Rowing vs Lifting Weights For Weight Loss

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Rowing vs Lifting Weights For Weight Loss

When it comes to weight loss, incorporating the right exercises into your fitness routine is essential. Rowing and lifting weights are frequently considered viable options for weight loss. Although each activity presents distinct advantages, they tackle the goal of shedding pounds from different perspectives.

Both exercises can be beneficial when incorporated into a well-rounded fitness routine, as they offer unique benefits that contribute to overall physical fitness and well-being.

Let’s explore the benefits of rowing vs lifting weights for weight loss, highlighting their distinct advantages in a well-rounded fitness routine.

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. 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, are crucial in generating power and propelling the rowing motion. This comprehensive engagement of 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 Workout

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 biceps1.

Cardio Centric Workout

Rowing is an excellent cardiovascular and aerobic exercise that improves cardiovascular endurance. It was found that rowing enhanced aerobic capacity, heart rate, and oxygen consumption to a similar extent as cycling2.

Weight Loss And Calorie Burn

Rowing at moderate intensity burns a substantial amount of calories, making it an efficient exercise to lose weight3. Exercises like rowing assist in mobilizing body fat, so it may be used as energy4.

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 exercise5.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Regular rowing can positively impact cardiovascular health because it is considered aerobic exercise.

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 exercises6.

Rowing Technique

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

Various Rowing Machine Workout

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs are highly effective for fat-burning and maximizing calorie expenditure through a comprehensive workout involving the entire body. In HIIT, you exert maximum effort during a specific interval, such as one minute, followed by rest or reduced intensity.

Examples of typical HIIT rowing workouts:

  • Row slowly at 18-20 strokes per minute (SPM) for 3 minutes.
  • Row at 23-28 strokes for one minute.
  • Rest or slow down to 18 strokes for one minute.

After 20 minutes of repetition of this routine, you would cool down for three minutes.

Additionally, you can try a few of the long-standing workouts that emphasize weight loss and resistance training, like:

  • Rowing 5-7,000 meters at a moderate stroke rate six days per week.
  • Rowing 10,000 meters of lower-intensity rowing six days per week.
  • Rowing for 30 minutes at a maximum speed.
  • Rowing for 20-30 minutes with alternating speeds (fast and slow pace).

Lifting Weights For Weight Loss

Weight training and weightlifting offer a multitude of benefits for enhancing your physical appearance. However, it is important to note that this total body workout is more suitable for individuals who do not have existing joint issues or prior sports-related injuries. Consistently engaging in weightlifting can significantly strengthen your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, providing a solid foundation for overall physical strength.

Furthermore, it has the potential to boost bone density and strengthen the development of lean muscle mass, an efficient way to burn calories and thus facilitate losing weight.

The Benefits Of Weight Lifting

Regular physical exercise is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and when it comes to strength training, lifting weights offers a wide range of impressive health benefits. Below are some health benefits of lifting weights:

Increased Muscle Strength

Weight lifting significantly increases muscle strength and power. Resistance training (including weight lifting) leads to substantial gains in muscle strength and size7,8.

Improved Bone Health

Weight lifting can increase bone mineral density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. According to research, weight-lifting exercises can stimulate bone formation and improve bone density9.

Enhanced Metabolism

Lifting weights can boost your metabolism and increase calorie burning during and after exercise. A study shows that regular weight training increases resting metabolic rate, which will help you lose weight10.

Increased Lean Muscle Mass

Lifting weights promotes the development of lean muscle mass, enhancing the physical appearance and overall body composition. Research suggests lifting weights can increase muscle mass and decrease body fat percentage11.

Enhanced Cardiovascular Health

Lifting weights can have cardiovascular benefits, including improved blood pressure, reduced LDL cholesterol levels, and increased HDL cholesterol levels12.

Increased Insulin Sensitivity

Lifting weights can improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. A study found that resistance training improved insulin sensitivity in individuals at risk for diabetes13.

