Rowing machine training with a training plan

A rowing machine training plan provides a methodical structure for reaching a milestone. Primarily, all events or training units are logged so that a comparison can be made between the ACTUAL and TARGET status . In this article we cover the most important questions, provide a training plan for beginners as well as advanced users for rowing machine training, and introduce some alternative exercises.

As a beginner, please read through the following points before starting the training plan.

If you need further information on correct rowing technique, I would be happy to refer you to our article Rowing Correctly .

 FAQ – Frequently asked questions


 What are the advantages of a rowing machine training plan?

A training plan is not a must for indoor rowing, but if you want to get 100% out of your training, it is essential to train with a training plan. The plan is primarily used for self- monitoring and control. Both positive and negative events can be observed in this way and you can then react to them. A training plan also serves as a motivational and disciplinary aid. In this way, goals such as improving endurance or losing weight can be achieved more easily.



 How often should I row as a beginner?

A good guideline is 3 workouts per week . So that you have enough regeneration time between the units, you should always plan a day off. You need to view training and recovery as one unit. Don’t overdo yourself at the beginning of your rowing career. Overtraining has a counterproductive effect on the success of your training. Symptoms for this are, for example, a drop in performance, tiredness, muscle pain and fatigue.



 How long should a training session last?

Everything between 30 and 60 minutes is perfectly fine. If you still have enough power after 60 minutes of training, then increase the intensity of the next unit, for example by using a higher rowing frequency, a higher resistance or a few interval sets. If, as a beginner, you don’t get to 30 minutes straight away, just stop with the unit. In the next unit you will improve and gradually follow a positive progression. But that doesn’t happen overnight either. You just have to be patient. No master has fallen from the sky yet.



 What heart rate should I exercise with?

You can’t say that across the board, because it depends on the training method. With the continuous method you row with a constant low intensity of approx. 50 – 60% of your maximum heart rate.

With the interval method, you row alternately with high and low intensity. The intensity can reach up to 90% of your maximum heart rate. The subsequent recovery phase (slow rowing up to a certain heart rate) is longer.

As a beginner, you should start with the continuous method until you have mastered the rowing technique.



 How do I calculate my maximum pulse or the maximum heart rate?

The pulse plays a very important role when exercising with the rowing machine. In order to achieve efficient training success, it is important to know how high your maximum heart rate is.

The maximum heart rate varies from person to person.

We recommend Winfried Spanaus’ formula to calculate the maximum heart rate.

It is as follows:

Men: Maximum heart rate = 223 – 0.9 × age

Women: Maximum heart rate = 226 – 0.9 × age








We would like to calculate the maximum heart rate of Bob (30 years old):

Bob: 223 – (0.9 x 30) = 196 beats per minute

Alternatively, you can use this computer .



 Warm Up – warm up

Start each workout with a short warm-up of approx. 5 minutes.To do this, row at a slow pace to warm up your body and prepare your cardiovascular system for the workout.

Tendons, muscles and ligaments are loosened, which significantly reduces the risk of injury.

The warm-up is also particularly important in order to mentally adjust to the training and to prepare the nervous system for the stress.



 Cool down – warming up

You have probably seen 100m sprinters who don’t stop abruptly after the run, but continue for a few hundred meters. That is exactly a cool down.

The purpose of the cool down is to slowly shut down the cardiovascular system. In addition, the removal of lactate is accelerated, which in turn has a positive effect on the body.

End each workout with a cool down of approx. 5 minutes.To do this, row with little intensity until your heartbeat has normalized to some extent.



 Rowing machine training plan for beginners

The long-term method is best for the beginner , as the load always remains the same. So beginners can concentrate primarily on the correct rowing technique until they have been internalized. Basic endurance is also built up quickly with this method.

With the continuous method, long, even loads are carried out without breaks. The aim of the long-term method is to improve aerobic capacity. This increases the maximum oxygen uptake. In short: the higher the maximum oxygen uptake, the more oxygen is available for energy generation.

Here in the diagram, the intensity and thus also the heart rate are kept constant over the entire duration of the training with the help of the continuous method. The target heart rate is 60% of the maximum pulse.















1 week

2 weeks

3 week





IMPORTANT : This training plan is for guidance only. Don’t overtax yourself. If you can only do 18 beats per minute or can only row 20 minutes, then that’s the way it is. A training plan must always be individually tailored to a person. This training plan is just an example of how you can build a plan.



If you want to use pulse-based training, then you should also focus on your pulse and not on the beats per minute. It is important that the heart rate is a maximum of 60% of your maximum heart rate.

How long or how many beats per minute are achieved with it is of secondary importance. As soon as you have completed your first training session, you can use your values ​​as a guide and adjust the training plan if necessary.

When you feel confident or have finished the three weeks effortlessly, feel free to start interval training.



 Rowing machine training plan for advanced users

With a little indoor rowing experience, you can dare to do interval training . Greater progress can be made quickly with this method. In addition, the interval method is more time-saving and cranks up fat burning better.

