Top 9 Benefits of Using a Rowing Machine

Indoor rowing has been a common exercise for a long time, with machines in almost every public and club gyms and many people utilizing their versatility in their own home gyms. In fact, they been in use since 1872. W. B. Curtis wanted to help those who participated in water fitness stay in shape when they couldn’t be out on the water, and now we have a wide range of indoor rowing machines in the US that are available today. Water racing and rowing sports have been around far longer, possibly as far back as the 13th century, and the level of health and athleticism that those who participated in rowing competitions achieved kept people going back to the water since then. While rowing was often used as a means of necessary life, it quickly became a way to compete and perform physical sports. It’s no wonder these means of exercise have continued this long, as not only is it a fun and exciting way to take part in physical activity, but it also leads to unparalleled results.

While the machines may seem bulky and some people don’t fully understand all the benefits, indoor rowing exercises are continuously recommended as a major part of many fitness routines and strongly suggested to use while reaching many health goals. Often time, people who are trying to be healthier on their own will avoid indoor rowing machines because their intimidated. They might not be entirely sure how to use the machine or they may think it’s only for those of a higher level of physical athleticism than simply everyday fitness. Indoor rowing machines are great for everyone, however, not just those training for a rowing competition or those who spend hours of their day at the gym. The ability of indoor rowing machines to tone, strengthen, and build up endurance make them the best exercise machines for overall health and for general fitness improvement.

1. Low impact

low impact exercise

One of the greatest and often most known benefits of an indoor rowing machine is the fact that it offers a low impact workout. Those who may be on the heavier side will often develop joint pain after cardio workouts such as running or dancing style exercise routines because those tend to put a lot of pressure on joints, especially ankles and knees. Many people with arthritis don’t even try to exercise because of the pain they experience in their deteriorating joints. An indoor rowing machine offers a cardio workout that engages all the major muscle groups, all from a sitting position. There’s no jumping or twisting or turning. You don’t have to get out and run on unrelenting asphalt that sends shock impact waves through your legs. It’s all don’t in a fluid motion with adjustable resistance to accommodate those who need a little more weight behind their motions. There was even a study in 2014 that showed people with joint torques in their elbows, shoulders, or knees noticed an improvement by 30%. If someone has physical limitations that make a traditional and basic rowing motion impossible, they can often still take advantage of indoor rowing machine exercises as well, as there are a variety of different forms of workouts.

2. Full body

Full-body exercise

An indoor rowing machine can be used in a variety of different ways to work various muscle groups, but the traditional rowing motion does it all. Through the stroke of a basic rowing motion, going through the Catch, Drive, Finish, and Recovery, you’re using all the major muscle groups. In fact, you’re using 86% of the muscles in your body. Almost no other machine is able to do all this with the other benefits an indoor rowing machine offers. It may seem impossible that you’re using that much all while in a sitting position, but if you break down each phase of the rowing motion you can see how everything is engaged. For the Catch, you place your feet on the footpads and grab the handle. Your knees should be bent so that your shins are close to vertical. Your core should be braced and your shoulders are relaxed with your arms straight in front of you. Then you push yourself back while keeping your torso slightly forward until your legs are fully extended to complete the Drive phase. Keep going with the motion and once your torso is almost vertical, you pull the handle with your arms toward your lower ribs, keeping your elbows tucked. This is the Finish. The Recovery is essentially relaxing your body until you’re back in the beginning position, doing so in the opposite order than you engaged each part. You can see how many of your muscles are used as your go through the rowing stroke. There are variations of different exercises that you can also do with indoor rowing machines that actively focus on different muscles groups, but the basic is probably the most inclusive.

3. Multiple ways to use

Multiple task exercise

As mentioned above, there is much more you can do with an indoor rowing machine than just the basic rowing stroke. Different indoor rowing machine exercises will work different muscle groups. Most will still offer a full body experience but will put more emphasis on different parts or the body. There’s even a few options for standing while working out, like the simple Deadlift. You stand on the footplates of the machine and hold the handle with your hands about shoulder length apart. Keeping your back straight, you’ll bend forward and let your hands lower to knee level. This is one example. There are several other options just for standing exercises on an indoor rowing machine. If you like the sitting aspect of the rowing machine, there are multiple options for you as well. One simple way to change up your workout is the Double Leg Press. This is very similar to the rowing stroke with less arms motion. Sit in the Catch position and pull the handle up to your waist or lower ribs and hold it there. While keeping that strain on the handle, push with your legs to move back in your seat, keeping the handle held. Anytime your change which exercise you’re doing with your indoor rowing machine, make sure to adjust resistance levels to fit your current needs.

