Are Rowing Machines Good for Weight Loss? Are They Effective?

When I’m in a mind to exercise, I want to know that my workout will make a difference. My main concern is to lose belly fat. Excessive belly fat and large waists increase the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure and other health problems.

You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get into an exercise routine and keep yourself trim, so you can enjoy a long and happy life.

Regarding the best way in which to lose weight, a consensus seems to have arisen that rowing machines, or ‘ergometers’ are pretty good options for losing weight, possibly even excelling more than other exercises like bicycles and ellipticals.

Here is the science

Rowing provides a combination of cardiovascular workout with muscle development as well as fat burning through a resistance workout. There is a close relation between cardio workouts and fat loss – as you exercise and build up a sweat, you work your muscles, including your heart, the most important muscle in your body. All these muscles burn energy while being used, in the form of fat. So as you lose weight, you also work your heart.

Exercises that purportedly ‘target’ specific parts of the body for fat loss are misleading – exercise doesn’t work this way. It comes off the entire body as a whole. The key question is the total number of calories burned, not which muscle groups are used. Rowing machines utilise a wide range of muscles on both your upper and lower body, making them excellent calorie burners. Rowing might just be the most efficient exercise ever for that reason.

Maximising fat loss

There are two main strategies to use in tandem for losing the most fat – HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and LISS (Low Intensity Steady State). HIIT is a short, intense burst of anaerobic activity, say for twenty minutes.


It’s also cardio, strengthening your muscles and burning considerably more energy and therefore lose fat faster. LISS, as you might have guessed, is a reversion to a less intensive workout over a longer duration to help your body recover from HIIT and break down lactic acid in your muscles from the anaerobic exercise.

According to Nutristrategy.com, a 70kg person can burn about 850 calories in an hour long session using HIIT and LISS together. That means that four hours of rowing a week will lose 500g of fat.

Harvard Medical School studies indicated that an 80kg person can burn 377 calories in 30 minutes, which is one of the highest energy-burn rates among typical gym exercise machines. Pennsylvania State University rates rowing machines above treadmills and exercise bikes for their calorie burning abilities.

Research at Pennsylvania State University found that rowing machines are superior to treadmills at burning fat, and burns two to three times more calories than exercise bikes, and there is all sorts of advice and a selection of routines available online to cater to specific exercise goals. Ellipticals burn more, but rowing is still on the higher end of the scale of exercise intensities, ahead of weight lifting, yoga, calisthenics, aerobics, and stair stepping.

Pacing Yourself

Rowing is a full-body exercise, and it keeps the heart rate elevated. There’s a considerable degree of leg and arm work involved, meaning there’s a huge muscle development side to it as well. These two impacts will make drastic positive changes to your physique.

For this reason, while it can burn tons of calories, you’ll exhaust yourself far sooner than if you were used a bike or treadmill. Technique, pacing and posture are essential to get the most out of your rowing machine.

Jack Nunn, a former US Under 23 national rowing team member, has a number of great exercise routines to get some intense cardio workout, involving 30-second ‘sprints’ of high intensity followed by 30 seconds of low intensity rowing, with some squats or pushups mixed in every now and then. This will keep your heart rate and your breathing up, meaning you’ll melt loads of calories.

It’s recommended to pay attention to the rowing machine’s display console and use a heart rate monitor to ensure your exercise is properly paced and your heart rate remains at an elevated level. These two techniques together can help you exercise with the rowing machine over a long period and burn plenty of calories.

Conclusion

It’s clear, then, I hope, that rowing machines are highly effective choices for losing weight through exercise. Not only do they strengthen the heart, but through stressing many major muscle groups, they make your body burn energy at a rapid rate and develop your muscles to being greater fat burners even when not exercising.

As long as you develop an exercise routine on the rowing machine that suits you and makes the most of your recovery time after bouts of intense workout, you ought to see the pounds fall away.

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