rowing workout


If your workout involves swimming but you don’t have access to a pool, you may be left scratching your head wondering just how the heck to make it work.

In this article, we will talk about how the rowing machine is a great alternative to your swim workouts, and give you 2 workouts to add to your routine.

Benefits of Rowing Workouts

A rowing machine is a low-impact alternative to swimming. During a rowing workout all the major muscle groups used in swimming will definitely get fired up. These workouts are also a great way to train the following attributes:

• Power (think explosive)
• Aerobic capacity (long and slow)
• Anaerobic capacity (fast and aggressive)

Adjusting your Rower Damper Settings

If you’re not familiar, most rowing machines have an adjustable wheel with the numbers 1-10 labeled on the side. Adjusting this wheel (also known as “the damper setting”) allows more or less airflow into the flywheel.

What this means for us…

It means that we can make our rowing workouts easier or harder simply by adjusting the wheel somewhere between level 1 and level 10.

• Level 1 setting = very easy 
• Level 5 setting = moderate effort
• Level 10 setting = very hard

Using a very light setting, between 1-2, is ideal for an easy warmup.
Using a very hard setting, between 9-10, is best for bigger guys doing short sprints.

For longer duration row workouts (ie...rowing 2000 meters or more) you’ll want to stay somewhere in the 3-5 setting range.

For shorter sprint workouts you’ll probably get your best results from staying at a setting of about 5-8.

For our workouts below, we will be using the above guide and leaving settings 9 and 10 alone for now.

 Adjusting your Rower Foot Straps

Once you’ve set the damper settings to the appropriate level for the type of workout you are doing the only other issue to address is the foot straps.

Most rowers have adjustable footpads with straps attached to them. You’ll want to adjust the footpads so they are snug against your shoes; but not overly tight.

However, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve REALLY  tightened down the straps, so you don’t go flying off the rower on your first big pull. You’ll also be able to generate much more power with the straps on vs. straps off (or loose).

Rowing Workouts

ROW WORKOUT #1 - Aggressive sprint
Row 150 meters as fast as possible

Rest 60 seconds between rounds

Note: Anything under 0:38 per interval is pretty quick here.

ROW WORKOUT #2 - Medium length sprint
Row 500m as fast as possible

Rest 90 seconds between rounds

Note: Anything under 2:00 per interval is fairly fast.

ROW WORKOUT #3 - Painful workout
Row 2000 meters as fast as possible

Note: Anything under 8:00 is fast. Rowing fast for 2,000m is also an incredible test of mental toughness. Rest assured, this one hurts, but it’s only your mind that will make you slow down (or stop).

Final thoughts

If you don't have access to a pool (or even just want to take a break from the pool) subbing in a rowing workout is an excellent alternative. Again, you’ll work the same major muscles as swimming and can also crush aggressive sprint workouts, which may be harder to replicate in a pool setting.