6 Indoor Rowing Workouts That Won’t Bore You To Death

Walk into any standard gym, and you’ll see a line of treadmills and ellipticals, all occupied, while the rowing machines remain almost completely empty, which is ridiculous because rowing is an incredible workout, often burning more than 8 calories per minute. Meanwhile, rowing is the latest rage for fitness studios, and CrossFit® boxes are continuing to implement the erg into WOD’s as they have since 2010 when functional fitness hit the mainstream.

Problem is, when you bring the high-style workouts of boutique-y rowing studios and the high-intensity workouts of CrossFit to big box gym, they can lose their fun. Because let’s face it, rowing can get boring at worst and monotonous at best. That’s why we put together a list of 6 erg exercises that won’t bore you to death.

Tabata Sprints

How To Do It:

  1. For the first 20 seconds use just your legs. Isolate your lower body and keep your arms locked out, lean in and lean out so that you are using just your legs for twenty seconds on.
  2. Rest for 10 seconds.  
  3. The second 20 seconds of work is a full body sprint. That means you need to row as fast as you can while keeping good form.
  4. Rest for 10 seconds.
  5. Third 20 second of work is just your arms: Lean in, lean back pull. Just like you would row except you are not using your legs at all.
  6. Rest for 10 seconds
  7. Second 20 seconds is a full body sprint. That means you need to row as fast as you can while keeping good form.
  8. Rest for 10 seconds
  9. Repeat steps 1-8 anywhere from 2-3 times for maximum burn.

Why It Works: “This is a really good lead into a rowing circuit, rowing class, or any HIIT-style workout. It’s also a great way to increase comfort on the rower because it really forces athletes to focus on their form,” says ICE NYC HIIT coach, Margie Welch.

Pilates Reformer

How To Do It:

  1. Put your feet on the seat halfway down the rowing base, hands on the ground 6 inches away from the end of the rower so that you are facing away from the screen in a plank form.
  2. Keeping your back and legs straight, drag your toes toward your hands until you end up in a pike position (“triangle”) with the seat at the end of the rower.
  3. Slowly and with control, drag your feet back until your legs are straight
  4. Aim for 3 rounds of 10-20 reps for an abs and shoulders workout.

Why It Works: “This pilates-inspired circuit is great for either an abdominal and shoulder finisher or warm up,” says Welch. This little circuit is a great way to break up time on the rower, she adds.


How To Do It:

  1. Row 1 minute. Rest 1 minute
  2. Row 2 minutes. Rest 2 minutes.
  3. Row 3 minutes. Rest 3 minutes.
  4. Row 4 minutes. Rest 4 minutes.
  5. Row 3 minutes. Rest 3 minutes.
  6. Row 2 minutes. Rest 2 minutes.
  7. Row 1 minute.  

Why It Works: This workout proves that built-in rest doesn’t signify easy. With built in rest this pyramid will test your rowing consistency. But with 16 minutes of work, it’s also no joke and will give your endurance a run for its money, jokes Welch.

Death By Calories

How To Do It:

  1. Start the clock.
  2. Row 1 calorie.
  3. Every minute on the minute row one additional calorie. So minute two, row 2 calories. Minute three, row 3 calories. And so on and so forth.
  4. Continue rowing an additional calorie each minute until you cannot complete the number of reps needed before the minutes run out.

Why It Works:  “‘Death by_____’ WODs are a sneaky little guys,” says CJ Maldonado ICE NYC CrossFit and CrossFit Foundations Coach. “They start very innocent and before you know it you are running out of time and trying to play catch up.”  

It is an EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute) that has you start with 1 rep and add an additional rep at the start of each minute until you cannot complete the amount of reps needed before the minute runs out. So while you can you can break the row into as many sets as you need, the workout is over when you can’t complete the number of calories in the minute. If you DO complete the amount of reps before the minute is up, the remaining time is your rest. Athletes who do not have experience on the rower should row 1 calorie the first minute, athletes with moderate rowing experience should start the first minute with 5 calories, and athletes who are well-conditioned should challenge themselves to start with 10 calories per minute.


6 Minutes Of Work

How It Works:

  1. Strap into the rower, dial up the resistance to an 8 or 10.
  2. When you’re ready, begin sprint for 10 seconds. When the 10 seconds are up, row a relaxed pace for 10 seconds.
  3. Continue going 10 seconds on 10 seconds off for 6 full minutes.

Why It Works: This workout requires athletes to work on transitioning speed quickly, which can help them develop a stronger first-pull explains, Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of Movement Vault. Plus, the constant speed changes will keep your focus on the screen and you from getting bored during this short but high-intensity workout, he says.


How It Works:

  1. Find a partner and two rowing machines.
  2. Race for distance or for calorie.
    1. Row 100 meters, 3 times. Whoever finishes fastest 2 times, wins.
    2. Row 20 calories, 3 times. Whoever finishes fastest 2 times, wins.
    3. Row 1000 meters. Whoever finishes first, wins.

Why It Works: Not only are partner workouts a great way to beat WOD-boredom, they are also a great way to force you to push yourself when you’re just not feeling it, says Wickham. “Make sure not to let the competitive element compromise your form” he adds.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image: @anniethorisdottir on Instagram/Reebok