30-Minute Rowing Workout

30-Minute Rowing WorkoutThis is a fun one! It’s also a workout you can use to track your progress with rowing and cardiovascular endurance in general (you’ll see what I mean below). If you’re new to rowing, you may want to bookmark/pin this workout for later and wait for me to post a how-to guide for proper rowing form, which is coming soon.

I had my 6:45AM Row class yesterday at Btone Wellesley do a very similar workout and they crushed it!

30-Minute Rowing Workout

Equipment I Used:

  • WaterRower GX (these machines are AWESOME, but obviously just use whatever rower you have access to!)


I use the Indo-Row intensity scale (kind of), which I’ve modified below. So all the numbers you see in this workout (22-40) refer to strokes per minute. It’s just a way to quantify “easy,” “medium,” “hard” and “everything you’ve got.” On the WaterRower console, it’s the big number in the middle, and it’s how you gauge your current work intensity. Rowing Intensity Scale (30-Minute Rowing Workout) WaterRower GX Console (30-Minute Rowing Workout)

In the picture above, I’ve highlighted the numbers on the WaterRower console we’ll worry about for this particular workout. Every rowing machine will vary, which is fine—you really only need a way to track time and distance. You don’t really even need to know your strokes per minute; just go at your perceived “easy,” “medium,” “hard,” and “race pace.”

This workout will get your heart rate UP there—rowing at race pace is intense. So that being said, if you have any health issues, consult your doctor before taking on this kind of cardio load. The graphic below is good for quick reference or printing out for the gym, but (especially if you’re newer to rowing) it’s probably best to read the fuller descriptions below as well. 30-Minute Rowing Workout

Warm Up | Spend 1 min at each stroke rate: 24, 26, 28, 26, 24 (upping intensity and then reducing it).

Tabata Wave | Perform 8 rounds of 20 sec hard intensity (28) and 10 sec recovery pace (<24). This will take you 4 minutes total.

Short Race Intervals | You’ll do four 100-meter sprints at a race pace (30+). Spend 30 sec at easy pressure (24) in between each sprint.

  • Your goal is to be under 25 seconds for each of your 100-m sprints (beginners, under 30 sec). My record is 18 seconds, but I’ve had a student do it in 17—what a beast! These numbers are good parameters for the ladies—guys, your times will be lower.

Timed Race Pyramid | Go as far as you can go in 2 minutes, 90 seconds, 1 minute, and then 30 seconds. Rest for 30-60 seconds in between each interval (think of each interval as one leg of the race).

  • Write down your distance at the end of each interval. When you’re done, add up your total distance traveled in the four legs of the race. Your goal is to be over 1,000m in total, but shoot for the 1,300s!
  • You’ll have a breathless feeling by the last stretches of the long intervals (rowing at race pace for 2 minutes is NO joke). If you don’t, you weren’t pushing hard enough. So that being said…
  • These numbers are just for guidance and not set in stone—listen to your body! In general, race pace is anything above “full pressure” (28). If it’s a quick race (100m, 30 seconds, etc.), you’ll want that number anywhere from mid 30’s to mid 40’s, depending on fitness level. For longer races (over 60 sec, over 200m, etc.), consider pacing yourself a bit and pulling back by a couple digits.

Cool Down | Spend 1 min at each pace: 26, 24, 22 strokes per minute.

30-Minute Rowing Workout

 WEARING | leggings: Lululemon (out of stock, but similar ones here and here) / tank: Brandy Melville (similar here) / sneakers: Nike (similar here)

30-minute Rowing WorkoutRevisit this workout—specifically the timed race pyramid—and try to beat your previous numbers. Having times and distances as benchmarks is paramount in keeping me motivated and engaged with rowing workouts.

Do you row? What’s your favorite way to use a rower in your workouts? signature SHOP A SIMILAR LOOK:

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  1. I love this challenge! I’ve been using the rowing machine in between sets and it’s been killer! I’m going to try this one for sure Nicole! 😉

  2. I’m exhausted just reading the workout!

  3. I’m going to have to try this! I love using row machines when I’m doing a cardio circuit to break up using the “traditional” equipment. Thanks for putting this together – I’ll try it out later this week 🙂

  4. I’d been thinking about getting an elliptical for home (while movie watching) cardio, since it’s the thing I go for at the gym when I’m not in a class. But this rower is changing my mind! I tried the gym rower (a Concept 2) after class at lunch today, and appreciated the bit of core work in it.

  5. This is awesome! One of my best friends in college tried to convince me to be the coxswain for her girl’s crew team…I tried their rowing workouts for 2 days and died. It is such a good workout!

  6. What a great workout tutorial! I never know how to get a workout using a rowing machine because I don’t know how fast or how long I should go. Thanks for the breakdown!

  7. Potamusroo says:

    This was really informative. Never knew about the strokes per minute, because I usually just space out to my music. What “level” would the rower be at for the workout? Ours is on a 1-10. I always start with a 1000/m row warm-up at the gym and began on a level 4 and now at a level 6 (which is a challenge for me). Never rowed longer than about 5ish minutes so I wondering if I should stay at level 6 or scale back to be able to actually complete the workout? Excited to print and try this out. Thanks from Australia.

    • Hmm I’m not sure about the levels because the WaterRowers don’t have resistance changes to them. Start at a 4-5 and see how it goes?

  8. I`m so happy I came across your blog. Great workout tutorial. I found your post very useful. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I took my first row class at BTone Wellesley last week and actually kicked my little tush! I L-O-V-E-D it! Can’t wait to go. Ack for more!

  10. Hey Nicole,
    Great work, keep this up.
    Have you tried using Live Rowing ios app to compete with your friends on a boat race. Its amazing and motivating too.

  11. Hey Nicole,

    Got to your blog through waterrower emails. I was wondering if you thought that working out 65 minutes including warm ups and cool off and covering more than 10000 m 4 times a week is a good place to be for cardio workouts or should I do more?

    • I think that’s awesome! It really depends on what your fitness goals are and the intensity level of the cardio, but even less than that (30 mins of cardio 3-4x week) mixed with some strength training is enough. 🙂

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