What is the most efficient way of exercising on the rowing machine?
February 26, 2008 3:43 PM   Subscribe

What's the most efficient way of exercising on the rowing machine? Got any tips?

So I've got a 30-45mins for a bit of erg/rowing machine training, including a short warmup. What's the best way to use this time for maximum burn? Also, time or distance... choices, choices. I've heard some say to go for a solid 30min/5-7km row, and others saying intervals of varying lengths. Which is the way to go?

Also, given the choice of exercising before breakfast, before dinner, or 10-11pm, which one would you go for?

Finally, as a bonus, fire away if you have any tips for the last 25%... it always kills me bad.
posted by dragontail to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I think just rowing for one pace and distance is incredibly boring, and that's part of what leads to the dreaded "last 25%" problem. This is a simple workout that I enjoy and use pretty often when I row alone. It's called 4-3-2-1:

4 minutes at 20 strokes per minute
3 minutes at 22 spm
2 minutes at 24 spm
1 minute at 26 spm

Repeat for 30 or 40 minutes. Work on going farther each workout, as an overall goal, and work on lowering your split (500 meter) time for each of the intervals every time you start over at 20. You will come to find that the 20 pieces are harder than the 26es, because you're moving slower so you lose more of the kinetic energy of the flywheel. Keeping up a good split at 20 spm will leave you sweating. I'm a guy of average size and fitness level, and I can maintain a 2:16 average over 40 minutes of that routine. I'm trying to get below 2:10.
posted by autojack at 4:12 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't know what sort of training you want to do or what your goals are, but have you checked out some of the workouts available at Concept2's indoor training area? (I'm not affiliated with them in any way; a friend of mine was fairly serious about rowing, though, and took part in several indoor rowing competitions.) Just a thought.
posted by t2urner at 4:29 PM on February 26, 2008

30 minutes on the rower is an accomplishment and can be tedious and boring, as autojack as mentioned. My boss is an exercise physiologist and a very successful long distance runner. She only rows for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, max. I'm no exercise physiologist, but if it were me, I would break it up into two 15 minute sessions.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:53 PM on February 26, 2008

probably not a necessary comment, but proper form is essential to a good workout on the erg and not terribly hurting yourself. So make sure you know what you're doing.
posted by Large Marge at 5:03 PM on February 26, 2008

I'm an advocate of heart rate and interval training (and I row), so I like autojack's suggestion of the repeated builds of strokes per minute. Depending on where the 26 spm puts your heart rate, I'd suggest adding another minute of ~90% heart rate if that's not a number you hit during the build (assuming your health is fine, etc., IANAD).

In terms of when to exercise, I vote for exercising before breakfast for a few reasons:
- Less opportunity to find an excuse later to put off the workout
- Builds a good appetite for breakfast, which tends to be a healthier meal than dinner for most people
- Evening exercise can disrupt sleep patterns for some people.

For the last 25%... well, I use a few crutches: music, movies and monitoring. Create a playlist of songs to motivate you through that last leg, or set up the rower so you can fire up a DVD and watch something you like, or put up a chart to track your distance, time, etc. and keep you competitive with yourself. Or all three.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:54 PM on February 26, 2008

My old Erg workout plan -

A quick warmup, emulating the in-boat warmup we did. Maybe 2 minutes, total.
Quick arms-only strokes
Arms and Back
Arms back, and just barely pop the knees
3/4 strokes
Full strokes

A good 2K - pull maybe 2-3 power tens (10 awesome strokes - really push it), and sprint out the last 500 meters or so - bring the stroke rate up over 32/34. If you can't keep control at that stroke rate, don't sweat it - just keep as high a stroke rate as you can while maintaining control.

A long, slow, 5K. Low stroke rate, fairly quick on the stroke, and very. slow. up. the. slide.

Then finish off with either another 2K, or 2 1Ks. The double 1K is a lot easier, but if you can manage to pull a good 2K after already having done 7K, you'll really be pushing.

And of course, take some time in between these - walk around, drink a little bit of water, cool down by sitting on the Erg and just going up and down the slide. It's an exhausting workout, but man, I've never been in better shape than when I was a rower.
posted by god hates math at 7:12 PM on February 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think you need to define "efficient." Are you increasing capacity (intervals)? Burning calories (long, slower)? Or what? Only you know what your goals are, but there are good suggestions above, especially looking at the C2 suggested workouts.

As for time of day, there may be minor physiological differences, but the one that works for you so that you actually do it consistently is best. For me before dinner is the only time that I can actually manage regularly.

Getting through the last section? The last part feels harder whether you are rowing for 20 minutes or 90. I prefer to row long and steady, usually at least 10K often longer, so I know the effect. It sometimes helps if you can zone out (my iPod helps: I have listened to audio books, but I usually listen to jazz or classical music, nothing with a beat that jars with the rhythm of a stroke every two to three seconds), but I think the real trick is pacing. If you row enough to know how the different 500M paces feel if you keep going at that pace then you can choose a pace that will feel doable for the next 1/5/20/40/60/90 minutes. If the pace feels right you know you can keep going, even if you are stretching yourself, till the next rest/segment/the end.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:59 PM on February 26, 2008

I've been using the weight-loss program offered by the Concept2 UK site and I'm thrilled with the results. I've been pleased with the fitness gains I've made, and more pleased, still, that the approach has challenged me, but not proved too much, too soon. I wouldn't have imagined that I'd be quite so enthusiastic about rowing anywhere from 20 minutes to 50 minutes at a time... but I have been.

I've been sidelined for the last few weeks now with a blood-clot (unrelated to rowing, I should add) and I'm really quite eager to get back on the rower again.
posted by deCadmus at 9:46 PM on February 26, 2008

I like mixing in some other exercises with the rowing. These can all be done with minimal equipment. These were previous Crossfit Workouts of the Day (all are to be done as quickly as possible):

Lunge 100m
Row 1000m
100 Squats (with just bodyweight)


Row 500 m
30 pull ups
Row 1000 m
20 pull ups
Row 2000 m
10 pull ups


Row 1000 m
25 Double-Unders (with a jumprope, bringing rope under twice on each jump)
Row 750 m
50 DU
Row 500 m
100 DU


5 Rounds of:
Row 500 m
50 Squats (with body weight)
50 Back Extensions (could be Supermans or on a blue ball)


"Michael" 3 Rounds of:
Row 1000
50 sit ups
50 back exetension
posted by tiburon at 8:34 AM on February 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks guys, I think I'll have to try out these ones you suggested.
posted by dragontail at 4:15 PM on February 27, 2008

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