Indoor rowing for beginners
Indoor rowing is a fantastic and simple way to improve fitness while enjoying a new sport.
In partnership with this year’s annual Boat Race, Cancer Research UK and British Rowing encouraged thousands across the nation to take on an indoor rowing challenge as part of The Great Row to raise funds to help beat cancer. View more details here
Keen rowers can now access online videos to help with their training.
Before you row – learn how to start working out on the indoor rowing machine with double Olympic champion Alex Gregory. Alex takes you through how to set-up the indoor rowing machine and the best technique for the perfect workout.
Join Clare, Ashley and Yewande for a 20 minute class on the indoor rowing machine.
An eight-week beginner’s training plan
This eight-week plan from British Rowing is the ideal way to get those new to rowing, or regular exercise, involved and reaping the rewards of rowing. It can be used as a standalone training plan, but also works well as part of a longer gym workout, or alongside other fitness activities. At the end of the programme, you will be able to confidently row for 2,000m.
It is easy to learn the basics of rowing technique and improve over time. Check out the technique guidance to get started.
Sometimes it helps to have a goal to work towards, so why not enter an indoor rowing event, or set up your own with friends or other gym members.
Get set up
Make sure the monitor is at eye level and the foot strap is across the ball of your foot. If using a Concept 2 rowing machine, set the damper level to 4 or below to help maintain good technique.
Warm-up and cool-down
Before every session, do five minutes of exercise to get your body warmed up. Afterwards, do a five-minute cool-down and then stretch.
What is ‘stroke rate’?
Stroke rate is the number of strokes per minute – with a typical range being 18 to 30. We recommend you stick to a lower stroke rate of 18 to 24 while still perfecting your technique, and focus on consistency rather than speed.
What is ‘spilt’?
Split refers to the time it takes to row 500m. Focus on keeping the split, or pace, consistent, which will become easier as your technique and fitness improves.
Things to remember when rowing
Focus on the stroke sequence – legs, body, arms in the drive phase (when you push back and straighten your legs), and arms, body, legs in the recovery phase (when you bend your knees and slide forward). Count to two on the drive and three on the recovery to control your technique, and differentiate a hard drive from a slower recovery.
How hard should I row?
The training programme will ask you to row at a low, medium or high intensity.
- Should feel comfortable
- Can hold a conversation
- Guide rate 18-22
- Sustainable for a longer row
- Working harder, heart rate up
- Can speak in shorter sentences
- Guide rate 22-26
- Not sustainable for long periods
- Working harder still
- Breathing hard
- Guide rate 26+
- Use for short efforts/bursts
The beginner’s plan
Aim: Get used to being on the rowing machine, develop technique (consistent stroke rate, sequence and posture) and build basic fitness.
Session 1: 1min row at low intensity, 1min rest, repeat 5 times.
Session 2: 5mins row at low intensity, 3mins rest, repeat twice.
Fitness boost: Combine with a 10mins jog/walk (1min on, 1min off)
Aim: Increase the amount of time you exercise and focus on using good technique. Think about rowing smoothly with a focus on the powerful drive, then slow recovery.
Session 1: 2mins row at low intensity, 1min rest, repeat 5 times.
Session 2: 5mins row at low intensity, 3mins rest (or light row), repeat 3 times.
Fitness boost: Combine with 15mins jog/walk (1min on, 1min off).
Aim: Further increase exercise time. Work at a higher intensity. Look for consistency in stroke rate and split when rowing for longer durations.
Session 1: 500m at medium intensity, 2mins rest, repeat 4 times. Note time for each 500m.
Session 2: 10mins row with first 5mins at low intensity, next 5mins at medium intensity.
Fitness boost: Combine with 20mins jog/walk (1min on, 1min off).
Aim: Increase the amount of medium-intensity work and change the focus to distance not time, i.e. the harder you work, the quicker you finish. Focus on technique control.
Session 1: 1,000m row at medium intensity, 5mins rest, repeat twice.
Session 2: 15mins row (3mins low intensity, 3mins medium, 3mins low, 3mins medium, 3mins low).
Fitness boost: Combine with 20mins jog/walk (2mins on, 1min off).
Aim: Feel comfortable with the current level of exercise and complete your first 2,000m at medium intensity.
Session 1: 30 strokes at low intensity followed by a 10-stroke burst at medium intensity, repeat 5 times.
Session 2: 2,000m row. Note the time.
To work out an approx. 500m pace to aim for, add together the times for your 4 x 500m session (Week 3), add 20 seconds and divide by 4. For example: 2.30+2.40+2.40+2.38+20 = 10mins 48secs = 2.42 per 500m.
Fitness boost: Combine with 20mins jog/walk (3mins on, 1min off).
Aim: Introduce some short pieces at high intensity to help build fitness and ability to recover quickly.
Session 1: 1min row at high intensity, 1min rest, repeat 6 times.
Session 2: 500m at medium intensity, 2mins rest, repeat 4 times. Note the times and look for an improvement over Week 3 times.
Fitness boost: Combine with 25mins jog/walk (3mins on, 1min off).
Aim: Introduce varied workouts and focus on controlling technique when pushing yourself. Can you maintain good rowing technique when tired?
Session 1: 1,000m row at medium intensity (every other minute include a 10-stroke high-intensity burst), 5mins rest, repeat twice.
Session 2: 10mins row (2mins low intensity, 2mins medium, 1min high, 2mins medium, 3mins low), 5mins rest, repeat twice.
Fitness boost: Combine with 25mins jog/walk (4mins on, 1min off).
Aim: Focus on a powerful drive and slower recovery. How does your 500m compare to Weeks 3 and 6?
Session 1: 5mins row at medium intensity, 3mins rest (or light row), repeat 4 times.
Session 2: 500m row at medium intensity, 1,000m at medium, 500m at high, 2mins rest in between.
Fitness boost: Combine with 25mins jog/walk (4mins on, 1min off).
Congratulations on successfully completing the 8-week training plan.
Now it is time to do a 2,000m row and celebrate your improvement in:
- Consistency in rate and split
- Overall time
Keep us updated with your progress! Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us at: @fitpro_online
FitPro delivers successful Gray Institute workshop
In September, FitPro and ViPR™ hosted the Chain Reaction® two-day seminar in London with Gray ...read more
Every session with a client needs to be structured to their individual needs and goals. ...read more
5 exercises to strengthen core and pelvic floor
Pelvic floor exercises are traditionally done through breathing exercises and, while these are still extremely ...read more
How to train a bodybuilder or powerlifter
Many factors need to be taken into consideration when assessing a client’s suitability for a ...read more