Lifting Weight Techniques

When it comes to lifting weights, there are various techniques and principles that can help maximize your workout effectiveness and safety. Here are some key techniques to consider:

  1. Proper Form – maintain correct posture and technique to target muscles effectively and reduce the risk of injury.
  2. Warm-Up Sets – begin with lighter weights and higher reps to warm up your muscles.
  3. Progressive Overload – gradually increase weight to promote strength and muscle gains.
  4. Breathing Technique – breathe correctly to stabilize your core during lifts.
  5. Rest and Recovery – allow sufficient time for muscle repair and growth.
  6. Variation and Compound Movements – include different exercises that engage multiple muscle groups.
  7. Gradual Progression – increase weight gradually to avoid strain or injury.
  8. Listen to Your Body – pay attention to any discomfort and adjust accordingly.

Consider working with a certified personal trainer for guidance and personalized instruction.

Various Forms Of Weight Training

Weight training encompasses various forms aimed at building strength, improving muscle tone, and enhancing overall fitness. These are:

  • Strength Training: Bodybuilding, brute strength powerlifting, circuit training, and high-volume training are some exercise routines that you can perform.
  • Resistance Training: Dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells are used as resistance in weightlifting.
  • Bodyweight Training: Exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats use the body’s own weight as resistance.

Rowing vs Lifting Weights For Weight Loss

Both rowing and lifting weights can be effective, but they offer different approaches to achieving the goal. Rowing, a cardiovascular exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, can be an excellent option for weight loss. It is a high-intensity, low-impact workout that burns calories and increases aerobic fitness.

On the other hand, lifting weights is also a valuable exercise for weight loss. While weightlifting may not burn as many calories during exercise as rowing, it offers unique advantages. As muscles require more energy to function, lean muscle can boost your metabolism, even at rest.

Consulting with a fitness professional can help tailor a program that suits specific needs and maximizes weight loss results.

Final Thoughts

Consider integrating both rowing and weightlifting into your fitness routine for a well-rounded approach to achieve optimal weight loss results. By including cardiovascular exercise and resistance training, you can benefit from improved aerobic fitness, increased muscle strength, enhanced metabolism, and overall body composition.

Ultimately, the best weight-loss approach is the one you enjoy and can stick to consistently. Whether it is rowing, lifting weights, or combining both, finding an exercise routine that suits your preferences and aligns with your goals is vital.

Always seek the advice of a fitness expert to create a plan that is secure, efficient, and suited to your requirements.


1 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/

2 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.

3 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

4 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

5 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.

6 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

7 Denadai B, & Greco C. (2018, February 26). Resistance training and exercise tolerance during high-intensity exercise: moving beyond just running economy and muscle strength. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00800.2017

8 Lindsay A, Larson A, Verma M, Ervasti J, & Lowe A. (2019, February 15). Isometric resistance training increases strength and alters histopathology of dystrophin-deficient mouse skeletal muscle. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00948.2018

9 Hong AR, Kim SW. Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2018 Dec;33(4):435-444. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2018.33.4.435. PMID: 30513557; PMCID: PMC6279907.

10 Willis LH, Slentz CA, Bateman LA, Shields AT, Piner LW, Bales CW, Houmard JA, Kraus WE. Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Dec 15;113(12):1831-7. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01370.2011. Epub 2012 Sep 27. PMID: 23019316; PMCID: PMC3544497.

11 Kwon HR, Han KA, Ku YH, Ahn HJ, Koo BK, Kim HC, Min KW. The effects of resistance training on muscle and body fat mass and muscle strength in type 2 diabetic women. Korean Diabetes J. 2010 Apr;34(2):101-10. doi: 10.4093/kdj.2010.34.2.101. Epub 2010 Apr 30. PMID: 20548842; PMCID: PMC2883348.

12 Qadir R, Sculthorpe NF, Todd T, Brown EC. Effectiveness of Resistance Training and Associated Program Characteristics in Patients at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med Open. 2021 May 29;7(1):38. doi: 10.1186/s40798-021-00321-x. PMID: 34050828; PMCID: PMC8164651.

13 Colberg SR, Sigal RJ, Fernhall B, Regensteiner JG, Blissmer BJ, Rubin RR, Chasan-Taber L, Albright AL, Braun B; American College of Sports Medicine; American Diabetes Association. Exercise and type 2 diabetes: the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement. Diabetes Care. 2010 Dec;33(12):e147-67. doi: 10.2337/dc10-9990. PMID: 21115758; PMCID: PMC2992225.


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