Rowing vs HIIT For Weight Loss

Quick Links

Rowing vs HIIT For Weight Loss

Exercise plays a crucial role in losing weight, and understanding the benefits of different workout methods, such as rowing vs HIIT for weight loss, will help you achieve your desired goal.

Engaging in regular physical activity not only helps to burn calories but also contributes to overall health and well-being.

When it comes to weight loss, exercise becomes even more significant as it aids in creating an energy deficit and aids in burning calories necessary for shedding excess pounds1.

Rowing And HIIT Exercise

Rowing and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) are two exercise modalities that have gained popularity recently for their effectiveness in promoting weight loss.

The cardiovascular benefits of rowing make it a great workout. Additionally, indoor rowing promotes burning calories, which could aid in weight loss2.

HIIT can aid in reducing body fat, boosting strength and endurance, and improving health results. Its key appeal is that it can produce comparable fitness and health advantages in a shorter amount of time and incorporates rest breaks3.

Rowing For Weight Loss

Rowing is a highly effective full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making it an excellent choice if you are looking for a comprehensive exercise routine. This low-impact activity utilizes a rowing machine, an ergometer, to simulate the motion of rowing a boat on the water.

Rowing primarily targets upper body muscles, including the back, shoulders, and arms. The pulling motion of rowing engages the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles, strengthening and toning the upper back and shoulders. Additionally, the biceps, forearms, and grip strength are also utilized during the rowing stroke’s pulling phase.

But rowing doesn’t just focus on the upper body; it also involves significant lower body engagement. The leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, play a crucial role in generating power and propelling the rowing motion. This comprehensive engagement of both upper and lower body muscle groups during rowing leads to a higher calorie burn and can contribute significantly to weight loss efforts.

The Benefits Of Rowing

Incorporating rowing into a fitness routine can improve muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, lose weight, and overall well-being. Here are some of the health benefits of rowing:

Full-body Workouts

Rowing engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making it a comprehensive exercise. A study assessed the muscle activation patterns during rowing and found significant activation in the upper and lower body muscle groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, latissimus dorsi, and biceps4.

Cardio Centric Workout

Rowing is an excellent aerobic and cardiovascular exercise that improves cardiovascular health. It is found that rowing improved aerobic capacity, heart rate, and oxygen consumption to a similar extent as cycling5.

Weight Loss and Calorie Burn

Rowing at moderate intensity burns a substantial amount of calories, making it an efficient exercise to lose weight6. Exercises like rowing assist in mobilizing body fat, so it may be used as energy7.

Low-Impact Exercise

Rowing is low-impact, meaning it puts minimal stress on the joints. Joint loading during rowing produces significantly lower forces on the knee joint than running. This makes rowing attractive for individuals with joint issues or those seeking gentler exercise8.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Regular rowing can positively impact various cardiovascular health.

A study shows the effects of long-term rowing on cardiovascular risk factors in older adults. It reported significant improvements in blood pressure, lipid profiles, and insulin resistance among participants who engaged in rowing exercises9.

Rowing Technique

Developing a proper rowing technique takes time. As a result, regular practice is essential before moving on to more difficult exercises.

The four distinct stages of rowing are the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery. The steps below will guide you to get a proper rowing form:

  1. First, take a seat on the rowing machine pad and fasten the straps around your feet.
  2. Activate the electronic tracker next. When you start rowing, certain models switch on automatically.
  3. Your thumbs should be around the oar while you hold it loosely.
  4. Starting in the “catch” position, with your arms straight, shoulders in front of hips, and shins nearly vertical, bend forward at the hips.
  5. Pushing with your legs and swinging your torso back in a vertical position will allow you to get into the “drive” position.
  6. After that, lift your arm into the “finish” position. With relaxed shoulders, slide your hands away from the flywheel in a straight line.
  7. Returning to the starting position will put you into the “recovery” phase. Allow your arms to advance before tilting your torso forward and bending your legs.
  8. Continue till the time has been reached.

HIIT For Weight Loss

By boosting calorie burn and lowering body fat, heart rate, and blood pressure, HIIT may offer the same health advantages as regular exercise in less time. This makes it an appealing option for individuals with busy schedules or those looking for efficient workout routines.

