Many people purchase a rowing machine to help them get in shape and lose weight. The best formula for losing weight is to burn more calories than you take in.
Calculating the calories burned on a rowing machine can be very difficult and it is a question that often comes up.
Rowing machine calories burned while working out are difficult to calculate because there are so many factors in the calculation such as age, weight, heart rate, intensity, time, etc.
In this article I hope to go over exactly how to calculate calories burned while rowing, how to burn the the most calories, and other factors that contribute to burning calories and weight loss.
Overview of Calculating Calories Burned
To understand rowing machine calories burned we first must understand the calorie itself. Such as how many calories we burn just being alive and how to calculate the number of calories burned in a workout.
We can then discuss how many calories are burned while rowing and how to maximize this amount.
This will then help us answer the question: “Will rowing help me lose weight?”
With the answer of course being yes and answered more thoroughly in the linked article.
What is a Calorie?
A calorie is a unit of measurement used to measure energy. When doing any activity you are using energy. Thus the amount of calories used can be thought of as the amount of energy exerted.
A calorie (kcal) by definition is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius.
How to Burn a Calorie?
The body burns calories many different ways such as eating, digestion, breathing, repairing cells, working out, etc.
Your basic daily bodily functions make up about 70% of calories burned and this can be defined as our metabolism or Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
The other 30% of calories burned is from physical activity or “working out” and food processing (digestion). Calories burned from food processing remains pretty much steady, but I will explain later how you can increase this by eating multiple smaller meals a day.
Calories burned from physical activity is the most variable and easiest to increase.
So to burn more calories, you must increase BMR and physical activity. Both can be achieved through a rowing machine!
How Many Calories Equal 1 Pound?
3,500 calories equals 1 pound. So a person must have a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat.
For example, if you eat a 2,200 calorie diet a day, have a Basal Metabolic Rate of 1,900 calories per day, and you row for 45 minutes to burn 800 calories, then you would create a 500 calorie deficit for the day.
2,200 (Eating) – 1,900 (BMR) – 800 (Working Out) = -500 calorie deficit
If you did this for 1 week you would have created a 3,500 calorie deficit and lost 1 pound.
Calculating Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Calculating your basal metabolic rate (BMR) will give you a good idea of how many calories your body burns just performing normal daily functions.
You can visit the link at BodyBuilding.com and enter in your info to get your BMR. They also list out the formula used in case you are interested in the numbers.
The BMR calculated is not 100% accurate because it is just taking your weight and not calculating lean muscle mass vs. fat. A 185 pound man who has 5% body fat will have a much higher BMR than a 185 pound man with 20% body fat. More on this below.
Calculating Calories Burned During a Workout
According to the Journal of Sports Science, the below formula will calculate how many calories you burn during a workout.
Men use the following formula:
Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.2017) – (Weight x 0.09036) + (Heart Rate x 0.6309) – 55.0969] x Time / 4.184.
Women use the following formula:
Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.074) – (Weight x 0.05741) + (Heart Rate x 0.4472) – 20.4022] x Time / 4.184.
Here is a link to a fitness calculator that will do the above calculation for you.
Unfortunately, the formula requires you to calculate your heart rate during the workout. Some rowing machines come with a heart rate monitor or you can purchase one separately.
Here is a list of the best heart rate monitors you can use.
Once you have your BMR calculated and you can accurately calculate calories burned during a workout, you will have your total daily calories burned.
Maximizing Rowing Machine Calories Burned
How Many Calories Does a Rowing Machine Burn?
After providing a little background on calculating calories burned, I have compiled a bunch of data to give you a good idea of how many calories you burn while on a rowing machine.
First, I took data from various sources and studies across the web. Then I averaged the numbers together to hopefully come up with an accurate answer.
|Weight (Lbs)||Intensity||Time (Hours)||Calories Burned|
Keep in mind these numbers will vary from person to person because the formula takes into account age, weight, and heart rate.
If you are out of shape, your heart rate will be higher and you will burn more calories.
A fit man, weighing 185 pounds, that rows for 1 hour will burn less calories than the same man rowing if he were out of shape. This is because the out of shape man has to exert more energy to complete the same workout.
Rowing Machine Monitor Calculating Calories
Your rowing machine fitness monitor will calculate the calories burned on your rowing machine.
However, this is just an estimate and every manual states that this number should only be used to compare between workouts.
As stated above, calculating calories burned is very difficult and varies from person to person. Calculating calories burned from a rowing machine workout includes a lot of factors like a rowers age, weight, heart rate, intensity, time, lean muscle mass, etc.
The more expensive the rowing machine, the better the monitor and calorie calculator. For example the Concept2 Model D and E PM5 monitor does a great job calculating rowing machine calories burned.
