How to lose weight using a rowing machine

How to lose weight using a rowing machine
(Image credit: Getty)

Want to know how to lose weight using a rowing machine? You’re not alone. According to CDC data published in 2018, almost half of all adult Americans tried to lose weight in the previous 12 months. No matter what exercise program or fitness machine you use, achieving a healthy weight can improve your confidence as well as reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. If you’re committed to taking the steps to a leaner physique, then read on for expert advice about how to lose weight using a rowing machine

While weight loss isn’t necessarily easy, there’s a simple equation behind it. To lose weight, you’ll need to burn more calories than you take in — this is called being in a calorie deficit. A workout on a rowing machine burns a significant number of calories in a short time, which can make it a great tool in your weight loss strategy.

Rowing machines can work an incredible 85% of muscles in the body, which makes it an efficient way to work out for those that are short on time. We’ll cover the science behind how rowing machines can help with fat loss and we’ll ask the experts for practical tips to get started. We've also found three easy steps to lose weight without dieting, and five lessons to learn from Adele's amazing weight loss. Alternatively, rowing machines aren't the only way to get a good workout — we've found the best treadmills and the best exercise bikes for upping your miles indoors this year. 

Is a rowing machine good for weight loss?

So how can rowing machines help us achieve our weight loss goals? Sekia Mangum, NASM certified personal trainer and coach at Orangetheory Fitness, told Tom's Guide that fat loss can be a more meaningful goal than weight loss. According to Mangum, "Weight loss is simply decreasing the number on a scale — which can be generic and doesn’t accurately reflect a person’s overall health. Fat loss refers to weight loss from your body fat percentage, and it’s a more specific, healthful goal."

Fast weight loss can often be the result of losing water or muscle mass, which isn’t what most should be striving for when lowering numbers on a scale. Often, loss of water weight or muscle mass can easily be regained, giving the end user some confusing statistics. Body fat percentage looks at fat as a proportion of your overall weight and can be a good way to track healthy weight loss.

How to lose weight using a rowing machine: image shows women using rowing machines in the gym

(Image credit: Gettyu)

If you’re looking to lose weight without also losing healthy muscle, regular exercise that burns calories can help you move towards your goals. Mangum went on to say, "Rowing is a form of cardio, so it can be used to burn calories to help an individual maintain a caloric deficit. Any form of cardio will increase the number of calories you burn." Rowing machines have been proven to be capable of burning a high amount of calories in a relatively short amount of time.

As a guide, figures published by Harvard Health show that in just 30 minutes, a person weighing 155 pounds could burn 252 calories in a moderate workout or an impressive 369 calories in a vigorous workout.

Opting for a high-intensity workout such as using a rowing machine can be an efficient way to burn calories, especially if you’re short on time. On top of that, the number of muscles that a rowing machine engages means that it can count as a form of strength training too. By working out on a rowing machine, you can improve muscle tone and reduce your body fat percentage. Even better, the greater proportion of muscle you have, the faster your resting metabolism will be. This can mean that you'll be able to burn more calories — even while resting.

How to lose weight using a rowing machine

Rowing machine sessions are versatile; they can act as a stand-alone workout or can be intervals within high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Sekia advises that "experts suggest adults get 150-300 minutes of cardiovascular training per week. So, an example would be spending 30 to 45 minutes on the rower four days per week. An athlete needs to maintain or build muscle mass to aid in fat loss, so exercise on the rower combined with an adequate amount of protein can help maximize results."

When it comes to losing weight using a rowing machine, Sekia recommends incorporating rowing machine exercises into a HIIT workout to maximize fat loss. Consistency is key to seeing and feeling results — you’ll want to commit to between 3 and 4 workouts a week. Sekia advises that: "a minimum of 12 weeks of consistent exercise and nutrition is needed for a noticeable change in fat loss."

How to lose weight using a rowing machine: image shows man using a rowing machine

(Image credit: Getty)

Sekia developed the following HIIT rowing workout to get you started. She suggests using dumbbells for the strength training exercises to maximize the benefits.


5-minute easy row, 1-minute rest 


Set 1: 40-second sprint row, 20-second rest (5 rounds)

Set 2: Reverse lunge to bicep curl x10, squat to shoulder press x10 (3 rounds). Add dumbbells to increase the challenge.

Set 3: 30-second sprint row, 30-second rest (5 rounds)

Set 4: Reverse lunge to bicep curl x10, squat to shoulder press x10 (3 rounds). Add dumbbells to increase the challenge.

Set 5: 20-second sprint row, 40-second rest (5 rounds)

Cool Down 

Three-minute easy row

If you’re looking to sculpt and tone, a rowing machine can help burn calories. In combination with healthy eating, this can then be an effective part of your strategy for sustainable and healthy fat loss. 

Next: You can read about what happened when I rowed a mile a day for two weeks.

Louise Bond

Louise Bond is a UK-based writer specializing in health and wellbeing. She has over eight years of experience in management within health and care and brings this passion and expertise to her writing. Louise has been published in The GuardianPlanet Mindful and Psychreg among others. She is at her happiest when she is out in nature, whether that’s on an invigorating hike or pottering in the garden.