Many people abandon new exercise equipment or routines quickly when they perceive that they are expending a lot of time and energy for little gain. Bombarded with choices by advertisements for the latest workout machine fad, it’s not always easy to know which ones are worth the effort.

We know that shedding calories is hard work, so we look for the most effective ways to convert that work into gains we can see and feel. A cable row machine is a great way to get a challenging workout. They’re cheap and easy to use, and the cable system means that they can be used in just about any space.

Indoor rowing machines are a popular way to get an efficient, calorie-burning workout, but are rowing machine workouts hard to do? The answer depends largely on how you approach your rowing regimen. For more information about rowing machines, take a look at

The advantages of rowing

Rowing is a full-body workout. With each motion cycle, you’re working your legs, core, and arms simultaneously. Not only does this produce a high calorie burn, but the intensity of rhythmically working so many muscle groups also results in the much-coveted cardio benefits of exercise. Add in the low-impact nature of rowing, and it checks all the boxes for many modern workout requirements.

rowing machine

Rowing can burn from about 500-1200 calories over the course of an hour-long workout for the average person, depending on both their body type and the style of the workout.

So, what factors can affect the difficulty of a rowing machine workout, and thus the number of calories burned rowing?


When rowing, you’re not only working against the resistance of the machine (which can be adjusted) but also against the inertia of your own weight. If you have a lot of weight to move with each repetition, it naturally will add to the difficulty of the workout.

This is a common occurrence in exercise, though, and as you continue to shed calories and pounds it becomes less of a factor.

Workout duration

All else being equal, a longer workout will result in more calories burned, but can also be harder to maintain the longer the session goes. This will certainly be the case for people rowing for the first time.

But keeping the same rhythm and intensity of a rowing session gets easier as you lose weight, gain strength, and improve your cardiovascular health.

Workout intensity

Your body weight during a given workout “is what it is” and will affect the ease with which you can row, but the intensity of a rowing session can also be finely tuned. By adjusting the resistance settings on the rowing machine, you have more control of the intensity of the workout and the resulting calorie burn.

You also control the intensity and difficulty of your rowing session by monitoring your pace. Rowing at a faster pace is more intense and can benefit your exercise goals, but it will also tire you more quickly and result in a longer recovery time for your body.

Getting the most out of rowing

Finding the right balance of rowing pace and machine resistance settings will take an initial investment in patience and time – and a bit of trial-and-error. To avoid getting frustrated or burned out too early, start with slow and less intense sessions until you’re used to using the machine.

When you’ve found a speed and resistance that you can maintain for a desired time, start each session with a low-pace warm-up, then increase your resistance to the desired goal for that day.

To increase the efficiency of your workout, always be mindful of your posture and rowing technique – if you’re not rowing properly much of your motion and effort is wasted.

All exercise is hard. It’s supposed to be. But in the end, you’re in charge of what you put into and gain from your rowing machine workouts.