Best beginner rowing workout: the ultimate guide for beginners

Best beginner rowing workout: the ultimate guide for beginners

Alex Burgar Alex Burgar
12 minute read

For many people, the hardest thing about building a workout routine is knowing where to start. If this is you, you’re not alone! Many people are searching for the best beginner rowing workout, but structured rowing workouts for beginners are surprisingly difficult to find, so we’ve put together the ultimate resource. Is there a good 10-minute rowing machine workout for beginners? What about 20 minutes? What should beginners know about form and technique? Read on for answers to all your questions, plus exclusive top tips and brand new workout videos from our awesome Coaches Johan Quie and Eric Murray!

Best beginner rowing workout?

The best beginner rowing workout should include a few key elements: a good warmup, basic technique tips, and a manageable challenge across a shorter timeframe.

A great beginner rowing workout will be full of technique tips and explanations, focus on form, and have a good warmup and cooldown. It will likely also be fairly short, and have a little challenge to work towards at the end to keep you motivated and give you a sense of achievement.

asensei rowing Coach Johan Quie has put together a brand new rowing workout for absolute beginners to get you started. Johan’s workout is just 9 minutes long from start to finish, making it feel super achievable, while packing in a huge amount of valuable technique and form training. The first 3 minutes are focussed on technique and will get you warmed up and then you'll have 6 minutes of interval training. 

This is a video you can come back to again and again so make sure you bookmark it!

Best beginner rowing workout - learn to row in just 9 minutes with asensei and Johan Quie

Rowing machine workouts for beginners

Everyone has a different amount of time available, and your time constraints will affect your motivation. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for beginner workouts with different durations, to ensure there’s one to suit your circumstances.

Best 20 minute rowing workout for beginners

asensei coach and Olympic gold medallist Eric Murray has put together a great rowing machine workout for beginners which you can see in the video below.  While the workout itself is just 10 minutes long, Eric takes you through some of the essential parts of the rowing stroke before you start so that when you come to following the session you know exactly what to do, and after you are done practicing he takes you through a short cooldown and debriefs to make sure that the key tips are understood and reinforced.  

The Ultimate Beginner Rowing workout from asensei + coach Eric Murray

Best 10-minute rowing machine workout for a beginner

If you are looking for the best 10-minute rowing machine workout for beginners then how about trying something a little different.  It’s tricky to get a good rowing workout in just 10 minutes, but Coach Johan Quie’s JQ 10MIN WARMUP gives you just what you need without being too full-on, so perfect for a beginner developing their fitness.

The session includes drills and technique advice, with a huge amount of coaching for just 10 minutes! You’ll build up to a full stroke, starting with arms only, half slide, and then full stroke, building up in intensity until you are working hard and testing yourself.  

Not only is this warmup great in its own right, it’s also the perfect warmup for other sports!

You can find the JQ 10MIN WARMUP workout in the asensei rowing app, in the WARMUPS, COOLDOWNS, STRETCHES program. This workout is for asensei rowing subscribers, but you can try the app for free and when you signup for an annual membership you have a 30 day money back guarantee, so there's no risk.

What should a rowing beginner know about form and technique?

Good technique is the key to not only staying healthy and safe while rowing, but also earning you free speed and more kilometres. This is why it’s important to start with the basics of technique, and why our beginner rowing workouts focus on it.

The rowing stroke consists of two main parts, the drive and the recovery. The essence of the stroke is that you start the drive phase by driving with the legs, then introduce the arms and then the body in that order. The recovery phase is the drive phase in reverse: arms release, then body, then legs. Getting this nailed down sets you on your way to excellent rowing form!

Another top tip for beginners from Coach Johan is that in the recovery phase, you keep your knees down until after the handle has passed them. This will differentiate you from many rowers who have not learned correct rowing form!

If you want to learn how to row in just 3 minutes then check out this video below from coach Johan Quie, it will cover the absolute essentials and set you well on your way to developing great indoor rowing technique.

Learn to row in just 3 minutes with asensei coach Johan Quie

Fortunately, we also have a whole article breaking down the basics of rowing form and technique for beginners!

The asensei rowing app is a great resource for any rowers looking to improve their form and technique. The app monitors your rowing and gives you guidance to help correct your technique, helping you achieve the healthiest, safest, and most powerful form, all while logging your workouts and adjusting to your needs and ability. You can try asensei for free by downloading it from the App Store.

Best beginner rowing program?

Having a goal to aim towards is one of the best ways to stay motivated as a beginner rower.

This is why programs are good! asensei has a variety of indoor rowing workout programs designed for all abilities and experience levels, coached by professional rowers at the top of their game. These include:

Best Beginner rowing program: EMBARK

Coached by Coach Clare Holman, the EMBARK rowing program is designed to introduce you to the WaterRower, although it works with all asensei-compatible rowing machines, including the Concept2. The program focuses on building your rowing technique through a structured progression of exercises, helping you learn to control your stroke rate, develop the correct sequence of movements and learn how to apply power. After each workout, Clare guides you through a set of stretches to improve recovery and flexibility. As you progress, asensei will set personalized split targets for you to hit during each workout.

