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3 Rowing Machine Workouts for Speed, Endurance, and Strength

Spend your cross-training days getting a full-body cardio sweat.

rowing machine workout
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We get it: You love riding and that’s all you want to do for your physical activity. But here’s the thing, mixing in some cross-training is actually key to being able to keep riding.

“Cross-training is important to prevent injury and strengthen the muscles you don’t use on the bike,” says Alex Silver-Fagan, an ACE-certified personal trainer and Nike master trainer. Rowing does this particularly well. “Your anterior body (like your chest) is hunched forward on a bike, and rowing opens these muscles up while strengthening the posterior side of the body (like your back and the back of your legs),” Silver-Fagan says.

Rowing machine workouts also allow you to push your intensity without impact, which is especially useful for injury prevention. (No pounding or jumping while you’re rowing!) Plus, Silver-Fagan says the rower is one of the few machines that provides both cardio and strength benefits. “You use 80 percent of your muscles when rowing, namely your legs, the largest muscles in your body.” And of course, stronger legs come in handy on the bike.

Ready to row? Silver-Fagan put together three rowing workouts that will make you a stronger cyclist and a better overall athlete. Do each one weekly for max benefits on—and off—the bike.



Rowing Workout for Speed

To be faster on the bike, you need to be faster on the rowing machine. “These are sprint intervals, so your split times need to be around 1:50 or lower,” Silver-Fagan says. There’s just one caveat: “Stroke rate should be around 28 to 32, but not over 32,” she says. “That’s when your form starts to break down.”

  • 100 meter row, 30 seconds of rest, repeat 5 times
  • 150 meter row, 45 seconds of rest, repeat 5 times
  • 200 meter row, 60 seconds of rest, repeat 5 times
  • 2 minutes of rest
  • 200 meter row, 60 seconds of rest, repeat 5 times
  • 150 meter row, 45 seconds of rest, repeat 5 times
  • 100 meter row, 30 seconds of rest, repeat 5 times

    Rowing Workout for Endurance

    “Your stroke rate should be between 25 and 28, pushing hard but not crazy fast,” Silver-Fagan says. “Split time should hover around 2 minutes and become lower towards the end of each push.”

    • 1-minute row, 30-second rest: Hold drive position (a.k.a. sit at back of machine with legs straight) and do arm strokes while resting
    • 2-minute row, 60-second rest (30 seconds true rest; 30 seconds holding drive position at back of machine, doing arm strokes while resting)
    • 3-minute row, 90-second rest (30 seconds true rest; 30 seconds holding drive position at back of machine doing arm strokes while resting; 30 seconds of just leg strokes: arms stay straight, straighten and bend legs)
    • 4-minute row, 2-minute rest (60 seconds true rest; 30 seconds holding drive position at back of machine doing arm strokes while resting; 30 seconds of just leg strokes: arms stay straight, straighten and bend legs)
    • 5-minute row

      Rowing Workout for Full-Body Cross-Training

      The rowing machine already works a ton of muscles, but this workout gets you off the machine for a true full-body challenge. “This workout is the total package,” Silver-Fagan says. “You’ll work your core, legs, and arms, then do some metabolic conditioning with burpees.” Sorry in advance for that last part.

      • 5-minute easy row warm-up
      • 10 pulls on the rowing machine, 5 push-ups, 5 V-ups. Repeat 2 more times.
      • 20 pulls on the rowing machine, 10 reverse lunges, 10 squat jumps. Repeat 2 more times.
      • 30 pulls on the rowing machine, 10 burpees. Repeat 2 more times.
      • 30-second row, 30-second plank hold off the rower. Repeat 5 times.
      • Cool down
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