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The Seated Row Machine - Learn The Basics To Achieve Explosive Workouts

By Richard McKay November 29, 2022 0 comments

The rest of us are just tuning in to what dedicated rowers have long known. Rowing machines provide an amazing, total body workout. You can witness this wave of popularity in CrossFit classes and indoor rowing studios across the UK. Some popular models, such as the Echelon Row and the Concept2 RowErg are making their way into home gyms as a result. Major redesigns and upgrades in indoor rowers add to the appeal of an intense workout at home.

seated row machine offers a host of health benefits. But it is crucial to learn the basics to maximize the return from your sweat equity and prevent injury. Continue reading to learn about proper form and technique, machine settings, and a few suggested workouts.

Rowing Machines As An Effective Exercise

Rowing Machine

Gym enthusiasts are familiar with StairSteppers, ellipticals, and treadmills. Not so much with folding rowing machines, though. Can they give the same intense workouts? Oh, yes! Most of your muscles participate during a rowing machine, or Erg (short for ergometer), workout. Your lower body, core, quads, glutes, back, arms, and upper body work together to propel you toward better fitness.

study published in Trends in Sport Sciences found that 70% of a rower’s muscle mass engages during one 90-minute workout. A seated row machine can increase your strength, aerobic capacity, heart health, and more.

Health Benefits of Using A Seated Row Machine


Don’t think just because you’re seated that your health is not profiting. Far from it! 

Low Impact Workout

The low-impact nature of rowing appeals to beginners or those of us with joint issues or injuries. Body weight distributes evenly in the rowing position. And the moving seat takes pressure away from knees and backs. The foldable rowing machine also provides a comfortable, cushioning surface to exercise on. 


We all need to incorporate regular cardio activity into our workouts. Rowing delivers, and then some! During a session, all those muscle groups we mentioned earlier pump blood and send oxygen to vital organs. This increased circulation keeps your heart healthy and stabilizes blood pressure. Cardio workouts also improve bone density and lung function. 

Burn Calories Quickly

Any intense cardio workout is going to be a calorie-burners. Anyone trying to shed some pounds will appreciate the versatility of working out on a rowing machine. Capabilities found in rowers like the Concept2 RowErg offer varied workouts while keeping track of calories burned. 

Proper Rowing Form

foldable rowing machine

Elite rowing athletes train for years to develop the correct rowing form. This adherence to the basics prevents injuries while building a vigorous, efficient stroke. 

Push, Not Pull

If you watch a rower, it looks like they pull their way across the water. In actuality, the legs power the stroke by pushing at the end. 

Keep Spine Straight

Hunching over forces your shoulders to carry most of the stroke. This excludes your back and core muscles. 

Keep Core Engaged

You want to use your core for two reasons. First, your abs will reap the benefits. Second, an engaged core protects the muscles in your back from strain due to overexertion. 

Keep Shoulders Relaxed

Certainly not what it looks like when you watch someone rowing. Relaxed shoulders ensure you perform the stroke correctly. If you keep tension in your shoulders, you risk straining them and your back.

Proper Rowing Technique

Many ergs have on-screen classes that review and encourage proper techniques. Rowers like the Echelon Row have live and on-demand classes that guide a beginner through the fundamentals. 


The start of the stroke is referred to as the catch. The catch is the moment the oar blade encounters water resistance.

Slide the seat to the front of the rower. Begin with a straight back and straight arms. Flex your knees and ankles to position your shins vertically. Pull your shoulders down by bracing your lats and core. This shields your lower back from strain. Now lean a bit forward, keeping your back straight. 


Here is where you start moving. The motion is ordered legs, then back, then arms. Maintain an engaged core while pushing back with your legs. Keep contact with the heel and ball of your foot. This uses the muscles of your posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, and calves). Once your knees are at a 90° angle, lean back by pivoting your hips. You should feel your lats kick in. Pull the handle towards your torso. 


The name is misleading because you are not finished! During the finish, your legs are outstretched straight. Your hips are in front of your shoulders, with the horizontal handle under your ribs against your body. 


Recovery returns you to the front of the rower for another stroke. The motion reverses order to arms, then back, then legs. Extend your arms while leaning forward with a tall back. Be sure to bend your knees last to keep better timing on an effective stroke. 

