The rowing machine (aka: rowing ergometer or “erg”) is a tortuous piece of cardio equipment, and the 250-meter interval is a perfect distance for high intensity interval training.
The rowing ergometer elicits almost zero impact to the joints. Personally, I feel that more people need time away from the joint impact. Every single time I row during a workout, I am reminded of how demanding an exercise it really is. I’ve never climbed off of the rower feeling like I dominated it, it gets me every single time.
Rowing is dangerously close to being a total body mode of exercise, making it a near perfect piece of equipment for stripping fat and improving cardio performance. More muscles doing a large amount of work in less time, means good things for reducing body-fat.
Despite best efforts, a large majority of the world still obsesses over chest building upper body pressing exercises. Rowing places a heavy emphasis on upper body horizontal pulling (think elbows pulling backward along the rib cage), making it a small, yet viable solution to offset all of that pressing.
Anyways, enough with the chit-chat.
Here are three short-burst interval workouts you should dive into ASAP, all incorporating a rowing distance of 250-meters:
Row Workout #1: 250-meter interval
*Repeat for 8-12 rounds, rest for 1:1 (work to rest) or a flat 60 seconds before starting the next interval.
Using the 1:1 work to rest ratio, a 45 second work bout will buy you 45 seconds of rest. 1:1 work to rest ratios can often be too aggressive in the later rounds.
This workout is brilliant when used as a cardio finisher after a resistance training session. I suggest integrating rowing workouts on days where deadlifts, kettlebell swings or any other low back stress has been avoided. Rowing does stress the lower back (nothing extreme but it is involved) and taking small precautions against unnecessary strains is smart.
My opinion of course.
A 10 round workout will take roughly 15 minutes, more than enough time to get a great cardio training effect.
Workout #2: Bodyweight Exercise + 250-meter Row
15 Push Ups
15 Bodyweight Squats or 6 R/L Alternating Assisted Pistol Squats
* Repeat for 8-10 rounds, rest 60 seconds (advanced) or 75 seconds
Pairing a short, intense row with bodyweight exercise makes for an incredibly dynamic workout. Remember, more muscles stimulated and more work being done equates to a higher training effect.
Performing push-ups and bodyweight squats will pre-fatigue your body for the row.
Depending on fitness level, you can tweak the reps for the push-ups and the squats.
Decrease the reps if need be, because the goal is to make it through all 8 rounds.
If you need more, progress the push-ups to weighted push-ups or modified single arm. Switch bodyweight squats in favor of weighted squats, assisted single leg or free-standing pistol squats.
Let exercise technique guide your exercise selection, and if it’s manageable, its green light all the way.
*Limit or eliminate any upper body pulling exercises (horizontal in particular), as the rower will fill in the pulling gaps, and tread lightly with hip/low-back stress inducing exercises like deadlifts or kettlebell swings. As I mentioned earlier, rowing stresses the lower back plenty.
Workout #3: 250-meters + diminishing rest periods
Interval #1: Row 250-meters, rest 60 seconds
Interval #2: Row 250-meters, rest 55 seconds
Interval #3: Row 250-meters, rest 50 seconds
Interval #4: Row 250-meters, rest 45 seconds
Interval #5: Row 250-meters, rest 40 seconds
* Repeat workout for 2 full rounds (10 total intervals)
Isn’t it too short? No, absolutely not. Done one time, yes, it’s way too short. But spread across 8+ rounds, the training effect is perfect.
Plain and simple, the 250-meter distance gives a person the chance to row all out. Posture and technique can remain top focus during shorter distances, which means that power output per stroke and stroke rate can be maximized. Repeated effort interval training works extremely well when rowing distances shorter than 500-meters.
There is no need to pace a 250. It should be a full sprint.
Pretty generalized here, but a quick 250-meter time will take most people 40-50 seconds (a 500-meter time cut in half). Some may scoff that 250-meters is too short, but in my personal opinion, 45-50 seconds of high intensity effort is more than sufficient.
50 seconds is a long time to be exerting at a high level, using any mode of exercise (biking, rowing, sprinting, etc).
Also, not every workout needs to be the one to end them all. Fitness is stuck in this weird mentality vortex where every trainer and organization thinks they need to create a more extreme workout than the last one or the next guy. It’s just not necessary. Be intelligent about your workout practice.
Workouts can be hard and smart at the same time.
I am happy to encourage people to bust out of their intensity comfort zones, but do it while thinking it through with common sense. Make consistent, measurable progress the number one goal, however you achieve that.
Smart interval training workouts can and should make you tired, eventually. But a smart interval workout should not beat you to a pulp after the first few rounds, leaving you too tired to give any effort in the later rounds. Accumulating some volume still matters during an interval training session.
Interval training repeated effort training. It’s a highly structured, controlled cardio tactic that elite athletes have been using for decades. What’s great for the rest of us, is that interval training is also best practice for burning fat. Pretty cool.
The key for managing your 250-meter intervals is respecting the number of rounds you’re going to work through during the workout. During the work bouts, give it all you have, get out of your comfort zone and do the work. Be aggressive. During the rest periods, practice mindful rest. You’re eyeballs might want to jump out of their sockets, lungs on fire, but calm your mind, slow your breath and get your heart rate to follow suit.
Effective interval training teaches a person how to handle the rest periods as much as how to tolerate the stress of the work bouts.
Ideally, power output and pace will not experience a drastic dip during a well-structured interval training workout. Especially if the distance being rowed is 250-meters, which allows a person to maintain a high power output and stroke rate.
Sure, row time may slow down slightly as the workout progresses, but that is a predictable response to fatigue, which should improve as you stay consistent with your training sessions. Fatigue is a performance killer for beginners and elite alike.
Across the upcoming weeks and months, keep a close eye on your rowing times and how fast you’re recovering in between bouts.
Here are some benefits of interval training pulled straight from the Concept2 website:
No discussion about longer rowing distances? That’s for another post.
I’ve got nothing against rowing the classic distances: 500 meters, 1,000 meters or 2,000. Those are time-honored, challenging distances that serve as valuable benchmarks for measuring improvement in performance. But man, one of the worst experiences in my life was the 2,000 meter test. Yuck.
Give these workouts a try…
…don’t over think it. The point of rowing shorter distances is to give an increased effort during the work bouts, recover hard, rinse and repeat.
If you don’t yet own a rower or you’re on the fence about it, I cannot recommend them enough. Rowing is a world-class workout, no matter the distance or time.
I know it’s a big-ticket purchase for a lot of people, I get it. My wife wasn’t exactly thrilled when my rower was delivered to the doorstep.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can now purchase the world’s greatest rower (I’m dead serious), the Concept2 Model D with PM5 (performance monitor 5) for $945 and free 2-day shipping. Incredible.
I’m not suggesting that you should base all buying decisions on Amazon’s customer reviews, but 1,025 consecutive 5-star reviews is mind-blowing for a product of any kind.
A quality rower is a great investment, I wouldn’t recommend any rowing machine outside of Concept2 except for Xebex Heavy Duty Rower.
If you’ve got any questions about the Concept2 Model D w/ PM5, message me privately and I can give you my experience as a rowing machine owner.