4. Short learning curve

offers different resistance options

Despite all the ways you can use an indoor rowing machine, none of the exercises are very complicated. Once you understand how you need to engage your muscles and in what order, you simply need to practice until your body knows how it’s supposed to feel and what it’s supposed to do. Once you have those motions down, there’s nothing to it, but to change your resistance and speed to accommodate your fitness goals. When you first start a new workout, simply take the time to start slow until you get it right. Indoor rowing machines have such a wide range of workout options that it can be overwhelming for some. It’s easiest to just start with the classic rowing motion and master that. Then you can start to learn other things to do with your indoor rowing machine and soon you will have a wide range of workout options to reach your goals. All the workouts are simple enough. The hardest part is simply getting used to the motions and for most people that doesn’t take any time at all. Intimidation is the main reason people don’t start, but once they do they realize it’s far easier than a lot of other machines out there.

5. Works for strength and cardio

rowing exercise improves Joint health and flexibility

A great aspect of an indoor rowing exercise routine, and one that has been mentioned already, is the fact that you can use it to build strength or to get a great cardio workout. Not everyone wants to increase muscle mass. Some simply want to trim down with a low impact option. Indoor rowing machines are great for this. They allow you to keep the resistance low and increase your speed and duration in order to burn those calories and burn that fat. If you do want to increase your physical strength and build those muscles, then you can adjust the resistance to require more strength behind each stroke. If you’re training for a competitive event, the power and endurance you can build up an indoor rowing machine is bound to put you on top. Combining the two together will be the best for most people to accomplish overall healthier habits and a physically beneficial lifestyle. The full body workout offered by an indoor rowing machine allows you to adjust to keep your fitness routines interesting and achieve different goals. Many of us will change our focus throughout the year, so have one machine that can accommodate all of our fitness goals is great.

6. Cardiovascular health

rowing works for strength and cardio

While we’re discussing cardio, we need to recognize the value of the cardiovascular benefits of an indoor rowing machine. Whether cardio is your focus or not, the repetitive motions of indoor rowing machine exercises increases the strength of your respiratory system as it processes increased oxygen flow which also improving your heart strength. As your cardiovascular fitness improves with an indoor rowing machine, your chances of heart diseases and certain cancers is reduced. The low impact workout allows your body to process the oxygen in a more stable way, rather than some of the higher impact exercises out there that can knock the breath from you or make it more difficult to breathe deeply. With low impact cardio fitness, like from an indoor rowing machine, you can take deeper and more measured breaths, allowing your lungs to reach their capacity and supplying your muscles, including your heart, with increased oxygen as well. Our bodies need more than twice the normal amount of oxygen when we are performing high intensity workouts, so it only makes sense that the steadiness or an indoor rowing machines exercise improves our respiratory and heart health phenomenally.

7. Joint health and flexibility

rowing improves cardiovascular health

We already mentioned how there was a 2014 study showing improved joint function for those with joint injuries that use an indoor rowing machine, and that these machines offer a low impact workout like few other cardio exercises can achieve. This goes beyond just helping those who already have joint issues, and will help reduce the chance of developing joint issues in those who have none. Through the basic rowing stroke and most of the indoor rowing machine forms, there is a lot of motion in the joints, but none of that motion is harsh or jarring. Rowing machine workouts are entirely about fluid and continuous motions that help keep joints limber and strong. The rolling movements help to gently stretch tendons and ligaments while also improving their strength. This leads to improving flexibility and making you more resilient to joint discomfort and issues. Those who know that they have a family history of joint problems should start to work on getting their joints healthier right away to slow down any damage or hereditary weaknesses already there.

8. Different resistance options

Short learning curve exercise

Indoor rowing machines come in a variety of options, from more compact or lightweight machine to those that are bulkier and take up more space. They also have differing resistance options that can alter your indoor rowing machine workout experience. The three main resistance options are water, air, and magnetic. There are also hydraulic resistance rowing machines, but they are not as common. Some machines offer a combination of resistance types. Air machines are often described as the loudest, though this is not a problem for some, and many models simply sound like a floor fan. Water rowing machines are usually the second loudest, but many people find those to be pleasant sounding. The noise comes from the water in the tank sloshing around, and those who like rowing outside will find that it makes it feels more like real rowing because of the water sounds. Magnetic is usually the quietest of the three main ones, and is often more compact. Water machines are the hardest to adjust the resistance in, as they require actually changing the level of water in the tank. Most air and magnetic indoor rowing machines will have dials that your turn to adjust the resistance level, but the number of levels and the range it can reach depends on the model you buy.

