Best Workout Plans For Rowers

by Сашка

Rowing is a water sport where teams race by propelling boats through water using paddles. It’s a great way to keep active and meet new people, and anyone who can swim is able to get involved.

Being outdoors on the water isn’t appealing or accessible for everyone, especially in British weather, and a popular alternative to rowing is indoor rowing. Both are great options, and many rowers combine both types of rowing into their training routine.

While rowing is suitable for all fitness levels, improving your strength, conditioning, and endurance levels will help to improve your rowing performance.

In this blog, we share some of the best workouts for rowers that can help to take your rowing to the next level. 

Benefits of A Workout Plan For Rowers

The main benefit of workouts for rowers is improved athletic performance. While practicing rowing is great, you need to increasingly challenge your body so that it builds the strength and conditioning needed for high performance rowing.

Cross training allows you to continually challenge the body with a lower risk of overuse injuries. As you get stronger and your endurance and fitness improves, you’ll find rowing faster or for longer periods less challenging.

What Muscles Should Rowers Work?

Rowing is a full body workout, with multiple muscle groups used throughout the exercise. There are four stages to rowing:



  1. The Catch

    The starting position, the Catch, has the shins vertical, legs bent with your torso leaning forward, stomach compressed against your thighs and arms straight. During this stage, the triceps, abdominals, hamstrings, calves, and glutes are working.  

  2. The Drive

    This stage is initiated by pushing through the legs to drive the seat back and extend the legs, working the calves and quads. As your legs straighten and you lean back, the glute and hamstring muscles are also engaged.

    The biceps work throughout this phase to pull the handle towards your body, and the back and shoulder muscles work to open the chest.

  3. The Finish

    This phase involves pulling the handle towards the ribs while leaning back, working the abdominals, glutes, shoulders and biceps.

  4. The Recovery

    The Recovery phase is a reversal of the drive to bring your body back to the starting position. This phase should be slower and more controlled, and works the triceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

As you can see, rowing utilises lower and upper pushing and pulling muscles, making it a great work out! It also means there are plenty of muscles to focus on in any workout plan for rowers.

Best Workout Plan For Rowers

Ready to improve your rowing? Give one (or all) of these workouts a try alongside your regular rowing training.

Start each workout with a 5 minute warm up, and finish with a cooldown and some stretches, to prevent DOMs and reduce the risk of injuries.

Get some warm up ideas here, and cooldown stretches here.

HIIT Workout For Rowers

This workout combines indoor rowing and strength training exercises to improve strength and conditioning, with additional benefits of HIIT like improved aerobic fitness, burning calories, and short duration. You will need a pair of dumbbells and a rowing machine for this workout.

  • Perform each exercise for 40 seconds followed by 20 seconds rest
  • After you have completed all exercises, take a minute rest before repeating the circuit
  • Complete the circuit 2-3 times
  • Aim for at least an 8/10 effort for the workout intervals, and rest completely during the rest periods.
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  1. Rowing, damper setting 6-8

  2. Goblet squats

  3. Rowing, damper setting 4-6

  4. Dumbbell rows

  5. Rowing, damper setting 6-8

  6. Tricep dips

Strength Training Workout For Rowers

Strength training improves strength, muscle mass, and bone density, and can help to protect the joints as well as improve rowing strength.

Aim to do 1-3 strength training workouts a week to see results. You can also try our full body workout with weights here or this full body dumbbell only workout.



  1. Front squats – 3 x 8-12 reps

  2. Barbell deadlifts – 3 x 8-12 reps

  3. Seated rows – 4 x 6-8 reps

  4. Tricep pushdowns – 3 x 15 reps

  5. Seated shoulder press – 3 x 8-12 reps

  6. V sit ups – 3 x 15 reps

Kettlebell Workouts For Rowers

Kettlebells are a great piece of gym kit for building strength and stability while requiring little space.

After a warm up, perform each exercise for 45 seconds straight after each other, then take a minute rest. Perform 3-5 times.



  1. Kettlebell swings

  2. Single arm kettlebell overhead press – left

  3. Single arm kettlebell overheard press – right

  4. Kettlebell sit ups

  5. Kettlebell RDLs

  6. Kettlebell single arm rows – left

  7. Kettlebell single arm rows – right

Core Workouts For Rowers

Having a strong core helps to improve rowing performance and protect against injuries. Try adding a few of these exercises to your workouts through the week, or combine them into a short core workout 1-2x a week.



  1. Toe touches – 3 x 10-12 reps

  2. Plank – 3 x 60 second holds

  3. Swiss ball pikes – 3 x 8-10 reps

  4. Deadbugs – 3 x 10-12 reps

  5. Ab wheel rollouts – 3 x 6-8 reps

How Often Should Rowers Workout?

When planning your workouts each week, aim to include both cardio and strength training workouts as well as rowing specific training. You should also include a rest day to allow your muscles and soft tissues to recover.

An example of what this might look like across a week is:



  • Monday – 30 minutes steady rowing, 10 minutes core, 10 minutes stretching

  • Tuesday – 45 minutes full body strength training, 15 minutes mobility

  • Wednesday – 20 minute HIIT workout, 10 minutes core

  • Thursday – 45 minutes steady rowing, 15 minutes stretching

  • Friday – 60 minute full body strength training

  • Saturday – 20 minutes rowing, 20 minutes yoga

  • Sunday – rest

However, the ideal week of workouts will look different depending on your goals. If it’s to improve your rowing, prioritise rowing training and include 1-2 strength and cardio workouts each week. If your goal is to build muscle, aim for 3-4 strength sessions a week, with 1-2 cardio and rowing workouts. 

For more tailored workout advice, why not work with a PureGym Personal Trainer? You can find your local PTs at your nearest gym.

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