Rowing machine: train properly with the classic

Rowing machines are available in different designs and offer top full-body training – if you do it right. How do you row yourself to your best? We have the most important tips for you about technique, workload and training program.

The fact that rowing ergometers are true all-rounders was first recognized by classic fitness studios and properly upgraded. “In the last three to four years, the proportion of rowing machines sold has increased steadily,” says Sebastian Campmann, Purchasing Manager at Sport-Tiedje : “Just five years ago, rowing machines were exotic.


Now they are extremely popular with many exercisers. “According to Campmann, the reasons for the growth are obvious:” This is because the demands are much higher than, for example, when cycling – but the training effect is also greater. ” 

At the same time, the models have become more stylish and, in contrast to indoor bikes and treadmills , can be folded up or placed vertically on the wall to save space.

The fact that rowing ergometers are regularly used, for example, in crossfit and functional training courses that focus on the full-body workout has also contributed to the rise in popularity. 

In contrast to rowing on the water, which requires a pronounced sense of balance, especially in one person, the exact sequences of movements on the rowing machine are quite easy to learn. 

In addition, you are independent of the time of day and weather during your workout, although real forces of nature are also used during ergometer training.


That brings you training on the rowing machine

Indoor rowing is so popular: the revival of the rowing ergometer reaches its peak, especially in the cold winter months.
But what variants are there? And what does it bring you?

Experts have long since agreed: To improve your heart, circulation and physical fitness in general as well as strengthen your core muscles, rowing machine training is the perfect sport

– because it also strengthens leg, shoulder and arm muscles. And that evenly and gentle on the joints. Above all, the cross is gently strengthened.

This optimizes posture and is great against back problems at work and in everyday life: the entire supporting muscles of the spine are strengthened. Overall, according to Campmann, “around 85 percent of the skeletal muscles are trained.

More than any other device. ”In addition, many calories are lost with every puff: a woman weighing 55 kilograms has around 550 calories per hour.


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Rowing machines: Three different systems dominate

There are essentially three different drive and braking systems: magnet, wind and water.

  1. With the magnetic brake, permanent magnets or electromagnets provide the desired resistance. This system can be easily adjusted and allows very round rowing movements.
  2. With wind propulsion, on the other hand, like a wind turbine, air is displaced with every stroke of the row. The higher the selected resistance, the more air flows into the wind turbine and the heavier the oar pull becomes. The wind generated can even provide a little refreshment so that nobody has to be breathless. In some cases there are air and magnet systems also combined as a hybrid device.
  3. Ergometers with water resistance come closest to real rowing. “They are perceived as very pleasant because they simulate the resistance as on the water and create a great splashing noise,” says Campmann. In some models, a paddle is pulled through a water drum, in others the oar pull lifts a fixed amount of water.

Check: 5 current rowing machines from 800 to 3000 euros!


Not all rowing ergometers are created equal – there are different drive and braking systems, technical innovations, innovative designs. These five devices don’t just get your heart rate up.

More important than the type of resistance, however, is that it can be individually adjusted – preferably continuously.

A training computer that measures the distance covered, stroke frequency, wattage and the total workout time and can usually be linked to an activity tracker or smartwatch is integrated in practically all devices. It also provides preprogrammed plans for specific training goals.


Rowing machine: the right technique


Indoor rowing is all about powerful, yet calm and even movements.

Beginners on the rowing trainer should do about 20 even strokes per minute. The minimum training session is 15 minutes – ideally three times a week. At the beginning of the training, you first set your resistance and position and fix your feet on the stretcher boards. 

The effectiveness of your training depends, among other things, on the ideal sitting position and good force distribution between arms and legs. If you focus on footwork, your core and arm training will be less effective.

Our technical tips for the rowing ergometer: How to row properly!

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Load control on the rowing ergometer

When training, it is important to have an optimal load intensity, and you can determine this using the correct pulse rate. You can either measure your resting heart rate in the morning before you get up and use the measurement to determine your training frequency using our heart rate formula.

It is better and more accurate to measure the heart rate using a  heart rate monitor . With many devices, upper and lower limits can be set for a correct stress intensity, which are determined on the basis of a previously carried out test.

You can usually tell that the intensity is too high by the fact that the exercise has to be stopped after a relatively short time. You should be able to maintain the right intensity for the entire duration of your training on the rowing machine.


Rowing machine – at home or in the studio?

In gyms there are usually several rowing machines in a row. If you are already a member of the fitness club, ask one of the trainers for detailed instructions. Indoor rowers for at home are available in price ranges from 150 to approx. 2000 euros.

You can load all common models with a body weight of up to 100 kg. There are devices with air, magnetic, water and hydraulic resistance. More important than the type of resistance, however, is that you can adjust it individually – preferably continuously. For your self-tracking: a training computer that supports the

  • distance traveled
  • Beats per minute and
  • total training time

is integrated in most devices.


3 tips for beginners on the rowing machine


Flavio Holstein from Augletics was German runner-up and in the national team of the German rowing association. Here are his best tips for beginners:


  1. Correct order: First push yourself off with your legs, then lean your upper body back slightly and only then pull your arms towards your body. To return to the starting position, it is exactly the other way around: first straighten your arms, then lay your upper body forward and finally pull your legs forward.
  2. Pay attention to the rhythm: pull the handle quickly back against your body and then slowly return to the starting position. This gives you time to breathe deeply after each puff and you can hold out longer. By the way: professionals usually train with a beat rate (shown on many devices in the top right corner of the display) of 20 beats per minute. The decisive factor for the speed is not only the number of strokes, but above all the power when pulling through.
  3. Coaching: To avoid bad posture and to row even more efficiently, get regular feedback from a professional. If there is no trainer available, modern devices have integrated a virtual rowing trainer that evaluates your technique and shows you suggestions for improvement.

    By the way, when rowing, the most important thing is powerful, but calm and steady movements. Beginners should pull through about 20 beats per minute. The minimum training period is 15 minutes – the best thing to do is to say three times a week: pull yourself off the belt!


New rowing machine trend: Rowing Bootcamp

Sina Weneit (26): Our columnist tests the latest fitness trends in Hamburg & New York every month

Who would have thought that one of the oldest sports would become hip again? Studio rowing by candlelight, with Thera-bands hanging from the ceiling or mixed with yoga conquered New York and L.A. Even with us it is now: buckle up, get set – row!

Somewhere in the far corner of every gym is a rowing machine. I never sit on it. It doesn’t promise fun or effectiveness. And yet: rowing is trendy! I became aware of the “Rowing Bootcamp” at Fitness First in Hamburg. Concept: Teamwork with cardio rowing meets strength training.

The course is well attended. Trainer Falko builds a circle of six stations, from kettlebell swings to medicine ball crunches. In the middle he places three “WaterRower”. And they look completely different from the well-known rowing ergometers. The design factor of the wooden frame is so high that the Museum of Modern Art in New York has it as the only fitness device in its online shop.

The turnstile, i.e. the paddle, rotates in a transparent water tank. Feels like actually sliding through the water. The uniform whirling sound is almost meditative. We spread out over the stations. I start – of course – rowing. “You go through your exercise until everyone has rowed to the finish. Then it will be changed, ”he calls out.

No pressure at all. Super. After a few corrections, I have the perfect move and learn: Rowing is not just arm training, but whole-body training. Most of the strength comes from the legs, without any stress on the joints. After 45 minutes of circuit training, every muscle is hardened and sore muscles are programmed. Conclusion: great!

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