9. Improves posture and back strength

Improves posture and back strength

Almost all indoor rowing machine workouts involve keeping your back straight and your shoulders squared. Part of the full body improvements you will see is with your core becoming stronger as well. This all leads to improved posture and better back strength. One reason many slouch is due to a weakened core from sitting at a desk all day. Slouching and poor posture will result in back pain and a weakening of back muscles. This begins the cycle of worsening posture and further damage to your back. Indoor rowing machine exercise keep your core strong and will help train your body to sit up straight and tall. The more you work out, the more you’ll see the improvement in your posture and in how your back feels. Good posture can have some great psychological benefits as well, as it’s been proven to help you feel more confident and give you more energy throughout your day. It also aids in digestion and helps you keeps a fitter appearance, as well as improves respiratory health as sitting and standing straight help to open airways.


Do I need a trainer for rowing exercise?

Not really. Most people are fine using an indoor rowing machine on their own, however, if you have some hard goals you want to reach or if you’re training for something competitive, you may want to get a trainer. Some people also experience a better workout with a trainer, so it really falls to individual preference. There are also options out there for virtual training or training programs that don’t involve hiring an actual trainer. Some indoor rowing machines may even come with trial runs or free memberships to some of these programs so you can utilize preplanned exercise routines or workout instructions to have a slightly less personalized training experience.

Is rowing a good exercise?

Rowing in probably one of the top exercises for all of the benefits listed above. It’s low impact and completely adjustable to your personal needs. Very few exercise machines have the same level of versatility or the level or personalization to fit in with almost any lifestyle and fitness routine. It can help improve respiratory health, heart health, and digestive health. It also works all the major muscle groups of your body. There really is no workout like what an indoor rowing machine offers.

What are some key air rowing machine benefits?

Air rowers tend to last a long time with no maintenance since they use a simple flywheel mechanic to operate. They emulate real water rowing fairly well with the way it feels as you pull the handle. They often will have a system that automatically adjusts resistance levels based on your speed so that you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to make adjustments. They are often compact and easy to store.

What are some key water rowing machine benefits?

Water rowers will sound almost like water lapping against the side of a boat, and since they actually use water as their resistance method, they will be the closest to emulating the sensation of real water rowing. You can adjust the water levels to increase or decrease the level of resistance you feel, giving you more control. Water indoor rowing machines are great for the overall experience of using a rowing exercise machine.

What are some key magnetic rowing machine benefits?

Magnetic indoor rowing machines are the quietest of all the machines and they usually take up the least amount of space, making them especially great for home gyms. They usually have a wide range of resistance levels that you can control with a dial. While these don’t emulate real rowing, they can still offer a great and controlled workout, especially if you’re using any type of virtual training program as the low sound level makes it easier to hear trainers or instructions.

Is rowing for everyone?

Anyone who is using an indoor rowing machine will notice the benefits of such a workout. There is so much one can do with a single machine that it really is perfect for everyone. It’s great for those who needs gentler workouts, those who want to shed some pounds, those who want to bulk up some muscle, and those who want to train for a competitive event. Individuals who have tons of energy can release some of that energy through fast paced and intense rowing workouts and those with conditions that cause low energy can adjust their rowing times to do what they can, or slow down their pace to keep getting a workout. Those with joint problems or mobility problems can take advantage of the low impact workout from a sitting position. It really works for everyone.


Using an indoor rowing machine is the most practical option for achieving your fitness goals. The levels of benefits is unparalleled in the gym equipment world and they are truly one of the most versatile and useful machines around. Overall fitness and the focus on physical health have rightfully and reasonably been on the rise, and we know our bodies need a range of exercise options to accommodate all our health needs and to live a satisfied and fit life. Indoor rowing machines offer so much in the way of overall and full body training and improvement that it’s surprising more are not taking advantage of such a great option. Some are intimidated by indoor rowing machines simply because they don’t understand them and all the range they encompass, but we need to take the time to understand the benefits tied to these machines in order to utilize them. Everyone should be using an indoor rowing machine as a part of their workout routine. There is no other type of exercise machine like it, even the best spin bikes are not as effective.

Sayed Hamed Hosseiny
Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

Hi, my name is Sayed Hamed Hosseiny. I am a professional health and fitness trainer with nearly 20 years of experience using ellipticals, rowing machines, and spin bikes. I also have my own EU-based Rock Fitness Pro fitness brand where I design, import and sell exercise equipment such as rowing machines and spin bikes. I and writers on my team also often receive fitness equipment to review and evaluate their functionalities and performance from tens of different exercise machines manufacturers. Fitness equipment tips, guides, reviews, and comparisons on this website are my opinion (and opinions of my fitness expert colleagues) based on tens of criteria. I never accept payment to write reviews of products or say positive things about fitness equipment products. If brands are interested to have me review their rowers, ellipticals, or spin bikes, they can get in touch with me via email provided on the contact page and send a sample of their product.