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How to perform HIIT on your rowing machine

How to perform HIIT on your rowing machine

High intensity interval trainings (HIIT) are the great way to get the most of your rowing machine. HIIT are workouts that alternate periods of short and intense exercises with less-intense recovery exercises.

Rowing machines are probably the best cardio machines for total-body workouts, as they require almost the same effort from both your lower and your upper body. There are many reasons to include rowing machine in your home gym, but the main reason is that rowing machine can greatly improve your overall cardiovascular fitness. Using rowing machine only for basic cardio workouts is good, but combining them with high intensity trainings is even better for your body and your health. Rowing machine will improve your stamina and physical endurance, and by increasing your heart rate, it will boost your metabolism and speed up weight loss.

In addition, if you are using rowing machines for HIIT, exercises will become even more effective and more entertaining. Here’s how you can kick your metabolism into high gear and build muscles at the same time, with a home gym rowing machine!

Sample HIIT using rowing machines

Fixed interval trainings use about 80-90% of your muscles’ maximum capacity as they alternate rapid with slow movements. They’re generally done for 20-30 minutes, each interval lasting for 1-2 minutes, with resting or recovery periods of 30 seconds – 1 minute.

The intensity, rhythm and resistance depend on your fitness level. As a beginner, you should start with 30 seconds rowing intervals followed by 1-minute resting periods and increase progressively until you manage to do 1 minute of workout and 1 minute of slow recovery. For maximum benefits, you should do at least 8-10 intervals per session, plus the warm-up period.

Intervals alternate low with high intensity periods, thus they boost the heart rate and help your body use its internal energy sources in a more efficient way. This means that fats are broken down and turned into energy more rapidly and given that, the metabolic rate remains high for hours after the training session. It also means you’ll burn more calories than usually even while resting or sleeping.

Another type of high intensity interval training you can perform using the rower is the Fartlek training, translated by “speed play”. The workout starts just like regular HIIT, with 5 minutes of warm-up done at moderate intensity, and continues with alternate stretches of low and high intensity rowing.

You should adjust the intervals according on your resistance and fitness level and on the available time. You can do a first interval of 30 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of recovery, then 40 seconds of high intensity workout and 20 seconds of rest. This type of HIIT is suitable for beginners and advanced users at the same time.

Once you get used with rowing and your physical endurance is improved, you can start with pyramid intervals, which are more demanding and aren’t generally recommended to beginners. The starting point is the warm-up period, lasting for 3-5 minutes.

After this, you start the high intensity intervals, with shorter periods and increasing gradually from one repetition to another, until you reach the maximum chosen length. Let us put this in simpler words: if you do 5 minutes of warm-up, you can continue with these:

  • 1 minute of high intensity rowing, 1 minute of low intensity rowing
  • 2 minutes of HI rowing, 1 minute of LI rowing
  • 3 minutes of HI rowing, 30 seconds of LI rowing
  • 4 minutes of HI rowing, 30 seconds of LI rowing
  • 5 minutes of HI rowing, 30 seconds of LI rowing

When you reach this point of the workout, start decreasing the length of the intervals so that you give your body the chance to cool down progressively:

  • 4 minutes of HI rowing, 1 minute of LI rowing
  • 3 minutes of HI rowing, 1 minute of LI rowing
  • 2 minutes of HI rowing, 1 minute of LI rowing
  • 1 minute of HI rowing, 1 minute of LI rowing
  • 2 minutes of recovery

Tips for avoiding injuries

Although rowers are considered safe for HIIT, there’s a risk for you to hurt your back muscles, bones and joints if you don’t put your body in proper position or if you’re using the wrong technique.

If you want to see what the proper rowing technique is, please watch this video:

Here’s what you can do to avoid injuries while working out on a rowing machine:

  • Avoid leaning too far back or forward, as this can stress the lower back and lead to spine problems, muscle aches and lower back pain.
  • Avoid initiating the drive movement with the back or hands and use your butt and legs for starting the movements. This reduces pressure in the back and prevents injuries.
  • Avoid jerking the handle and use smooth strokes to avoid injuries in arms and shoulders;
  • Increase gradually and warm-up, to avoid muscle cramps.
  • Don’t push your body too hard from the first sessions, to avoid overworking and maximize the exercise’s benefits.
  • Stick to 2-3 sessions of 10-15 minutes per week in the first few weeks and adjust the frequency, the length and resistance progressively. To reach to 20 minutes during the second month of workout and to 30 minutes of HIIT during week 6-7 of high intensity interval training on the rowing machine.

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