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Indoor Rowing for Weight Loss and Weight Management

Indoor rowing has been my main form of “real” exercise in the last few years. After using the rowers in gyms for a few years, I purchased a Concept2 Model D (pictured on the right) in 2005. Since then, I’ve rowed more than 7 million metres, though the log card tells me it is less than this distance—this is because some sessions were unrecorded, e.g., when I forgot to bring my log card to the gym. I didn’t bother recording my rowing metres before purchasing the Model D.

Unfortunately, work and injury have kept me relatively sedentary in the last few months, and I’ve put on excess weight during this period. I’ll be stepping on the scale in the next couple of days to find out exactly how much I weigh and therefore how much I need to lose to return to a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 24.5 or 25.

The most practical way for me to lose weight is to get back to regular rowing, say, 45-minute sessions, at a pace of 2:10–2:15 minutes per 500 metres, five times a week. It helps that I have a rowing machine at home because I have the flexibility of rowing at any time of the day, either very early in the morning or late in the evening (both of which may not be possible at an external gym). It is also fortunate that I have no plans to leave town (for business or pleasure) for extended periods of time in the next three months. So, barring unforeseen circumstances, I should be able to work myself back into a regular rowing programme while avoiding (high-calorie) hotel food.

Because I am quite deconditioned, I decided to row short distances in the initial stages of this “get fit” program and gradually increase the amount of rowing as I become fitter. I started rowing about 2500 metres sporadically in early July, but in anticipation of writing this post, I willed myself to hop onto the rower on each of the last three days, despite finishing work quite late in the evening.

The thought of displaying my rowing log on this blog does appear to have a motivating effect. Therefore, in the interest of getting fitter, being accountable to myself, and hopefully achieving bragging rights in a few months, I’ll make my indoor rowing log publicly visible. Here’s the link to view my rowing metres. In addition, I’ll be adding notes such as the rowing damper level if it was different to the usual 4.5 and my weight, which I’ll measure at weekly intervals using the same scale.

Rowing offers a good whole-body workout. In case you’re wondering what muscles are used in indoor rowing, the illustrations below give an idea even if you ignore the fancy muscle names.


{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Sarah Fuhrmann July 19, 2012, 9:53 AM

    Good for you for getting back on the erg. I completely agree that you have to row fairly long and at a pretty intense rate to be able to lose weight (I’ve kept about 50 pounds off doing that). It’s SO worth it though. A total-body, joint- and age-friendly fountain of youth as far as we’re concerned.

    When you get ready to mix up your workouts a bit, we have lots on our website (http://ucanrow2.com/resources/indoor-rowing-workouts/) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ucanrow2). We’d love to have you join our conversation and share your experiences!

    Best of luck, ROW ON!!!


    • Andy Teh July 19, 2012, 9:29 PM

      Hi Sarah, Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂 My road back to fitness has not been plain sailing but I’m enjoying the challenge. In the past 10 consecutive days of climbing on the rower (albeit for short periods), I’ve had only one hiccup (yesterday when I felt totally exhausted). Rowing is beginning to feel more habitual again. The bonus is that I feel lighter and healthier (even at this early stage), which is of course great for the rest of my life. The workouts on your website look terrific—I’ll try them out soon!

  • amit November 30, 2012, 5:53 PM

    I just started using indoor rower in September
    I use it 5 to 6 hours a week in the gym at about 2:30 for. 500m. Unfortunately I’m not able to lose more than 18 lbs
    I need to lose 20 more lbs to be 25 Bmi. I haven’t modified. My eating habits though. However concept 2 has released another machin named skierg and I purchased it for home. That should help

    • Andy Teh November 30, 2012, 6:19 PM

      @amit—Congratulations on choosing indoor rowing and Nordic skiing as means to losing weight! If you are starting (or restarting like me), I think it’s important you gradually work your way to an intensity level that really burns fat. 2:30/500m is probably not fast enough; try increasing your intensity to about 2:10/500m and rowing for 45 minutes (non-stop). The latter is not easy to achieve if you’ve been rowing only for a few weeks but with regular training, you could probably build enough fitness and endurance within 3 months. I don’t own a SkiErg, so I don’t know how that compares to a rower in terms of workout intensity. As you already know, your diet also affects how quickly you shed the excess weight. (I’ve found this out in dramatic fashion twice in my life, when my calorie intake was severely limited—on both occasions, I lost a lot of weight FAST!)

      • Amit December 1, 2012, 8:40 AM

        I do agree that the indoor rower is the most effective exercise machine I have ever used. The fact that I managed to lose 18 lbs in it is quite unbelievable because for several years I was using elliptical and treadmill in gym without seeing much result. I wish I knew about this machine earlier.

        Just out of curiosity I decided to use the indoor rower in the gym 3 months back because all the treadmills and ellipticals were occupied. Seeing that no one uses the rowers, I got on it and just fell in love with it since. Now I have quit using treadmills and ellipticals. Surprisingly very few people know about the indoor rower and almost everyone ignores them in the gym.

        I tried doing 2:10 at 500 meters but couldn’t do it more than 30 minutes continuously. I only row at resistance level 10, and it is quite overwhelming to put up 2:10. 2:30 is quite comfortable pace.

        I am half way through my desired weight loss and if I can just lose 18 t 20 lbs more, I meet the BMI of 24.9. In about 3 months I should be there.

        One thing I noticed is that I was getting calluses on the palms, so I now use rowing gloves which are sold at newgrip.com.

        The skierg however has a more powerful effect than rower, because you are standing instead of sitting and it uses the entire body. Skierg uses the fly-wheel too and some calling it “standing rower”.

        In conclusion I would just say that concept 2 is a great company and it has helped thousands achieve the goal of physical fitness.

        • Andy Teh December 1, 2012, 6:01 PM

          @Amit—I would really like to try the SkiErg some day. Unfortunately, it’s not available in the town where I live. 🙁 Got to wait for my next trip back to the States or the UK.

          I used to get a lot of corns and calluses while rowing, and used NewGrips for several years. They helped a lot. But the metal parts of the NewGrips rust badly with perspiration and the high humidity here. Because of the limited durability of the NewGrips, I weaned myself off them and now row without any protection. Corns and calluses are not an issue for me any more. I’ve found that the way in which I hold the handle/grip matters a lot in preventing corns and calluses.

  • Matt April 17, 2014, 2:07 PM

    I row 10 sets of 500 m all under 2 mins with 90 secs rest between each set! It’s hard graft but torches fat and increases fitness levels

    • Andy Teh April 18, 2014, 11:33 PM

      @Matt—I’ve got to try that workout!

  • Dave June 22, 2014, 6:48 PM

    I just love the Concept 2, I use it 13 days in two weeks, I’ve been doing this for 7 weeks now, I row to many different cadences, I have a 20 minute interval where I row to 90% of my VO2, then I row another for endurance at 8,000 in 40 minutes, another is 7,000 in 35 minutes.
    I also do a 30 seconds at 90% and 30 at recovery.
    My last interval is one minute at 100% and 30 seconds recovery, for 10 minutes.
    I’ve been doing this program for 8 weeks now, I’ve adjusted my diet, lift weights every time before rowing, so I get fat burn results.
    Well I’ve lost a total of 3.5 lbs. in 8 weeks I’m so disappointed in my fat burning results. I’m 64, always worked out, I stopped for 6 months due to a back injury, gained 20 lbs, now I’m trying so hard to lose the weight.
    So the good news about my Concept 2 work out is I can achieve my heart rate from 140 to 100 bpm in one minute, so there is a good side to my hard workouts.
    Are there other fat burning workouts I can do to achieve my weight loss?

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