Does Rowing On A Machine Burn Belly Fat? Why And How?

The size of our bellies is often a great motivator to start working out. Is rowing on a machine effective at reducing the size of your belly fat? Let’s find out.

Rowing on a machine is one of the more effective types of exercise to burn calories. Burning more calories than you take in will result in fat loss. Overall fat loss will result in reducing belly fat but it’s not possible to spot reduce belly fat with rowing or any other type of exercise.

Below you can find out how burning fat on a rower works and what will give the best results.

Does rowing on a machine burn body fat?

Burning body fat is pretty simple in theory. If you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. There are some nuances there but it is by far the most important part of the weight loss puzzle.

There are two parts to that equation: The amount of calories you eat and the amount of calories you burn throughout the day. Diet should be a very important part of losing belly fat but the part of the equation rowing can change is how many calories you burn throughout the day.

Rowing is a great way to burn a lot of calories in a short period of time. Of course a lot depends on the intensity you work out at but that is the same for every type of exercise. While rowing on a machine isn’t the type of exercise that burns the most calories, it’s still pretty high up the list in most cases.

Because a rowing machine uses both the upper and lower body, there is a lot of muscle mass being used at the same time. More muscle mass being used means more calories burned. Also, most good rowing machines have air resistance. This means that there is pretty much limitless resistance available. A full body workout with the potential for very high resistance, this means you can burn a lot of calories.

Another benefit of rowing over running is the low impact. Because rowing is one smooth motion, there is very little impact on your joints. This means less risk of injury and quicker recovery from a rowing session than from a running session. This means you can row for longer and more often than many other types of exercise. In the end that means more time to burn calories and burn more fat.

Getting about 150 minute of moderate exercise a week is recommended for its health benefits. So rowing for a good amount every day doesn’t only help you lose weight but is also very beneficial for your cardiovascular health and will have some muscle strengthening benefits, especially for beginners.

If combined with a good diet, rowing on a machine is a very effective way to burn body fat. Rowing is a full body movement and many rowing machines can provide a lot of resistance. That combination means a rowing machine can burn a lot of calories and therefore body fat.

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How many calories does a rowing machine burn?

So how many calories are we talking about? How many calories does rowing really burn? There might be a performance monitor on your rowing machine but like on most cardio machines, those counters aren’t all that accurate and often tend to overestimate the amount of calories.

The exact amount of calories on a rowing machines depend on the intensity of your workout and body weight. The heavier you are, the more calories you burn just to move your body. The higher the intensity of your workout the more calories you burn. So you can understand that the exact answer is different for everyone and might even be different for every workout. To give you an idea, here are some numbers for different situations;

Body weight100 lbs.150 lbs.200 lbs.250 lbs.
Low intensity160 Cal.240 Cal.320 Cal.400 Cal.
Medium intensity170 Cal.290 Cal.390 Cal.485 Cal.
High intensity275 Cal.410 Cal.545 Cal.682 Cal.

These are estimations. Most people will work out at low or medium intensity. Anything you can do for 30 minutes straight is not high intensity.

One kilo (2.2 lbs.) of fat contains 7700 calories. For most people aiming to lose about 0.5 kg/1.1 lbs. a week is sustainable. To lose 0.5kg/1.1 lbs. a week you need to create a 3850 (7700*0.5) calorie deficit over that week. This is a 550 calorie deficit every day.

If you’re eating exactly enough calories to maintain your weight without exercise, adding about 45 minutes of vigorous rowing a day will get you into a deficit that’s big enough to lose about 1 lbs. a week. Eating a little bit (200 calories) under maintenance and adding about 30 minutes of vigorous rowing will give similar results.

So as long as your diet is good and your calories are under control, adding 30 minutes of rowing a day to your routine will give you a steady weight loss. Results won’t be immediate though. Expect to have to be consistent for 4-6 weeks before seeing any results. Rowing is not a shortcut to weight loss just like no other type of exercise is. It is however more effective and safer than many other types of exercise.

Does rowing on a machine target belly fat?

Rowing on a machine can help you burn body fat as you can read above, and it’s a pretty good way to do it. But does it target belly fat?

Sadly, there is no way to target the location where you lose the fat. Fat loss happens over the whole body. Some places on the body lose their fat deposits faster than others and the belly is often one of the last places for it to go, especially for men. So the way to reduce your belly fat is to work on reducing your overall body fat percentage. And the same goes for every other body part.