Clare Holman does a hamstring stretch, sitting on a WaterRower rowing machine

Best 20-minute HIIT rowing machine workout for a beginner

If you’re looking for a 20-minute rowing machine workout for a beginner that's a bit more intense, ROWING 101 with Coach Claire Holman from British Rowing is for you! This is a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session from the EMBARK program, broken into two 3-minute sets with a 3-minute rest in between. Each set has you rowing hard and fast, alternating between 10 seconds of light pressure, followed by 20 seconds of really high intensity.  The whole workout, including warmup and cooldown is just over 20 minutes.  

Is 20 minutes of rowing enough though? You can achieve a lot in 20 minutes of indoor rowing, making it a great workout option if you’re short of time. High Intensity Interval Training has come to the fore in recent years after various studies have shown that a short high intensity workout can provide seemingly disproportionate health benefits. A HIIT session will certainly get your heart pumping and give you plenty of bang for your buck! Just make sure you warm up properly before you dive into a HIIT session — the asensei rowing app has plenty of excellent warmups built into our workouts.

Best Beginner rowing program: (RE)COMMIT

(RE)COMMIT is one of leading rowing app asensei's flagship programs, and provides you with the best possible ladder towards improving your baseline ability on an indoor rowing machine. With Coach Eric Murray at the helm, this six-week structured indoor rowing program helps you work towards your first 2000m piece, with plenty of technique and form guidance along the way. This program is perfect for you if you’re a beginner, and/or looking to get fitter, faster, and technically better on an indoor rowing machine.

MEET YOUR COACH, the first session of the (RE)COMMIT (and (RE)COMMIT PLUS) plans with Coach Eric Murray is another great beginner rowing workout. If you’re new to rowing, MEET YOUR COACH will help you understand the basics of the rowing stroke, across a 15-minute continuous row at low rates, allowing you to focus on technique. By starting to build a solid technical foundation, you ensure you’re rowing healthily and safely, and can build up to more complex workouts throughout the program. Coach Eric gives you tips onscreen throughout, while asensei watches your rowing and sets appropriate challenges and split times as you row. The shorter run time of the workout is also a great introduction, as 15 minutes feels much more manageable than a longer session.

Eric Murray sits on a rowing machine, explaining a beginner rowing workout

Best Beginner rowing program: MASTER THE BASICS

Created in affiliation with British Rowing, MASTER THE BASICS guides you through every aspect of indoor rowing, from technique to training, drive to discipline. It’s not just for beginners, and everyone can benefit! This program is also ideal for people who want to lose weight and learn how to harness the indoor rowing machine to burn calories efficiently. The overall goal? To build up to a 30-minute continuous row over the duration of the plan. And if you think that’s too easy, asensei will set you a secondary distance challenge to keep you pushing.


Is the Pete Plan beginner-friendly?

The well-known Pete Plan can be a great place for beginners to start. It’s an adaptable and popular training program, with extensive workout plans. However, the Pete Plan only lays out workouts, so to ensure your form and technique are healthy, it’s best to get some tips from a real coach first. Furthermore, with the Pete Plan you’ll need to track your own workouts and set your own pace, and this can be a lot to take in for a new rower. This is where asensei can help! The asensei rowing app monitors and trains your form and tailors your workouts to your needs, as well as logging your stats for you.

What are good rowing exercises for beginners?

Drills such as the pause drill, and stretches such as those taught by Coach Clare Holman in the EMBARK program, are all great for beginners — especially for building your skills!

Is it ok to row every day as a beginner?

Yes! Rowing is a low impact sport, so is less likely to cause injuries. However, you should be careful to mix up the intensity and type of the sessions, and make sure to listen to your body and its needs. It’s a good idea to take a day or two off each week, and if you’re desperate to work out, perhaps do some cross training on a bike, or go for a run, to reduce the risk of injury.

What should you not do when rowing?

Bad form is the easiest way to injure yourself when rowing, so making sure your form and technique are strong is essential. Don’t force things — it’s not a test of strength and you don’t want to hurt your back. Similarly, don’t row through muscle or back pain — this is your body warning you to avoid injury. Starting off too hard is also a risk: this will cause injuries, and even though rowing is a low impact sport, it’s best to ease yourself in.

Is a rowing machine good for losing belly fat?

Indoor rowing is a great low impact workout and you can start to burn fat quite quickly. Longer regular sessions can start to burn a lot of calories, and committing to one of our programs is a great way to do this!

Where do I go next after my first rowing workout?

asensei has many great standalone workouts and rowing programs! Why not try our RE(COMMIT) program, or one of our other professionally coached workout series?

Download asensei today

Rowing is better in the asensei app. If you want to improve your technique, you will find drills and skills and real-time tips as you row. You will have all the key stats displayed on screen during your session, you will have asensei set you personalized goals, you won't need to program the machine or take note of your results, asensei does it all. 

The app also features a curated selection of livestream workouts, with personalised goal setting and tracking in the (RE)LIVE program. 

asensei is FREE to download and with no commitment you can trial the first 3 workouts in the (RE)COMMIT program and also workouts from MASTER THE BASICS, (RE)FOCUS, SWEAT FACTORY and BE A DARK HORSE.

All you need is an iPhone and access to an asensei Compatible rowing machine from Concept 2, WaterRower or FluidRower with a bluetooth capable monitor.

download asensei from the appstore

« Back to Blog