Indoor Rowing and HIIT - A Match Made in Heaven?

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Photo by Kyle Kranz on Unsplash

Why indoor rowing and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) are the perfect workout combo

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been gaining popularity over the last years. According to an industry survey by the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT is the №1 fitness trend in the US in 2019.

Indoor rowing is another trend among fitness enthusiasts. Why are these two forms of training so popular and – more importantly – why are they such a great match?

#1 HIIT and indoor rowing can help you to lose weight

According to research, HIIT sessions result in a significantly higher reduction of subcutaneous fat than traditional cardio training.

One reason for this an increase in EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) after High-Intensity Interval Training. EPOC is associated with an elevated energy consumption after the workout and thus helps you to burn calories for up to 24 hours after you have finished your training session.

HIIT can be performed on any cardio machine. However, indoor rowing seems to outshine all other activities:

According to Fred C. Hagerman, Ph.D., professor of physiology at Ohio University, exercise on rowing ergometers exceeds the power output of most other activities by placing a significant level of stress on the muscles. This leads to higher energy expenditure during workouts as well as to higher EPOC.

#2 High-Intensity Interval Training on an indoor rowing machine improves aerobic AND anaerobic fitness

Indoor rowing is a great workout that allows you to build strength and aerobic fitness at the same time. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), High-Intensity Interval Training improves aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

That’s why HIIT on an indoor rowing machine is the perfect combination for fitness as well as for sports conditioning.

#3 Indoor Rowing HIIT provides you with a full-body workout

While HIIT workouts on a treadmill or exercise bike are great lower body workouts, they don’t activate the muscles of the upper body as much as indoor rowing.

Focusing only on certain muscle groups can lead to muscle imbalances and increase your risk of sports injuries.

Indoor rowing, on the other hand, works all major muscle groups and can thus help you to have an effective full-body workout.

#4 Indoor rowing HIIT workouts are easy on your knees

While some HIIT workouts that include plyometrics or running can be tough on your knees, indoor rowing provides you with intense workouts that place less stress on your knee joints. By sitting on the rower, your body weight is transferred to the rower's seat and not your knees. Your knees then simply serve as the fulcrum for extending and contracting your legs as opposed to also holding your bodyweight.

How can you perform a HIIT workout on an indoor rowing machine?

HIIT workouts are characterized by short bursts of intense exercise followed by a recovery period.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the intense bursts can range anywhere from 5 seconds to 8 minutes and are performed at 80% to 90% of a person’s maximal heart rate while recovery intervals are performed at 40% — 50%.

Beginners can start with short, high-intensity interval lasting from 15 – 60 seconds, followed by longer rest periods of 60, 90, or 120 seconds. The length of the intense intervals can then be progressed by around 5 - 10% every week.

Tabata Training is another way to structure your HIIT. Tabata Training is named after a study by Professor Izumi Tabata: it consists of 20 seconds of intense exercise, followed by a 10- second rest period. This cycle is repeated 8 times.

Tabata Training is perfect for days when you’re pressed for time. Apart from that, they can be used as a “finisher” after a traditional cardio or strength training session.

HIIT can also be a mix of intervals on the rowing machine combined with bodyweight exercises. For example, you can perform a 30-second plank after each 2 – 5 minutes of intense rowing and repeat that cycle for 3 – 5 times.

To avoid boredom and to keep your body guessing, it's best to alternate between workout routines. You can find a variety of HIIT workouts in the Regatta Fitness App. All of them taught by experienced rowing instructors. Classes can be joined live or on-demand.

What do you have to consider before starting a HIIT indoor rowing exercise protocol?

If you’re suffering from a chronic condition or haven’t been active for a while, it’s important to get clearance from your physician before starting an exercise program.

If you’re new to fitness, it might also make sense to start with some weeks of steady-state cardio before progressing to a HIIT protocol. This will help you to prevent injuries and avoid frustration.

When you’re ready to start your High-Intensity Interval Training program, you can use the Regatta Fitness App for beginner HIIT programs.

What else should you consider when you start an Indoor Rowing HIIT program?

Pay attention to your rowing form

In order to stay injury-free and get the most out of your training sessions, it's essential to learn good rowing form before getting started.

The Coaches that instruct Regatta sessions provide you with instructions on proper rowing form and show you how to train most effectively. You can also check out this article from Conept2 to learn more.

Make time for sufficient recovery

Making time for recovery (low-impact) workouts, yoga and, mobility sessions is crucial when following a HIIT program. Performing strenuous workouts every day will increase your risk of injury and over-training. If you're an advanced rower, you can do a HIIT workout every other day. If you're a beginner, a 72-hour break between intense sessions will provide you with sufficient recovery time.

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