4 Great Beginner Rowing Workouts


Using the rowing machine can be pretty intimidating for beginners. Rowing requires much more technique than cardio exercises like running, using an elliptical machine, or even cycling. Furthermore, most people have more familiarity with how to run or ride a bike than row, even if it has been years.

However, rowing can still be a great beginner-friendly cardio workout. It is low-impact yet provides a total-body workout, with both an aerobic and strengthening workout in one.

But what are the best rowing workouts for beginners?

In this article, we will explain how to begin rowing and examples of some good beginner rowing workouts to get you started on your journey. 

We will cover: 

  • What Are the Best Rowing Workouts for Beginners?
  • 4 Great Beginner Rowing Workouts
  • Beginner Rowing Workout Plan
  • How to Get Started With Rowing At Home

Let’s jump in!

A person on a rowing machine doing a rowing workout for beginners.

What Are the Best Rowing Workouts for Beginners?

The best beginner rowing workouts help you build strength, increase your heart rate, and improve your endurance, while simultaneously helping you master proper rowing technique without overdoing it and increasing the risk of injuries.

Rower workouts for beginners tend to be short and typically focus on incorporating intervals of harder and faster rowing interspersed with recovery, where you lower the intensity of your rowing exercise.

This style of training, which is typically referred to as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is ideal for beginner rowing workouts for several reasons.

For one, HIIT workouts, whether rowing, running, cycling, and so on, are very efficient from a time standpoint, allowing you to reap the benefits of longer moderate-intensity steady-state cardio workouts in about 40% less time

Beginners often lack the endurance to perform longer workouts without stopping, so they can do a shorter HIIT rowing workout with a more manageable total workout duration while still seeing big improvements in cardiovascular health and fitness and reducing their risk of injury. 

Additionally, HIIT workouts have been found to be especially beneficial for burning fat and losing weight, and HIIT rower workouts may boost your metabolic rate for up to 14 hours or more after you hop off the rowing machine.

A person on a rowing machine.

Most importantly, a beginner rowing workout that utilizes an interval style rather than continuing to push at the same steady state the whole time will give beginners the opportunity to be more mindful of their rowing form and technique.

If you’re trying to slog through a beginner rower workout that has you sitting down and trying to row nonstop for 30 minutes, your form may break down towards the middle or end of the workout.

Not only will your muscles fatigue, requiring you to possibly modify your technique to keep going, but the monotony can cause you to tune out and mentally disengage from the exercise.

This can allow your form to get sloppy and your technique to break down.

In contrast, if you’re doing short but distinct intervals of hard rowing followed by easy rowing (say 45 seconds hard, 45 seconds easy), you need to stay focused and mentally keyed in during the whole workout to ensure you’re going hard when you’re supposed to and easing up when you are supposed to. 

Plus, it’s much easier to take bite-sized 45-second chunks to focus and use good form, especially during the hard intervals, than trying to focus to maintain optimal rowing technique for an entire 30 minutes.

To this end, the relative recovery breaks will allow your muscles and heart rate to relax and ease up a bit, preventing your muscles from getting completely exhausted and needing to then compromise your form.

A person on a rowing machine.

4 Rowing Workouts for Beginners 

Here are a few beginner rowing workouts for you to try out:

#1: 10-Minute Beginner Rowing Machine Workout

A 10-minute beginning rower workout may sound short if you are accustomed to other forms of cardio exercise, but if you are new to rowing, this is a great place to start.

  • Warm up with 2 minutes of easy rowing. 
  • Complete 7 sets of rowing 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy.
  • Finish the last minute with easy rowing to cool down.

#2: 15-Minute Beginner Rowing Machine Workout

Once you can row for 10 minutes, try this beginner-friendly 15-minute rowing workout.

  • Warm up with 2 minutes of easy rowing. 
  • Complete 4 sets of rowing 45 seconds hard, 45 seconds easy.
  • After the fourth set, give yourself an additional 60 seconds of easy rowing (1:45 total).
  • Complete 4 more sets of rowing, 45 seconds hard, 45 seconds easy.
  • Finish the last minute with easy rowing to cool down.
A group of people on rowing machines.

#3: 15-Minute Rhythm Rowing Workout 

This workout plays around with your rhythm, which refers to your stroke rate or how many times you are sliding up and down the rail of the rowing machine per minute.

  • Warm up with two minutes of easy rowing at 18-20 strokes per minute (spm).
  • 3 x 3 minutes at a hard effort at 26, 28, then 30 spm (minute one of each set at 26 spm, minute 2 at 28 spm, and minute 3 at 30 spm) with 60 seconds at 20 spm recovery effort in between each of the three sets.
  • 1 extra minute after the last one of easy rowing to cool down.

For the hard intervals, try to get into the “vigorous” intensity cardio zone. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, vigorous-intensity cardio corresponds to a heart rate range of 77-90% of your maximum heart rate.

#4: 20-Minute HIIT Rowing Workout for Beginners

This HIIT rowing machine workout kicks things up a notch in terms of total duration, and your “hard” efforts will be at maximum intensity, so you’ll be feeling it!

  • Warm up with five minutes of easy rowing.
  • 6 x 20 seconds of max effort rowing, 40 seconds easy.
  • 1 full minute of easy rowing.
  • 6 x 25 seconds of max effort rowing, 35 seconds, super easy.
  • Cool down with four minutes of easy rowing.

Overall, whatever type of beginner rowing workouts you do, even if you prefer to do steady-state aerobic workouts, gradually progress the distance or time of your rowing workouts as your fitness and technique improve.

A person on a rowing machine.

Beginner Rowing Workout Plan

As is the case when starting any type of training program, a rowing workout plan for beginners should progress gradually, increasing the frequency, duration, and intensity of your workouts over the course of several weeks and months as you build fitness and strength.

The best beginner rowing plan for you will depend on your current fitness level and what—if any—other types of exercise you are doing.

If you are starting from square one and haven’t been doing much exercise on a consistent basis and you would like rowing to be your primary form of exercise, begin with rowing three days per week or every other day.

How to Get Started With Rowing At Home

Many beginners are intimidated by going to the gym for fear that others will judge them or they’ll stand out as being noticeably out of shape or seemingly clueless about what they are doing.

First and foremost, it’s important to establish that you deserve to be in the gym just as much as anyone else, and no one is judging you.

A person on a rowing machine.

With that said, if you’re more comfortable working out at home, you might want to buy a rowing machine for your at-home workouts.

The problem with most home rowing machines is that they are bulky and expensive. Unless you have a lot of room and a large budget, this can make options like the Hydrow or Ergatta rowers unworkable.

In these cases, our suggestion is to try The TUT Rower™. It’s much more affordable, making it a good option for beginner rowers who aren’t interested in investing $2000 or more in a rowing machine.

Plus, the TUT Rower is super compact. It only weighs 21 pounds and takes up very little space. It can easily be stored under your couch or bed or against the wall. 

What’s most unique is that there are both upper- and lower-body tension systems, making your rowing workouts as much of a pushing workout as they are a pulling workout. There are also guided beginner rowing workouts in the TUT Training™ App.

A group of people on rowing machines.

The lightweight nature makes the rowing machine particularly approachable for beginners and a great way to get started doing rowing workouts at home. There are also resistance bands for total-body training.

Although any rowing machine will work for beginners—including those at the gym—if you want a budget-friendly but high-quality home rowing machine, definitely check out The TUT Rower

No matter what machine you use, you’re going to love rowing.

Welcome to the sport!

If you want a bit more information on rowing and the effects it has on your body, read our article: What Muscles Does The Rowing Machine Work?

A person on a rowing machine.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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