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Indoor rowing is a low-impact exercise that is easy on your joints and has the capacity to deliver significant rowing machine benefits for your body and fitness goals. Furthermore, rowing is a full-body workout accessible to all fitness levels. 

Whether you’re new to this type of exercise or simply looking to shake up your routine, performing rowing interval workouts can be beneficial. Incorporating various speeds, efforts, and off-machine exercises can break up the monotony and even push your body toward goals that include weight loss, fat loss, and muscle growth.

Check out our interval rowing workouts to get the most in the least amount of time on your rowing machine

Sunny Health & Fitness SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine in use

What Is Interval Training?

While there are various interpretations and practices, the most basic definition of interval training is alternating exercise with varying degrees of intensity. This sometimes looks like work intervals mixed with rest periods, or like rotations of high-intensity work followed by low-intensity work. You can perform intervals with one exercise, like rowing, or with a number of exercises, like a circuit that users upper-body and lower-body movements.

High-intensity interval training is one of the most well-known examples of interval training, but other styles include Tabata workouts (20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest), CrossFit workouts, and fartleks. A 2021 study found that this type of exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and even insulin resistance.

By incorporating interval training, you diversify your workout routine and potentially exercise more efficiently. The below interval rowing machine workouts present three ways to get your heart rate up and improve your cardio fitness.

3 Interval Rowing Workouts

Before jumping in, learn proper rowing technique and how to use the erg. If you’re ready to row, check out these three great workouts:

using rowing machine grey background

Workout 1: Cardio Insanity 

This workout will push your cardio fitness to the limit by incorporating bodyweight movements with your rowing.

  • 2- to 5-minute easy rowing 
  • 1 minute row sprint
  • 10 to 30 no-push-up burpees
  • 10 to 50 mountain climbers
  • 1 minute moderate-intensity row
  • 1 minute row sprint

Repeat for 2-3 sets

Adjust reps and intensity to your fitness level. The goal is to improve but not burn yourself out in the process. 

Take caution as you transition on and off the erg. However, do not try and use this as an excuse for a rest period! If you feel overwhelmed, you can incorporate 10 seconds of rest and breathing before beginning each set. 

RELATED: HIIT Rowing Workout

rowing interval workouts cardio blast

Workout 2: Fartlek Row Routine 

For this workout, all you need is a rower! Fartlek means “speed play,” and that’s exactly what we will do here, alternating moderate and higher intensity work. 

  • 2- to 5-minutes easy rowing 
  • 1-minute high intensity row
  • 30 seconds moderate intensity row
  • 45 seconds high intensity row
  • 45 seconds moderate intensity row
  • 30 seconds high intensity row

Repeat for 3-4 sets

This training technique encourages you to fluctuate between high and lower-intensity rounds using various (and at times random) times, speeds, and resistance levels. It may seem chaotic. I suggest preparing some personally noted guidelines for each level’s changes in advance.

For example, I usually would use 15-second additions or decreases in time. Additionally, I would increase my resistance with lower-intensity rounds and decrease it for high-intensity rounds focusing on my cardio and speed. I find Fartlek quite fun as it lets you get creative with each round and experience a truly interval training experience.

rowing interval workouts fartlek

Workout 3: Strength Interval Routine 

This workout adds a strength-building element by incorporating an increased resistance on the rower as well as the potential to add strength-building exercises. If calibrated resistance increases are not possible on your machine, try to focus on increasing intensity and speed.

  • 2-minute rowing warmup
  • 30 seconds high intensity speed with increased resistance
  • 10 to 30 push-ups
  • Plank 30 seconds to 2 minutes
  • 45 seconds high intensity row at increased resistance
  • 10 to 30 pushups
  • Plank 30 seconds to 2 minutes
  • 1 minute high intensity row at increased resistance
  • 10 to 30 push-ups
  • Plank 30 seconds to 2 minutes

With each intense row round, increase the time by 15 seconds and increase the resistance level slightly (enough to be noticeable). You can also increase the number of push-ups and plank time with each set, or swap them for other strength training exercises such as squats or Russian twists. Dumbbell exercises and kettlebell exercises can also be incorporated into these sets.  

The goal is to keep your heart rate up but find rest in the exercises that require less cardio demand. Go for as many more rounds as you can. I suggest simply continuing to increase the time, resistance, or off-machine reps to make it more and more challenging. 

At a minimum, I recommend three off-machine and intense row rounds, starting and finishing this workout with a two-minute (minimum) moderate warm-up or cool-down row. 

rowing interval workouts strength

FAQs About Rowing Interval Workouts

How long should rowing interval workouts be?

There is no clear time frame for rowing interval sets; with higher bouts of intensity, you can get a great cardio workout in just 10 to 15 minutes. However, I suggest aiming for 20 to 30 minutes of continuous training, which can include your warm up and cool-down. Remember, the best rest is always when you finish your workout in its entirety, not during it!

How do you do intervals on rowing?

Interval training with a rowing machine can be done exclusively on the device or by incorporating it into a broader workout. You can move between work and rest periods on the rower, such as 30 seconds at high intensity and 30 seconds at lower intensity, or use it as a movement in a workout with other exercises.

What is a good rowing schedule?

A quality row schedule would be a minimum of 30 minutes four to five times per week, with more challenging training sessions during weeks where you are working out only four days. Allow a day of rest sometime during your four to five training days, meaning do not train on your rower for the days consecutively, and regardless, never train more than six days a week!

Is rowing a good HIIT workout?

Rowing is a great HIIT workout because you can use an erg to alternate between intense work periods and lower-intensity rest periods. High-intensity interval training can be practiced exclusively on your rowing machine or by incorporating it into a broader workout with other exercises.

Further reading

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