety and comfort away from potential judging and prying eyes. If you have the money and space, a rowing machine is a good investment. These machines are also much cheaper than treadmills.
The Ultimate Fat Burning Rowing Workout
Are you convinced that rowing for weight loss is the best workout option for you? If so, the next best thing is to find a workout that works best for you. Like with any other exercise, it is best to not only familiarize yourself with the machine in question, but to also opt for an easier workout/resistance level.
For this we would suggest going to someone with extensive knowledge of rowing and this specific machine. That could be a family member or a trainer. If you do not have either option at your disposal, there are numerous videos on YouTube that can help you figure out how to use this machine well to achieve your fat and weight loss goals.
Can I Lose Weight Rowing 20 Minutes A Day?
Yes, you can. According to Women’s Health Magazine and Men’s Health, you only need just 15 to 20 minutes per day on this machine to lose weight. This is perfect for beginners who do not have enough endurance for longer workouts or even those who are short on time but still need to get their workout in for the day.
This does not mean that 20 minutes is the cutoff for everyone. If you have a little extra time and do not feel as though those 20 minutes did anything for you, feel free to add an extra 10 or even 20 more minutes to your routine. Just remember not to over exercise and always warm up before and cool down after the workout.
How Long Should I Row To Lose Weight?
Unfortunately, there is no blanket answer for this question. Weight loss is an incredibly personal journey that looks very different in different people. As we’ve seen above in the ‘rowing calories burned’ section, your weight and the intensity of your workout determines how many calories you burn.
Same thing applies in long-term rowing. Just because 1 person lost 10 pounds in the first month rowing 15 minutes a day, doesn’t mean that if you follow their routine the same thing will happen to you. Remember, other than intensity of exercise and starting weight, other factors that determine weight loss include age, genetics, diet, race, amount of sleep per night, and even stress levels.
Work at your own pace and try not to constantly compare your progress to others
The Bottom Line: Is Rowing For Weight Loss Good?
Yes, it is. This is a fantastic way to burn fat and calories. Whether done indoors or outside on a body of water, when combined with a healthy calorie deficit workout, rowing will have you fitting into those jeans in no time.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (2021, health.harvard.edu)
- Control of the Power of Strokes and Muscle Activities in Cyclic Rowing Movements (a Research using Rowing Simulators) (2016, link.springer.com)
- Effects of Indoor Rowing Exercise on the Body Composition and the Scoliosis of Visually Impaired People: A Preliminary Study (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How to Choose Home Exercise Equipment (n.d., arthritis.org)
- The Effect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat (2011, journals.lww.com)