Simple Rowing Machine Warmup and Workout

Rowing on an Indoor rowing machine is an incredibly efficient, full-body workout that allows the athlete to build both anaerobic and aerobic endurance, muscular strength, stamina and flexibility at the same time. However, if there is a lack of proper technique, experience or warm-up, it can lead to misuse, muscular fatigue and injury.

Basic Warm Up Before Using The Rowing Machine

The best way to think about using a rowing machine is like preparing to go for a run. Firstly, you do dynamic stretches like leg swing to get the blood pumping in the appropriate areas.

Once you are on the erg, adjust the hight of the screen so that it is at eye level, for tall people this will help a lot as you will no longer have to be looking downwards at the screen. This will support the natural position that your back will be in for the duration of the row. If it is too short, you will naturally have a slumping back and you will develop back pains at a much faster rate.

Once on the rowing machine, I would recommend rowing at a steady state a low stroke rate (anywhere between 20- 24) so that you can prime your legs for the workout itself. What I do before I start my workout is I tend to start rowing with my arms initially for about 100m, then I bring in my body, and then the legs so that I can practice the movements that I will be doing on the machine.

This style of warm-up will also help me to be more efficient in my workout as the less effort I put into these movements, the more work I can put into the the workout. To maximize my efficiency I should practice the recovery stage of the stroke.

The Recovery Phase of the stroke: you should put minimum effort to maximize recovery.

For those who don’t know this stage, it is when you have finished a stroke and then gradually pull your head towards the screen by flowing with your hands forward, then pivoting from the hips and when you feel the strain on your hamstrings, pop up your knees and get ready for the next stroke. It is critical that this phase is done with minimum effort as you want to use as little energy as possible going into the next stroke.

When you are ready to go into the workout itself, it is critical that you know what you want to get out of the workout.

Low vs High Stroke Rate Workout

If you are wanting to build  a more aerobic base of fitness, it would be wise to row for long distances or time, at a low stroke rate (like in the warm up) so that your heart rate remains at a high bpm for a long time. This is best at the start of a training/ competing season when you want a core fitness base.

Currently I am in the heat of the racing season so I should be training with a higher stroke rate (26+) for short periods of time and distances to build my anaerobic threshold and endurance.

When doing either of these styles of exercises you will eventually develop a strong fitness base with the added benefit of muscle tonnage and development. However, this fitness style is required to be done at least every two days or more so that it can be either sustained or built upon.


For people who do water sports such as kayaking, waka ama, dragon boating and rowing, in a competitive sense this critical to your success.

From the base fitness level that you would develop using a rowing machine, you would then be able to train harder and longer on the water which then attributes to your physical and mental development.

Having this base of fitness in combination with your on water training will rapidly build your all-round fitness as you are essentially performing the same bodily movement  over and over again.

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