Enhance Strength Training With Indoor Rowing


When it comes to strengthening your body, traditional weightlifting exercises often take the spotlight. However, there's an underrated gem that can truly enhance your strength training regimen: indoor rowing. In this blog post, we'll explore the scientific evidence behind how indoor rowing can benefit your strength training and learn how to effectively incorporate Ergatta into your training regimen for optimal results.


Indoor rowing engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making it a great addition to your strength training routine. Scientific studies have shown that rowing activates 86% of your muscle groups including key muscles like the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core muscles, upper back, and shoulders for a full-body workout (Hagerman et al., 2000). The simultaneous activation of multiple muscle groups promotes balanced strength development and overall physical performance improvement.


Indoor rowing provides a substantial cardiovascular workout. Studies, such as the one published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, demonstrate that rowing increases maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) and boosts aerobic capacity (Shephard et al., 2009). Improved cardiovascular endurance not only enhances overall fitness but also facilitates better recovery between strength training sets, allowing for increased training volume and intensity.


In addition to full-body engagement and enhanced cardiovascular endurance, research demonstrates that rowing significantly enhances muscle strength and power output through a combination of resistance, muscle recruitment, and progressive overload (Sanders et al., 2000).

  • Resistance: a challenging load for your muscles to work against. By consistently overcoming this resistance, your muscles adapt and become stronger over time.

  • Muscle Recruitment: the process of activating and utilizing muscle fibers to perform a specific movement. Rowing involves compound movements and engage multiple muscle groups (aka more muscle fibers) making it particularly effective in promoting optimal muscle recruitment.

  • Progressive Overload: a gradual increase in demand on the muscle. Indoor rowing allows for progressive overload by adjusting resistance, intensity, duration, or frequency. Consistently challenging muscles with higher loads leads to increased strength and power.

So while you may opt for a rowing session in between your strength training as a rest day, you’ll still be making essential progress on your strength goals.


Last on our list but perhaps the most important, indoor rowing improves functional movement patterns essential for daily activities and sports performance and can help reduce injury risk through various mechanisms (Karpowicz et al., 2011). It’s important to remember that proper technique, progression, and guidance are important for maximizing these benefits.

  • Muscular Balance and Coordination: Rowing engages multiple muscle groups in a coordinated manner, promoting improved muscular balance and coordination in daily activities and sports performance.

  • Core Stability and Postural Control: The rowing stroke requires a strong and stable core, enhancing core strength, stability, and postural control.

  • Range of Motion and Flexibility: Rowing involves a full range of motion for multiple joints, improving joint flexibility and range of motion.

  • Neuromuscular Adaptations: Regular rowing can lead to neuromuscular adaptations, enhancing communication and coordination between muscles and the nervous system.

  • Low-Impact: Indoor rowing is a low-impact exercise, placing minimal stress on joints while still providing an intense workout. By opting for rowing instead of high-impact activities like running or jumping, you can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries and protect your joints while maximizing your strength training results.

Scientific evidence unequivocally supports the numerous benefits of indoor rowing for enhancing your strength training regimen. Through total body engagement, improvements in muscular strength and power, cardiovascular endurance, and reducing the risk of injury, rowing is a valuable addition to any strength training routine. By incorporating indoor rowing workouts into your regimen, you'll unlock the extraordinary benefits that this versatile exercise can bring to your strength training journey.

Now, let's figure out how to fit rowing into your routine!



We consulted with our Director Exercise Science & Programming, Chris Chang, for guidance on how to best incorporate cardio workouts on the Ergatta rower into a strength training routine. To help you find the path that works best for you, we’ve outlined a number of possible methods below, which vary according to scheduling and workout preferences. 


Space out your workout days so that rowing sessions take place in between strength training sessions. This allows for you to challenge your endurance through cardio while giving your muscles time to recover in between strength sessions, or vice versa.


Example A  - 4 workout sessions per week (2 cardio, 2 strength)

You’ll notice that Monday’s high intensity strength day is followed up by an endurance workout on the Ergatta to allow the muscles to recover from the heavy load of weight lifting. Thursday’s HIIT workout on the Ergatta is followed by a medium-intensity strength workout. The goal here is to ensure that your body has time to recover before pushing through another strenuous workout.

Quick Tip - It's helpful to vary the intensity of each type of workout you do throughout the week in order to maximize your results. This involves some days being harder than others or having different focuses. Total-body workouts are recommended for most people, but if you’re working out at a very high frequency (at least 4 strength days per week), splitting up workout days by body part can help you balance recovery. 

Example B6 workout sessions per week (3 cardio, 3 strength)

Like Example A, this plan alternates between intense strength and cardio days. But by increasing to 6 workout sessions per week, you can add a greater range of workout types to your overall workout plan. You’ll notice that in this example, there’s an added low intensity strength day and recovery cardio day (which could be something like a relaxed, 20 minute Open Row).


Another way to incorporate rowing into your regimen is to integrate cardio into your existing strength training sessions, as opposed to alternating days. Here are three ways to do so:

  1. Circuit training is a great way to incorporate cardio; you'll alternate between strength exercises and rowing intervals. For example, set custom rowing intervals in Scenic Row. Then perform 30 seconds of a strength exercise during the rest periods in-between rowing intervals.

  2. Incorporate a 5-10 minute “finisher” at the end of a strength session. Here, you would want to opt for Races or Vortex, high-intensity cardio, the goal being to push yourself hard at the end of the session prior to cooling down.

  3. Incorporate rowing into your warm-up or cool-down. Row a 5-10 minute (Pulse, Meteor, or Scenic Row) as a warm-up before a strength session or as a cool-down afterward.

Example C3 combined strength and cardio workout sessions per week

Each training session could look like a 5 minute Meteor/Pulse, 30 minute Strength, 5 to 10 minute Race or Vortex as a finisher, or a 5 minute Scenic Row. 


Consider giving equal importance to both strength and cardio aspects. This could involve increasing the frequency or duration of your workout sessions. Rather than performing total body workouts, divide your training days based on muscle groups or by focusing on opposing muscle groups, such as push versus pull exercises. Incorporate a cardio workout within each session to reap full-body benefits.

By concluding your strength workout with cardio, the targeted muscle group for that day will be fatigued, but it will recover during subsequent day's rowing intervals until it's time to focus on that muscle group again.

Example D6 combined strength and cardio workout sessions per week.

Notice the intensity of cardio on the rower changes as the week progresses, from most intense to recovery for the first 3 days, then it repeats most intense to recovery for the last three days. This will ensure your cardio workouts are well-rounded and you aren't over-exhausting your body.

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Hagerman, F. C., et al. (2000). Kinematic and kinetic comparison of elite and trained rowers during ergometer rowing. Journal of Sports Sciences, 18(11), 845-854.

Karpowicz, K., et al. (2011). Effect of rowing ergometer training exercises on the functional movement patterns in young women. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 32(3), 217-222.

Mairiaux, P., et al. (2016). Safety evaluation of exercise on the rowing ergometer. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 46(4), 280-285.

Sanders, M. E., et al. (2000). Six weeks of rowing ergometer training improves torque production in the legs but not in the arms of collegiate women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14(4), 485-492.

Shephard, R. J., et al. (2009). The impact of repeated endurance exercise bouts on pulse pressure and hemodynamics in older hypertensives. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 19(6), 896-903.