How to Start an Indoor Rowing Training Program

Updated: May 22, 2020

How to transform your body - stroke by stroke

“Rowers do more before 8:00 am than most people do all day”.


Rowing has been a competitive sport for centuries and one of the first official sports in modern Olympic history. It activates almost all muscle groups of the body and increases the size of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles.

While indoor rowing offers the same health and fitness benefits as traditional rowing, it’s a more accessible workout option that can be integrated into almost any fitness routine.

Indoor rowing is one of the most effective yet safe options for cardiovascular workouts.

And as it builds endurance while adding muscles, it's a great workout for people that don't have time to spend hours in the gym.

This post will help you to understand what you need to consider when starting an indoor rowing routine and how you can use rowing to take your fitness journey to the next level:

What do you need to do before starting an indoor rowing routine?

Make sure you’re ready

If you're new to exercising or are suffering from any chronic condition or acute injury, it's crucial to check in with your healthcare provider before getting started.

Even if indoor rowing is considered as a safe option for cardiovascular training, it's important to get clearance from your physician, especially if you have a history of sports injuries.

Set targets for your indoor rowing journey

When you're ready to go, it's time to set your personal fitness targets, which will help you to choose the best workout options.

For example, if your major target is to build muscles, you might consider shorter rowing intervals combined with strength training.

If you're looking into burning fat, on the other hand, choosing a rowing-based High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) might be a better option to reach your goal.

Get educated on proper rowing technique

Correct rowing form makes rowing a safe workout suitable for almost all fitness levels. However, an improper technique can lead to sports injuries such as knee or lower back pain.

Common mistakes include rounding your back and shoulders or not engaging your core.

Click HERE to learn more about rowing technique.

How can you make the most out of your indoor rowing workouts?

Switch up your workout routines regularly

Rowing at the same intensity every time you’re exercising is not only boring but will also impact your weight loss or fitness goals. One reason for that is that your body will become calorie-efficient, i.e., burn fewer calories.

Apart from that, you will not improve your fitness level without adding new challenges.

You can avoid this by changing workout intensity, duration, or by adding other exercises (weight training, yoga, etc.) to the mix.

Track your progress

Various studies have shown that tracking your progress can improve exercise results and program adherence.

According to research conducted by Athletic Health System, tracking fitness data is most impactful when the tracked data are easily accessible. Participants that tracked their exercise progress using a fitness tracker and accessed their data through an app were more active than participants that used a fitness tracker without access to their data.

Most indoor rowing machines allow you to track distance, speed, calories burned, which will give you valuable insights on your performance and keep you motivated to push yourself hard.

Plan recovery days

Recovery days are crucial to give your body time to rest and to adjust to your training.

Neglecting your body's needs will lead to over-training or sports injuries. According to fitness expert Pete McCall, the overtraining syndrome (OTS) can also cause weight gain, insomnia, or poor immune system function.

Recovery days don't necessarily mean that you have to lie on the couch. You can try a gentle yoga class, go for a walk, or do mobility training.

Consistency is key

Giving your body enough time to adapt to a new routine is crucial to transform your body.

If you're a beginner, you can start with 2 - 3 workouts per week. If you're already following a training routine and want to take your fitness level, you can workout 3 - 6 days per week as long as you take enough time for recovery (see above).

Give yourself at least 6 weeks before dropping out of your indoor rowing program or switching to a new workout routine.

Fuel according to your goals

Nutritional strategies are crucial to reach your fitness goals. For example, if you focus on weight loss, you might consider fasted workouts.

If you're trying to improve your performance, on the other hand, you should try to eat easily digestible carbs before an intense rowing session and refuel within 1 - 2 hours after. According to endurance expert Jeff Godin, Ph.D., a meal with a 3:1 ratio of carbs and protein is ideal for a post-workout meal.

Be prepared

There’s nothing worse than making time for exercise only to sit on the rowing machine and not knowing what to do. Having a plan for a workout or following a workout video can help you to avoid this.

Join classes featuring world-class instructors who guide and inspire you through our indoor rowing, yoga, strength, or HIIT workouts. Our portable iOS app combines streaming HD video, heart-pumping music, real-time metrics, and a competitive leaderboard.

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