That also means that the type of exercise doesn’t really matter for reducing belly fat. A type of exercise is more or less effective at burning calories and therefore overall body fat but it’s not the case that a certain type of exercise is better at just reducing belly fat.

As you can read above, rowing on a machine is a very good way to burn calories and therefore burn fat everywhere.

Don’t let fitness influencers on social media tell you that spot reduction is possible. All the “spot reduction” tricks are just the muscle underneath growing which makes the body part look better because the fat is spread out more. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but the amount of fat isn’t actually reduced in that spot by doing that.

Building muscle in turn burns more calories at rest and gives you the opportunity to burn more calories by using that muscle. Just like a bigger/stronger engine will use more fuel when you use all the power it has to offer, bigger and stronger muscles burn more calories to produce that force.

Rowing on a machine is great to lower your body fat percentage because it’s a great way to burn calories. A rowing machine can’t target belly fat specifically because spot reduction of fat deposits is not possible with any type of exercise.

How to burn fat on a rowing machine

Besides getting a rowing machine, there are a few other things to get in order to set yourself up for success in your belly fat loss goals.


Writing anything about losing fat through a certain type of exercise would be incomplete without a note about diet. People often say “You can’t outrun a bad diet”. While technically I guess it’s possible, it is very tough to burn off a lot of excess calories through just exercise. There are about 280 calories in a 2 oz./57 gram snickers bar. That’s about the same amount of calories a 175 lbs. person burns in 30 of rowing at moderate intensity. It’s a whole lot easier to eat a snickers bar than to row for 30 minutes.

Getting your diet under control is essential to losing weight.

Rowing workout

For weight loss doing low to medium intensity workouts is the most effective in the long run. High intensity interval training is a little better for cardiovascular benefits but for pure weight loss, low intensity cardio is better. Most people aren’t capable of doing high intensity training for long enough to burn the same amount of calories as they could with low intensity. Maybe you can do 10 minutes of high intensity interval rowing but 45 minutes of low intensity rowing. Yes, in those 10 minutes you’ll burn more calories with high intensity than low intensity but in total you’ll burn more in the 45 minutes.

Also, the recovery from a low intensity rowing session is easier and faster than from a high intensity workout which means you can work out more often. Doing 3 HIIT sessions a week will burn less calories than 6 low intensity workouts a week.

Low intensity is different for everyone but you should be able to just hold a conversation during your workout. Not comfortably but just able to speak full sentences. Definitely aim for an increased heart rate and breathing rate but not so much where you have to gasp for air after every word.

Consistency is the key. Consistency within workouts and from day to day. Slowly build up the time on the rower over the days. Starting with just 5 minutes if you’re completely out of shape is fine. After that, just add 5 minutes a day until you get to about 45 minutes. Once you can do 45 minutes without taking a break, try to slowly increase the intensity a little.

Measuring intensity can be done in many different ways. Intensity mainly depends on your feeling but especially for beginners it’s good to actually quantify this because when you get started, you might not know what it’s like to push yourself and any type of exercise feels like a lot.

Measuring intensity on a rowing machine can be done by; heart rate, stroke rate, speed or watts produced.

Other exercise

As mentioned above, reducing just belly fat is not possible without lowering your overall body fat percentage. Diet plays a big role in this and rowing can dramatically increase the calories you burn in a day to make weight loss faster and easier. The combination of diet and rowing will be effective but if you can combine this with some muscle/strength building exercise, that will give the best results.

How fast can you run on a treadmill?

Growing your muscles is basically increasing the engine size of your car. It will be able to provide more power but also use more fuel. Muscles are much the same. A bigger and stronger muscle can produce more power but that power has to be fueled by more calories. So getting stronger gives you the potential to burn more calories in the same amount of time.

Weightlifting is the best way to get stronger but many people are a little intimidated by it. If you want to start lifting free weights and you don’t have any experience, it’s a good idea to get some advice and coaching from a private trainer. Free weights are very effective but can be a bit dangerous if you have bad exercise form.

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Cable machines are also very good and a lot safer for beginners than free weights. You get a lot of the strength building benefits without many of the drawbacks. It’s still a good idea to let someone more knowledgeable show you which exercises to do.

If you’re in a big commercial gym, there will be a lot of machines that work out separate body parts. They have their place but are mainly good for strengthening a very specific muscle. They often don’t target the stabilizing muscles around it. Machines don’t build a good base of real world strength like cables or free weights do. On the flipside the injury risk is very low.

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