Rowing is the Best HIIT Workout

Rowing workout

Rowing is the Best HIIT Workout

by | May 30, 2019

Learn more about incorporating rowing into your HIIT routine.

Rowing is the Best HIIT Workout

It seems like everywhere you look, HIIT workouts are popping up. In classes, with personal trainers, on the Internet, everyone is looking for what makes the best HIIT workout (and what that even means). Some are strength based, some are cardio based, and the best, are a mix of the two. 

At Total Row, we incorporate High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into classes every day, and the core of that HIIT workout is rowing. Want to know what makes rowing the best HIIT workout? Whether through a rowing-only set, or mixed with off-machine exercises, we’ve got you covered!

 Keep reading below to learn more about what makes rowing the best HIIT workout available.

What is a HIIT Workout

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and is almost exactly what it sounds like – the workout should be both high-intensity and done in intervals. For example, rowing for 30 seconds hard, taking a 15 second break, and then repeating for 10 minutes, is a HIIT workout. 

High-Intensity: HIIT workouts are not your every day stroll through the park. Because they are done in intervals (more on this coming), the work should be fast, short, and hard. Thinking about perceived effort on a scale of 1-10, we are aiming in the 7+ range. Because of those required breaks between intervals, we need to keep our heart-rate sky high during the entire work period. 

Intervals: HIIT, by definition, should always be done in intervals. This means a period of hard work, followed by a short break, before starting the hard work again. Working out this way has some great benefits. First, because you are getting periodic breaks, the workout can be done at a much higher intensity. Second, the breaks should be designed to give you just enough of a rest to prolong the workout. Said another way, you will increase both the intensity AND volume of the workout

To learn about the difference between HIIT and other popular workout styles like a METCON, read our blog post HERE!

What Makes Rowing Perfect for a HIIT Workout

There are 3 rowing attributes that make it perfectly suited for HIIT – rowing is scalable, total body, and anaerobic. 

Scalable: Rowing is scalable to almost any age or ability, meaning it can be made harder or easier very simply. For a HIIT workout, this is perfect. Remember, you want to keep your heart rate elevated and your perceived threshold nice and high. With rowing, you can push extra hard early in the workout and as you tire, gradually slow your pace to maintain an appropriate working threshold. Unlike many other exercises, with rowing there is no need to change a scale, exchange weights, or even move around. Just push slightly easier through your feet, and your effort will decrease. 

Total Body: HIIT workouts tend to be relatively shorter than a traditional slower, sustained workout (like going for a 30 minute jog). HIIT is also interval based, and many times will repeat the same exercise or movement many times. Because of these attributes, finding a single Total Body movement / exercise for your workout is a huge advantage. Rowing works 9 of 11 major muscle groups on each stroke and can burn up to 900 calories an hour, making it perfect for HIIT workouts. 

Anaerobic: High Intensity Interval Training should be hard. This is where anaerobic workouts come into play. Very generally, anaerobic work is hard enough for you to “run out” of breath – i.e. it is not sustainable. However, with interval training, we have breaks built in. So taken together, anaerobic rowing will push you to the intensity level you need to be at.

How Total Row Uses Rowing in HIIT Workouts

Now to the good part! At Total Row, we use HIIT in a variety of ways. However, we can boil this down to 3 primary sets.

Rowing Only: Rowing can be a perfect HIIT workout all by itself. For example, rowing 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off; rowing through a Tabata (4 minutes with 20 seconds on, 10 second off); or intervals of distance (4 x 500m). These workouts can be relatively shorter, and relatively harder, making for a fast (but effective) total body workout.

Alternating Intervals: A great way to sustain a longer HIIT workout is to alternate between different exercises. For example, rowing 250m, take a 20 second break, do 20 pushups, take a 20 second break, and repeat. If you are new to rowing, or maybe don’t want such a cardio-centric workout, this style of workout is perfect!

Mixed Circuit: Want the benefits of a HIIT workout, but enjoy slightly longer intervals? Try mixing  different exercises together in a small circuit, take a quick break, and go again! An example is rowing 150m, do 10 reps of TRX Row, and 10 reps of TRX Chest Press. In this style of HIIT Circuit, you may want to extend your breaks a little longer than usual. 

Come Try for Yourself

If you want to learn from the best on how to incorporate rowing into your HIIT workout, sign up for a free week at Total Row today!