How To Use A Rowing Machine

How to Use a Rowing Machine | Rowing Machine Workouts


An indoor rowing machine is sometimes called an “ergometer”, or “erg” or simply “ergo.” This is because rowing machines often measure how much energy they produce in units of ergs. Because of the many benefits this machine offers, they have grown in popularity.

The rowing machine, for example, offers:

  • A full-body workout. We’ll be able to hit all major muscle groups if we use the correct rowing technique. We’ll hit every muscle group, from the upper to the lower. This is why they are so popular.
  • Low-Impact. Although a rowing machine workout can be intense, it is considered to have little or no impact. It’s not recommended for patients with osteoarthritis because it can be intense but has little to no impact.
  • Versatility. An ergometer can help us do many things. You can choose to train for intensity or duration. We even do a HIIT workout. You can also combine it with bodyweight moves in to create a circuit. They can also be folded up so they are great for training in small areas.

Let’s go over terminology to help you understand the ergometer. Let’s start with the rower itself:

#1 Foot Plate– No matter what rower you are, there will be a place to put your feet in. Make sure the strap is over your ball. This will enable you to make the strongest stroke possible. This position should allow you to raise your heel.

#2 Handle- This is also known as “the bar” and replicates the handles on an oar. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart.

#3 Rail- The central beam of the rower allows the seat to move forward and backward.

#4 Display Monitor– While these may differ from one model to the next, the rower will usually have a screen that shows basic information:

  • Strokes per minute (Stroke Rate)
  • Split Time (more information on this momentarily).
  • Workout duration

You can select “Just Row” from the Concept2 model.

This is the easiest way to get started.

#5 The Damper– This is the lever that controls the airflow from the flywheel housing or fan cage.

Damper settings are different:

  • Airflow is increased if the setting is higher. This requires more work in order to spin the flywheel.
  • Airflow is restricted by the setting. This requires less work in order to spin the flywheel.

This is similar to the gears on a bicycle. It affects the feeling of rowing but not necessarily the resistance.

  • Although a set of one may feel faster and easier to pull, you will need to move fast to generate power.
  • However, turning the damper to ten does not mean you will get a better workout. This is just a harder pull, like moving a rowboat.

We recommend that you choose a Damper setting of 3 to 5 as this is where most competitive rowers train.
Notice: Indoor rowers may use a water tank for resistance. Any Damper setting that controls the flow of water through the system will be adjusted accordingly. The same damper numbers can be used.

Let’s now discuss terminology related to rowing:

#1 Split
Split time is the time taken to row 500m. This time will be prominently displayed on your Display Monitor. If your number is lower, you are moving faster! 

#2 Strokes Per Minute
This is also known as Stroke rating. It’s exactly the same thing it sounds like: how many strokes you take in a minute. Higher SPM does not necessarily mean you are going faster. You can still go faster by putting more effort into each stroke.

#3). Paddle or Rest
You can never stop growing. It is possible to row or “paddle” slightly easier.
Similar to what you do in HIIT exercises. If you have to stop for any reason, don’t worry. You can get off the rower when you need to, but it’s not a boat.


This post was written by Darryl Johnson, Co-Owner of Apex performance. At we are a community of highly trained experts looking to provide performance enhancement and a permanent lifestyle change for our clients in a fun and interactive environment. Members can take advantage of one-on-one training, small group classes, and specialized courses for a wide variety of athletics, sports training, and body goals!