In interval training, there is an alternating stronger and weaker rowing phase (restful break). This means that you can row at different levels of intensity.

The biggest difference between the continuous method and the interval method is the “relaxing break” in the interval method. The break itself is not a real break, but the intensity is temporarily reduced for a certain number of beats or for a certain time so that the heart rate drops significantly again. During this break, you can recover until the pulse reaches a value of 120 to 130 beats per minute, for example. This value serves only as a rough guide and can vary greatly from person to person. It depends, for example, on the level of training and age.

After the pulse has reached the desired value, the next stronger interval phase can be started. This is then for example 10 to 15 rounds. With interval training you can ideally train your anaerobic metabolism and thus train your stamina for short-term very high loads. If you train according to this method, you should have a certain stamina base with you, otherwise you will quickly run out of breath.

In this training, a rough distinction is made between the extensive and the intensive interval method. We explain the differences in detail in the following section.

Here you can see a small overview with the respective characteristics of the different training methods.




 Benefits of interval training

Time saving

The interval units are very demanding and therefore cannot be carried out as long as the continuous method. For example, if you row for 60 minutes at your comfortable pace with the continuous method, the interval unit should last a maximum of 30 minutes in order to achieve the same success.

Calorie consumption

In the same period of time, 50% more calories are burned compared to the continuous method. The higher pulse stimulates the burning of fat better. Even after training, more calories are diligently burned. This effect is called the afterburn defect.

Increase in fitness

Your general fitness will increase very quickly with the interval method. The heavy loads will shock your muscles over and over again.


In contrast to the continuous method, the training is not so monotonous. Progress can be better documented and provides additional motivation.



 Extensive interval training

Features of the extensive interval method are the rapid change between exercise and recovery, as well as the heart rate in the range of 70 – 80% of the maximum. The breaks and loads are relatively short, but more rounds are possible than with the intensive interval method.



In this diagram you can see five interval passes. The load goes up to a pulse of 145 to 150. As soon as this is reached, the short, rewarding break begins, during which you row at low intensity until you reach a pulse of about 120.

Then the game starts all over again.

Compared to the intensive interval method, the difference between the exercise and recovery heart rate is significantly lower. This means that both phases are significantly shorter.





This is roughly what the training plan for the extensive interval method looks like. The number of strokes of the oar is not specified here, as this can vary depending on the level of performance. The number of passes is only a guideline. Increase or decrease the number of interval passes depending on your performance level.

1 week

2 weeks

3 week



 Intensive interval training

With intensive interval training, the loads are higher, but also shorter. You row with significantly more intensity, so you get to the high pulse range you are aiming for more quickly and the following break is longer.

You should only start intensive interval training after you have already completed a few units of extensive interval training. So you can feel your way step by step.



Here in the diagram we see five interval passes. Compared to the extensive interval method, the load peaks are higher, but the “worthwhile break”, in which you row slowly, is significantly longer.

As soon as the heart rate has dropped to approx. 120 beats per minute, the next stronger rowing phase begins with approx. 80 to 90% of the maximum pulse.

For a 30-year-old male, this is usually a heart rate between 155 and 175 beats per minute.





This is roughly what the training plan for the intensive interval method looks like. The number of strokes of the row is not specified here, as these can turn out completely different depending on the performance level. The number of passes is only a guideline. Increase or decrease the number of interval passes depending on your performance level.

1 week

2 weeks

3 week



Variants in rowing training

Arms Only Rowing

In this variant, only the upper body is trained. The legs remain stretched or very slightly wrapped. Meanwhile, the upper body is in an upright position. Now the arms continuously pull the oar handle between the chest and the upper abdominal muscles. Try to pull much more out of your back than out of your arms. The focus here is clearly on the upper back muscles, the back shoulder and the arm muscles (forearms + biceps).




Arms and Body Only Rowing

This is a modified form of the “Arms Only Rowing” variant. The execution is almost identical, except for the small feature that the upper body moves slightly with the exercise. The upper body remains in one line. With this variant, the arms are stressed significantly less, but the abdominal muscles and lower back are also trained in addition to the back.






Slow slide drill

The slow slide drill is roughly speaking the usual rowing movement, with the small but subtle difference that it is carried out slowly in the negative phase (when rolling off). So the contraction lasts longer. You can usually do 14 to 18 strokes per minute with this rowing method.




Feet Out Rowing

In Feet Out Rowing, the feet are not buckled into the foot pedals. Concentrate on keeping your feet on the foot pedals at all times. The balls of the feet may, however, lift a little in the foremost position. The aim of these exercises is to train the foot muscles and hamstrings.




Legs only rowing

Legs Only Rowing, as the name suggests, only trains the legs. The whole normal rowing movement is interrupted from the point where the upper body comes into play and the process begins again. The arms and upper body always stay straight and are not strained. Only the legs are activated during the whole movement.





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