Important Rowing Machine Settings & Features

The Concept2 RowErg is a great example to view the various data you can display during your sessions. Options allow for calories burned, watts produced, or split tracking. 

Screen Display

Most rowing machines on the market today have computerized screens. They track and store several metrics that we will briefly review. 

Stroke Rate

You will find the stroke rate near the screen's top. It tallies how many strokes you complete in one minute (spm). An easy workout would have about 20 spm. 


Your rowing machine calculates the distance travelled in meters. 


Rowing Machine

This setting will be somewhere in the centre of the display. It reflects the generated power of each stroke. You can toggle between measurements in calories, watts, or length of time. 


The flywheel is the large wheel located at the front of the rowing machine.


The damper is sometimes called the fan. Adjustments to the damper increase or decrease the difficulty of your workout. Adjusting more airflow to the flywheel adds resistance. This kicks up your workout intensity. Decreasing airflow to the flywheel lowers the resistance and makes your workout easier. 


The split is the time needed to row across 500 meters. So, if you program a 2:10 split, you aim to cover 500 meters in 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

Splits are a great way to measure your performance gains. You can enter your intervals to reflect distance or time.

Suggested Workouts

A magnetic rowing machine is a great piece of equipment to have in your home gym. Not only can it provide an effective cardio workout, but it also helps develop your core and upper body strength. 

Ensure you warm up and keep good form and technique throughout your workout. Initially, you will find yourself thinking about each movement and posture. After a time, your muscle memory will take over. That is why it is essential to form good habits from the beginning.

Start with one or two workouts a week before powering into a full-strength session. It is also beneficial to perform light paddling for a few minutes during the rest periods. Then stand, stretch, and hydrate for the remainder.

20 Power Strokes

Perform 2 sets of 8 reps | Set your rate to 20-24 spm

  • Maintain correct posture and power through 20 strong strokes
  • Perform 10 light strokes
  • Rest for up to 6 minutes between sets

Tip: Aim for the lowest possible split during the 20 power strokes. Use the light strokes to focus on correct posture and length. 

Row For One Minute, Rest For One Minute

Perform 3 sets of 5 reps | Set your initial rate at 18 and increase by +2 with each set

  • Power through 1 minute of rowing with as much force as you can muster
  • Row for 1 minute of light strokes
  • Rest for a few minutes between sets

Tip: Aim for the lowest possible split during the minute of power strokes.

1,000 Meters Of Rowing

Perform 4 sets | Rest 7 minutes between sets

  • Set your stroke rate
  • Maintain full length on the slide
  • Don’t cheat on your extensions 

Tip: Aim for the minimal average split across the 4 sets. Use every second of rest to regroup.

8 Minutes Of Rowing

Perform 3 sets | Rest 6 minutes between sets | Set your rate to 20 for minutes 1-4, 26 for minutes 5-6, 28 for minutes 7-8

  • Maintain correct posture

Tip: Use your rest periods to maintain your form. Each rate increase will decrease your split.

10 Minutes Of Rowing

Perform 3 sets | Rest 3 minutes between sets | Set your rate to 20 for minutes 1-3, 22 for minutes 4-7, 24 for minutes 8-10

  • 10 minutes of rowing offset by 3 minutes of rest
  • Keep good form while building your stamina

Tip: Decreased rates allow you to focus on technique and form.

Row Your Way To Better Workouts

Having a rowing machine air gives you the freedom and convenience of a total body workout at home. You’ll improve your cardio, endurance, and strength. The low-impact nature of rowing gives people with restrictions or injuries a safe way to work out.

The team at SuperStrong can recommend the perfect rowing machine to fit your home and workout goals. Check out their Concept2 RowErg. It is the standard since it was developed by rowers for rowers. Bluetooth connects to the free ErgData app. Two sets of legs adjust the height from 14” to 20”. 

Another popular model is the Echelon Row. It has 32 resistance levels with a rotating console. The foldable design reduces it to store just about anywhere. And right now, SuperStrong will include a free 45-day subscription period when you purchase through them.

The team at SuperStrong can recommend terrific home gym equipment, too. The Echelon Connect Bike will give you a one-of-a-kind ride in the comfort of your home. Or Bumper Plates will prevent garage floor damage as you work out. 

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