JDP Trainer and HIIT specialist Matt Williams gives you his three top High Intensity Rowing Workouts proven to shred body fat and increase your fitness.

Slow and steady doesn’t win the race. A recent study in the Journal of Physiology found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on a rowing machine can provide all the health and fitness benefits of rowing continuously but more slowly for a far longer period of time. Short bursts working at 75% of your maximum heart rate or higher will boost your metabolism, burn more fat at rest, and earn you the muscular physique of a sprinter rather than the slight frame of an endurance athlete. Choose one of PT Manager’s Matt Williams three workouts to slash your gym time and your belly.


Rowing: The Basics

“While most people think rowing requires mostly upper-body strength, it’s actually all about the legs”, says Matt. Like a golf swing, the legs and hips do most of the work for creating power during a rowing stroke. In fact, the movement is similar to an explosive power clean in weightlifting that uses your entire body. “You begin driving with your legs, engage the muscles in your back and core, and then follow through with your arms”, explains Matt. Before you get started check out this video showing you the basic technique.


The Set-Up 

Just like any piece of gym equipment, it’s best to get acquainted with how the rowing machine functions before you go full speed ahead into a workout. Matt recommends that beginners do three things when they sit down on a Concept 2 rowing machine

 Adjust the foot straps.

“Make sure the strap goes across the ball of your foot,” says Matt. If your feet are placed too high, your legs will also be placed too high, meaning you won’t be taking full strokes. The improper leg position will set you up for an awkward and inefficient stroke. Adjust the foot stretcher where you rest your feet either up or down a few pegs if the fabric strap isn’t lying in the correct spot.


Check the damper setting.

Located on the right side of the circular flywheel on a Concept 2 machine, the damper setting is a plastic lever that controls how much air is in the flywheel. Setting the damper to 10 will feel like rowing a heavy boat and will require the most “work” per stroke, while setting it to zero will feel like rowing a sleek, light boat and will require less energy per stroke. You can also think about damper setting like gears on a bike, explains Matt. “For beginners, you want to make sure the damper setting is anywhere from four to six,” he recommends.


Understand the monitor.

The square display is a powerful tool that will give instantaneous feedback during your workout. But with so many possible metrics to use, it’s important for beginners to limit themselves to just the essentials. Two numbers Matt suggests focusing on are stroke rate (strokes per minute, located in the upper right of the screen) and watts (a measure of workout intensity). A good first goal: Consistently hit your bodyweight (in pounds) in watts, says Matt.

Watch out for these common rowing mistakes and if you are still unsure then speak to a trainer at your gym before starting on the rowing machine.



  • Row at a comfortable pace for a three-minute warm up.
  • Set the screen to display calories.
  • At the end of the third minute explode into maximum effort with the aim of burning as many calories as possible in 60 seconds.
  • Ease off for 60 seconds. Then complete another 60-second set.
  • Continue for desired number of sets (beginners: three, advanced: 10).


  • Row at a comfortable pace for a one-minute warm up.
  • Row flat out as fast as you can for 30 seconds.
  • Stop rowing completely for 30 seconds and recover.
  • Repeat for ten minutes total.


  • Row at a comfortable pace for a two-minute warm up.
  • Take 30 seconds rest to prepare for the intervals.
  • Row 250m as fast as you can.
  • Note the time down and recover for 45 seconds
  • Repeat 4 more times trying to beat the original time each time.
  • Week on week try to beat your base 250m time.

author: Matt Williams


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