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Are Rowing Machines Good for Cardio?

by Kevin Rail

About Kevin Rail

I am very genuine and magnetic on camera, and have made numerous videos on my own for clients and other organizations that I'm affiliated with. I also have a degree in Sport Management, and multiple certifications to back up my validity. I've also been featured in three different exercise infomercials and had a speaking role in a National Lampoons movie.


Rowing machines simulate the motion of rowing in an actual boat. Instead of oars, however, this machine has a handle that you pull toward your stomach as you glide back and forth on a movable seat. Rowing machines, if used consistently and properly, will improve your cardiovascular fitness.


Cardiovascular exercise is any exercise that raises your heart rate to a level where you can still talk, but will also start to sweat a little, according to the Texas Heart Institute. Because the rowing machine elevates your heart rate and causes you to sweat, it does in fact give you a good cardio workout.

Time Frame

Regardless whether it is rowing, walking, running or stair-stepping, the most important aspect of getting a good cardio workout is your time frame. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 30 minutes of daily physical activity can help reduce your risk for chronic disease, and 60 to 90 minutes promotes weight loss. You also have the option of using the rowing machine multiple times a day to accumulate your exercise time, which is handy if you have a busy schedule. Aim for five days of training a week to achieve the best results.

Interval Training

Incorporate interval training into your program to boost your cardiovascular fitness even more. This will not only give you a good cardio workout, but also improve your aerobic capacity. Having a higher aerobic capacity will enable you to work out for a longer period of time without feeling winded. Start your workouts with a light warm-up, then row at about 80 percent maximum effort for 30 seconds. Reduce your intensity to about 50 percent for 60 seconds, then increase it again. Alternate back and forth for the duration of your 30-minute workout.


The American Heart Association recommends exercising at 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate in order to benefit your heart, lungs and circulation. To determine this heart rate zone, first find out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 40 years old, your maximum heart rate is 180. Now multiply by 0.5 and 0.85 to get your target zone. In this example, this would be 90 to 153 beats per minute. Either wear a heart rate monitor, or check your pulse manually by placing your fingers on the inside of your wrist below your thumb. Count the beats for 10 seconds, then multiply by 6.

Muscle Recruitment

When you exercise on a rowing machine, you also work a number of muscles in the upper and lower body, such as the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, latissimus dorsi, deltoids and biceps. By building these muscles, you increase your resting metabolic rate, which can further promote weight loss. If you add even one pound of muscle, you burn an extra 30 to 50 calories a day even while at rest, according to the University of Michigan Health System.

References (5)

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.