High-intensity interval workouts entail short bursts of intensive activity split by low recovery intervals10. This alternating pattern challenges the cardiovascular system and stimulates the body to adapt by improving aerobic capacity and increasing calorie expenditure. The intense bursts of activity push the body to its limits, while the recovery periods allow for brief rest and preparation for the next interval.

One interesting aspect of HIIT is its potential to be the fastest way to achieve fitness goals11. The combination of high intensity and short duration means that individuals can achieve comparable fitness and health benefits to longer, moderate-intensity workouts in a fraction of the time. This efficiency and time-saving aspect make HIIT an attractive option for those seeking effective weight loss and overall fitness improvements.

The Benefits Of HIIT Workouts

HIIT may offer special benefits in addition to the advantage of being an effective exercise in a short amount of time. These may be:

Burns Many Calories In A Short Time

As mentioned, HIIT can help you burn calories quickly even in a short amount of time, and can help you lose weight.

In one study, the number of calories burned after HIIT, weight training, running, and biking for 30 minutes was compared. The results suggest that individuals can burn more calories in an HIIT session with a hydraulic resistance system (HRS) compared to steady-state exercise12

In another study, findings suggest that HIIT may offer advantages over sprint interval training (SIT) in terms of burning more calories, maintaining higher oxygen uptake, and perceiving less exertion during exercise13.

Increase Metabolic Rate

The outstanding capacity of HIIT to raise your metabolic rate for hours after exercise has been shown in numerous research14,15. Metabolic rate refers to the rate at which your body burns calories and utilizes energy to perform various functions, such as breathing, digestion, and physical activity. A higher metabolic rate means that your body is burning more calories even at rest.

Several researchers have discovered that HIIT enhances your metabolism after exercise more than running or weight training14.

Help You Lose Fat

In one study, 424 persons were overweight or obese, and 13 experiments were examined. Interesting results showed moderate-intensity exercise and classic HIIT could reduce body fat and waist circumference16.

Muscle Gain

Certain individuals may benefit from HIIT’s ability to improve muscle mass in addition to fat loss17.

This is especially beneficial for people who are less active as, according to a study, untrained individuals are more likely to experience increases in muscle mass compared to those who are trained18.

Best HIIT Workouts

While there are numerous HIIT workouts to choose from, here are some of the best ones that have gained recognition for their effectiveness:

  • Tabata Intervals

Tabata intervals are a specific form of high-intensity interval training that follows a 20-second work period followed by a 10-second rest period. The short bursts of intense effort followed by brief recovery periods make Tabata intervals an efficient and challenging HIIT workout.

  • Circuit Training

Circuit training involves performing a series of exercises in a sequence with minimal rest between each exercise. Each exercise targets different muscle groups, providing a full-body workout. The exercises can include strength training exercises, cardio exercises, or a combination of both. 

  • High-Intensity Bodyweight Exercises

High-intensity bodyweight exercises are intense, fast-paced workouts that utilize only the resistance of one’s body weight, eliminating the need for additional equipment. These exercises can include movements like burpees, mountain climbers, squat jumps, push-ups, and planks.

  • Plyometrics

Also known as “jump training,” it focuses on explosive movements that engage the muscles’ stretch-shortening cycle. These exercises typically involve jumping, hopping, or bounding movements, such as box jumps, squat jumps, or burpees. 

Rowing vs HIIT For Weight Loss: Final Thoughts

When choosing between rowing and HIIT for weight loss, you must consider your personal preferences, physical capabilities, and long-term sustainability. Some individuals may prefer the rhythmic and meditative nature of rowing, while others may thrive on the intense and fast-paced nature of HIIT workouts.

Ultimately, the key to successful weight loss lies in finding an exercise routine you enjoy and can adhere to consistently.

Remember, weight loss is a holistic journey involving maintaining a balanced diet, proper rest, and overall lifestyle habits.


1 Cox CE. Role of Physical Activity for Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance. Diabetes Spectr. 2017 Aug;30(3):157-160. doi: 10.2337/ds17-0013. PMID: 28848307; PMCID: PMC5556592.

2 Shin KY, Choi EH, Lim JY, Cho AR, Lim YH. Effects of Indoor Rowing Exercise on the Body Composition and the Scoliosis of Visually Impaired People: A Preliminary Study. Ann Rehabil Med. 2015 Aug;39(4):592-8. doi: 10.5535/arm.2015.39.4.592. Epub 2015 Aug 25. PMID: 26361596; PMCID: PMC4564707.

