Why you should use the indoor rowing machine as a warmup - for any sport

Why you should use the indoor rowing machine as a warmup - for any sport

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Rowing makes for a great standalone workout – the rate of calorie burn is equal to if not better than most other comparable sports such as running or cycling, it is low impact on the joints and works the full body – but these same characteristics mean it is also a great complement to other types of exercise and you can use the indoor rowing machine as a warmup for any sport. 

It will come as no surprise that rowing is regularly touted as one of the most effective cardiovascular workouts. It isn’t just the preserve of on-water rowers either – most public or private gyms have an indoor rowing machine (also known as an erg, short for ergometer, or RowErg) and these have become increasingly popular over the last few years. 

Why is rowing a great warmup?

Most people spent their childhood swimming, running, playing soccer, rugby, football, basketball or another team sport so rowing does not always spring to mind as an obvious choice to warm up. Despite that, rowing is a full-body workout that complements pretty much any other discipline you’re undertaking and almost every gym features a rowing machine, so it can and should be a clear choice for opening your session. 

Warming up your body before working out is critical – failure to do so can increase your chances of injury and diminish peak performance returns during exercise. A warm-up gradually prepares your body for cardiovascular activity by raising your internal temperature and increasing blood circulation to your muscle groups. 

As mentioned, rowing is one of the few sports which can truly be considered a whole-body workout. As a warm-up, it will stimulate all your key muscle groups (arms, back, legs, core) whilst improving your anaerobic threshold. There are a number of ways to think about rowing as a great accompaniment to other sports, depending on what you’re doing next.

Rowing as a warmup for strength based workouts

If you’re planning a strength-based workout, such as weights, rowing is a fantastic cardio supplement that also warms up your muscles for lifting.  Indeed British Rowing Master Trainer Clare Holman regularly talks about how the rowing stroke shares many characteristics with a squat. 

When undertaking a weights session, many people aren’t blessed with lots of time to also squeeze in cardio – rowing does twice the work in the half the time and builds muscle resistance and endurance through the drive phase of a stroke. Even a five-minute burst, when executed properly, can be hugely beneficial before a weights workout – check out the asensei app for more detail on shorter sessions such as those in the ABOVE + BEYOND: 5 MINUTE QUICKIES that can be ideal for those on a tighter time-frame.  A typical session in this program might be 2 minutes at 22 stroke per minute (spm), 2 minutes at 24spm and 1 minute at 26spm, building up the intensity over the course of the session. 

Rowing as a warmup for a cardio workout

Another scenario is utilising the indoor rowing machine as a warmup before engaging in other cardio-based exercises such as running, cycling, swimming, elliptical training or stairclimbing. You need to be cautious not to overdo it on the erg – it is a strenuous tool and demands a significant amount of energy from your body so may not wish to detract from the core of the session if you have set yourself tough targets!  For that reason you might wish to reduce the intensity of your indoor rowing warmup, perhaps by reducing the damper setting on the side of your rowing machine. 

Over time you may find the regular use of the rowing machine addictive, as you start to notice your stats on the performance monitor, as you start to learn proper technique and understand the nuances of the machine and the stroke.  This may lead to the rowing machine taking centre stage in cardio sessions and you may even wish to follow a structured program, such as (RE)COMMIT from Olympic Champion Eric Murray which features rowing technique and insights, personalized goals and will guide you through to taking on your first 2000m test, the classic rowing distance.

Rowing as a warmup for a cross-training session

The popularity of Crossfit has helped raise the profile of the indoor rowing machine since the Concept 2 RowErg is a staple in pretty much every Crossfit gym and forms a key part of many Workout Of the Day (WOD) sessions. Crossfit features a lot of high intensity exercises as well as weight training, combining cardio and strength.  As such rowing is a great component in a warmup for Crossfit to get the muscles prepared and the heart pumping before you start your Crossfit workout. You might want to try a technique-based rowing warmup that will also help you improve your form, and hence you speed in the main rowing component of the workout - a warmup such as Johan Quie's Signature warmup in the WARMUPS, COOLDOWNS, STRETCHES program in the asensei app might fit the bill, featuring a number of drills to help you focus as you warmup.


There is a reason why rowing is becoming increasingly on-trend for professional athletes, influencers and gym-goers alike. Your goal may not be to become an expert rower, but the erg can serve as a fantastic companion to your other workout aims, from weightlifting to yoga to running to HIIT. Warming up your entire body is crucial if you want to maximise your time in the gym and the indoor rower is the perfect tool to enable you to do this effectively and efficiently.

Do you have a story about using rowing to enhance another another sport?  Tell us more at: support@saensei.com

Frequently Asked Questions About Rowing as a Warmup

How Can I find out more about rowing warmups?

To learn more about warming up with a rowing machine you can consult this article: Seven Tips for the Perfect Indoor Rowing Warmup which covers some of the basic principles of warming up, such as how to tailor the warmup to your upcoming session and gives some example warmups suitable for different types of workout.  You'll also hear insights from various expert rowerss such as Olympic Champion Eric Murray and British Rowing's Clare Holman.

Where can I find great rowing warmups?

Whether you want a quick warmup, a more technical practice or a really thorough warmup to get you to the perfect level for your upcoming session there is something suitable for you in the asensei app.  While there is a free trial with sample workouts subscribers have access to a full program of dedicated warmups in WARMUPS, COOLDOWNS, STRETCHES, as well as a range of short training sessions that can be used as warmups, such as the ABOVE AND BEYOND PROGRAMS.

How can I download and trial asensei for free?

Rowing training, including warming up, is better in the asensei app.  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. And if you want to try all workouts including the warmups you can signup without risk for an annual plan, with our 30 day no-quibble money back guarantee.

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 

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