Peloton member doing a row workout

How Often And for How Long Should Your Rowing Workouts Be?

The ins and outs of your favorite new exercise.

By Team PelotonMay 17, 2023


So, you’re thinking about incorporating a row routine into your workout. One of the reasons why the rowing machine has been a fitness staple is that it’s one of the best machines to use to effectively target the entire body in a way you can’t get from other types of exercise. 

With proper rowing form, a rowing machine activates major muscles in the legs, arms, back, and core, working around 86 percent of the body’s muscles with each and every stroke. What’s more, your cardiovascular system gets a major boost from all that repetitive effort. 

A rowing machine workout is also low-impact, so the joints that might feel the wear and tear (we’re looking at you, knees!) from high impact cardio activities are protected from bearing too much weight and enduring too much strain.

Below, we’ll review some of the basics of safe and smart rowing machine use, like how long and how often you should use one to target heart health, overall muscle strength, and endurance. We’ll also discuss highly effective approaches to help you get started so that you can begin your rowing machine journey with confidence and skill. 

How Long Should You Use a Rowing Machine During Each Workout?

As with all types of fitness equipment, the rule of thumb for how long you can and ultimately should use a rowing machine depends completely on your personal fitness level and health goals. But at the end of the day, even a few minutes of rowing is better than not at all. In general, the CDC recommends adults take part in moderately-intensive aerobic activity for 30 minutes a day. If you’re using the Peloton Row, instructor-led on-demand and lvie classes range from 5 to 60 minutes, so there’s something for everyone, no matter how much time you have to devote to your rowing routine. Remember to reserve a few minutes before and after your workout for a warm-up and a cool-down. 

However long you choose to make your rowing workouts, it’s important to respect your current fitness level and take things slowly if need be. It will be far more beneficial in the long run if you build up to longer rows using proper form, rather than burning yourself out too quickly, running the risk of injury from improper use, and depleting whatever enthusiasm you had to start rowing in the first place. With a steady ramp-up, you’ll catch on quickly and start feeling the effects in a much more meaningful way. 

How Often Should You Use a Rowing Machine?

There is no right answer to how often to use your rowing machine, and again, the answer will always depend on your personal goals and fitness level. Rowing machines can be used as much as 4-6 times a week, so you could incorporate a short row into your normal fitness routine for a quick burst of full-body cardio and muscle focus.

You could also rotate rowing days into your current fitness schedule, making Monday, Wednesday, and Friday your row time and dedicate other days to weight training, yoga, HIIT, or running. 

Whatever routine you decide on, it’s important to make sure you’re scheduling proper rest days to allow for recovery. Your body isn’t a machine, and you need to give your muscles time to recuperate and rebuild, particularly after a high-intensity row that’s hitting all your major muscle groups. Make sure you listen to your body and use common sense to properly care for it as you build up and personalize your rowing regimen.  

Rowing for Heart Health

Rowing is an excellent way to improve your heart health and strengthen your cardiovascular system. If done consistently, rowing ensures that your heart, blood vessels, and blood are all benefitting, which keeps nutrients and oxygen pumping freely throughout your body and reduces the risk of heart disease. 

Moreover, not all cardio activities have the same effect on heart health. This study compared 10 healthy males that performed rowing and cycling exercises, switching activities after a 20 minute rest. The rowing exercise led to more extensive stimulation of cardiac contractility and decreased the peripheral vascular resistance when compared to cycling. An additional study comparing healthy, habitual rowers to a control group match for age, body composition, blood pressure, and metabolic risk factors concluded that regular rowing exercises in middle-aged and older adults is associated with a favorable effect on the elastic properties of the central arteries.

These studies indicate rowing can be a healthful activity for maintaining cardiovascular health over time. If you can commit to doing this as a form of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 20 minutes a day for 3 days a week, studies confirm you’ll get a substantial increase in heart rate to help promote and maintain your heart health. 

Rowing for Overall Muscle Strength

If you want to increase fitness and build muscle, acclimating to your rowing machine will be well worth the effort. Studies have shown that rowing not only significantly improves strength in the upper and lower back, hamstring, and abdominal muscles, it also improves overall bone density, an especially important benefit as you age. Since rowing is a resistance workout, your physical strength will only improve as you blend muscle engagement with cardio. 

One study found that when subjects did four short rowing sets a day, 3 days a week, for 8 weeks observed a specific improvement in muscle strength. Remember that with rowing, you’re engaging major muscle groups throughout your whole body—arms, back, chest, core, legs and glutes—with every single stroke. You’re not just working on your arm muscles. 

Maintain a steady pace at a low resistance, and make sure you focus on keeping your core engaged and your form correct so your muscles can engage properly, helping you get the most out of your rows every time. 

Rowing for Endurance

By definition, endurance is the capacity to withstand hardship or adversity, especially the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity. When you build endurance through physical activity, it doesn’t just improve your ability to complete that specific activity; it improves your potential to complete all activities, big and small, in everyday life. 

If you’re rowing to build endurance, you’ll be adding stamina to your mind and body that will transcend the act of rowing for a long-term positive impact on your lifestyle.

To build endurance, you can either increase the time or distance of your workouts. For instance, you could begin with 10-minute row classes and then build up to 60-minute classes over time. Or, you could start with 500m Scenic Row classes on Peloton Row and build up to 2000m classes. Focus on maintaining your stroke rate for the duration of the workout and pushing through your mental barriers while breathing evenly. 

Peloton Rowing Workouts

Hopefully, by now, you’re excited to strap your feet into your rower and get started. But if you’re still wondering how to work a consistent rowing routine into your lifestyle, you’ll be happy to know there are plenty of smart ways to sneak this incredibly impactful workout into your week. Since rowing is such an efficient and well-rounded exercise, you truly can start slow and still see impressive results while you work your way up to your ideal rowing fitness level.

One of the best ways to progress is to track your stats during each workout. Directly on the Row touchscreen, you can access metrics including total strokes, the total number of strokes you do in a single class; output, a measurement of how hard you're working; split, the amount of time it would take you to row 500 meters at a specific output; and stroke rate, the number of strokes you'll complete in 60 seconds if you maintain your current rhythm. No access to a Row? You can still view your metrics from Peloton rowing classes on the App (as long as you're an App+ Member). Just use Bluetooth to pair the App with a third-party rower, and your rowing stats will stream directly to your profile in real time.

If you need extra inspiration to get started, Peloton Row instructor Ash Pryor says that rowing will boost your performance across other forms of exercise, keeping your workout routine versatile and benefiting your whole body. 

If you’re looking for a new way to row, learn more about the instructors that teach live and on-demand classes on Peloton Row. You’ll find out what motivates them and how they’re taking their life and fitness experiences to lead Row classes that are as engaging as they are inspiring.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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