3 HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). (2021, November 10). The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/high-intensity-interval-training/

4 Nowicky, A. V., Horne, S., & Burdett, R. (2005). The Impact of Ergometer Design on Hip and Trunk Muscle Activity Patterns in Elite Rowers: An Electromyographic Assessment. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 4(1), 18-28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3880080/

5 Vajda M, Vanderka M, Buzgo G, Sedliak M, Kampmiller T. The effect of different training modalities on resting hormonal level in active young males. J Appl Biomed. 2021 May;19(2):83-90. doi: 10.32725/jab.2021.008. Epub 2021 Mar 9. PMID: 34907707.

6 Lindenthaler, J. R., Rice, A. J., Versey, N. G., McKune, A. J., & Welvaert, M. (2018). Differences in Physiological Responses During Rowing and Cycle Ergometry in Elite Male Rowers. Frontiers in Physiology, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.01010

7 Mulla, N. A., Simonsen, L., & Bülow, J. (2000). Post-exercise adipose tissue and skeletal muscle lipid metabolism in humans: The effects of exercise intensity. The Journal of Physiology, 524(Pt 3), 919-928. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7793.2000.00919.x

8 Roemer, Karen & Hortobagyi, Tibor & Richter, Chris & Munoz Maldonado, Yolanda & Hamilton, Stephanie. (2013). Effect of BMI on Knee Joint Torques in Ergometer Rowing. Journal of applied biomechanics. 29. 10.1123/jab.29.6.763.

9 Asaka, M., Kawano, H., & Higuchi, M. (2012, May 26). 1(2): 227-234 (2012) – J-stage. Rowing as an aerobic and resistance exercise for elderly people. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpfsm/1/2/1_227/_pdf/-char/en

10 Ito, S. (2019). High-intensity interval training for health benefits and care of cardiac diseases – The key to an efficient exercise protocol. World Journal of Cardiology, 11(7), 171-188. https://doi.org/10.4330/wjc.v11.i7.171

11 Alansare A, Alford K, Lee S, Church T, Jung HC. The Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training vs. Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training on Heart Rate Variability in Physically Inactive Adults. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Jul 17;15(7):1508. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15071508. PMID: 30018242; PMCID: PMC6069078.

12 Wood KM, Olive B, LaValle K, Thompson H, Greer K, Astorino TA. Dissimilar Physiological and Perceptual Responses Between Sprint Interval Training and High-Intensity Interval Training. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Jan;30(1):244-50. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001042. PMID: 26691413.

13 Falcone PH, Tai CY, Carson LR, Joy JM, Mosman MM, McCann TR, Crona KP, Kim MP, Moon JR. Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Mar;29(3):779-85. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000661. PMID: 25162652.

14 Wingfield HL, Smith-Ryan AE, Melvin MN, Roelofs EJ, Trexler ET, Hackney AC, Weaver MA, Ryan ED. The acute effect of exercise modality and nutrition manipulations on post-exercise resting energy expenditure and respiratory exchange ratio in women: a randomized trial. Sports Med Open. 2015 Dec;1(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s40798-015-0010-3. Epub 2015 Jun 5. PMID: 27747847.

15 Schubert, M. M., Palumbo, E., Seay, R. F., Spain, K. K., & Clarke, H. E. (2017, December 15). Energy compensation after sprint- and high-intensity interval training. Energy Compensation After Sprint- and High-intensity Interval Training | PLOS ONE. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0189590

16 Wewege M, van den Berg R, Ward RE, Keech A. The effects of high-intensity interval training vs. moderate-intensity continuous training on body composition in overweight and obese adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2017 Jun;18(6):635-646. doi: 10.1111/obr.12532. Epub 2017 Apr 11. PMID: 28401638.

17 Martins C, Kazakova I, Ludviksen M, Mehus I, Wisloff U, Kulseng B, Morgan L, King N. High-Intensity Interval Training and Isocaloric Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training Result in Similar Improvements in Body Composition and Fitness in Obese Individuals. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2016 Jun;26(3):197-204. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2015-0078. Epub 2015 Oct 19. PMID: 26479856.

18 Damas F, Phillips S, Vechin FC, Ugrinowitsch C. A review of resistance training-induced changes in skeletal muscle protein synthesis and their contribution to hypertrophy. Sports Med. 2015 Jun;45(6):801-7. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0320-0. PMID: 25739559.


More Posts...