Some rowing machine monitors can overestimate actual calories burned by over 40%. That is why in some of my other articles I state that a rowing machine can burn 1,000 calories per hour. This is just to make an apples to apples comparison of say an elliptical to a rowing machine monitor.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) vs. Steady-State
When it comes to working out there are 2 main ways to train on a rowing machine, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Steady-State. Here are examples of each to understand the difference:
- Adjust the rower to a medium resistance (about 60-70% of your max capacity)
- Begin rowing at what you consider a medium pace
- Keep this pace for 30-45 minutes aiming for a heart rate of 120-150 beats per minute
- Row for 2-3 minutes at a medium level (about 60-70% of your max capacity)
- Sprint or row as hard as possible for 1 minute (90-100% of your max capacity)
- Rest for 1 minute or longer by rowing slowly until your heart rate comes back down
- Repeat for 20 minutes or your desired time
So which workout burns more calories?
Again, it is very tough to determine because of all the factors that play into the equation for burning calories.
When rowing in steady-state you can row for a much longer time but your heart rate is not as elevated. While performing HIIT, your heart rate is much higher but it may be harder to row for 45 minutes at that level.
HIIT workouts also have something called “afterburn” or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC).
This is where your body has to increase its rate of oxygen intake to account for the oxygen deficit after a strenuous workout and help return your body to its resting state.
This “afterburn” effect can raise metabolic rates for hours after a workout and can continue to burn 100-200 calories more after you finished your rowing routine.
Due to the fact that it is hard to determine which workout is better, I like to incorporate both workouts into my rowing routine. Incorporating both workouts will actually lead to you burning more calories in the long run anyway! I go into this further in the next section.
How to Burn the Most Calories While Using a Rowing Machine?
There are a few tips and data backed techniques to help you burn the most calories while using a rowing machine.
The first tip is to focus on your stroke rate or the amount of full rowing motions. This doesn’t mean just sliding up and down the rail as fast as possible but it means getting your flywheel to spin faster or create more power.
Focus staying at a stoke per minute rate of 24-30 spm. This is the sweet spot where you will burn the most calories.
I was able to find a study done on Rowing Speed vs. Calories Burned that showed as you row faster, the amount of calories you burn increases exponentially.
WaterRower explains this as the Rule of Cubes- “The rule of cubes therefore dictates that a doubling of the speed of the boat will require an eight-fold increase in resistance.”
Basically, to go a little faster on a rowing machine requires a lot more energy and calories.
Another great tip to help you burn the most calories while rowing is to switch up your workouts. Alternating your routine every 2 weeks – 1 month will help your body not become “accustomed” to your workout routine.
The more you do the same routine, the more efficient your body becomes at performing the workout. The more efficient your body is at performing your workout, the lower your heart rate will be during the workout and thus you will burn less calories.
Other Weight Loss Features
Building Lean Muscle to Burn Calories
Building lean muscle will help you burn more calories throughout the day by increasing your BMR.
When you enter your weight to calculate your BMR you do not enter your body fat % which is why the number is slightly off.
Studies show that 1 pound of muscle burns 5-10 calories per day, while 1 pound of fat burns ~2 calories per day. So like I mentioned before, a 185 pound man who has 5% body fat will have a much higher BMR than a 185 pound man with 20% body fat.
Rowing machines are a great way to build lean muscle because it incorporates resistance training with a great cardiovascular workout. So not only does rowing burn calories while your rowing, but it can actually lead to you having a higher metabolism overall!
Why You Must Diet and Exercise to Lose Weight
To lose weight properly a person must exercise and diet. Exercising allows a person to gain muscle, keep their bone density, and ensure the weight they are losing is fat and not muscle mass.
Exercising has a lot of other benefits that contribute to health and weight loss like better sleep patterns, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower stress levels.
Most health professionals estimate that diet accounts for 75-80% of weight loss.
Diet is the most important aspect of losing weight because it is much easier to cut calories out of your life than to burn them off exercising.
For example, if a person cuts out 1 can of soda and 3 cookies from their diet a day, that is 300 calories, or about 30 minutes on a rowing machine!
Eating healthier foods, such as vegetables, also helps your body increase its metabolism and burn calories while it digests the food. One possible way to increase the amount of calories burned from eating is to eat 6 smaller meals a day instead of 3 large meals. This will help your body keep its metabolism up longer throughout the day and burn more calories.
Combining diet and exercise is obviously the best way to lose weight. Cutting out a few unhealthy food items and exercising for 30 minutes a day will help you create a big enough calorie deficit to lose well over 1 pound a week!
Calculating rowing machine calories burned can be very difficult but it is a very common question that most rowers have.
I believe understanding the whole picture of how calories play into your life is important because weight loss is more than just burning calories during a workout.
So here are my main takeaways from this article:
- Calculate your BMR to understand how many calories your body burns per day at a resting state
- Accurately calculate calories burned while rowing and do not rely solely on your fitness monitor
- Switch up your workouts and row “fast” to help burn more calories
- Build lean muscles from rowing, eat a healthy diet, and cut out high calorie junk food
- Try to create a calorie deficit of 500 calorie per day to lose 1 pound a week
If you are looking for the best rowing machine to burn calories, I would recommend reading my Concept2 Model D Indoor Rower review.
This is the #1 bestselling rowing machine with the most advanced and accurate monitor. It is also used in every Crossfit gym and used by almost every Olympic Rowing athlete.
If you have any questions about losing weight with a rowing machine or what model to purchase, please leave them in the comments section below!