How To Do Indoor Rowing Machine Workouts for Seniors or Elderly

Regular exercise is essential for seniors or the elderly population to maintain their overall health and well-being. Among the various exercise options available, indoor rowing machine workouts have gained popularity for their numerous benefits. Before embarking on rowing exercises, it is important to understand the significance of exercise for seniors, explore the advantages of indoor rowing, and consider safety considerations.

Understanding Indoor Rowing Machines

Indoor rowing machines, also known as ergometers or rowers, are specially designed exercise equipment that simulate the motion of rowing a boat. These machines consist of various components, including a sliding seat, handlebars, footrests with straps, and a resistance mechanism. There are different types of rowing machines available in the market, such as air resistance, water resistance, magnetic resistance, and hydraulic resistance.

Benefits of Indoor Rowing for Seniors

Using an indoor rowing machine can offer several benefits for seniors. Here are some of the key advantages:

  1. Low-impact exercise: Rowing is a low-impact activity that puts minimal stress on the joints. For seniors who may have joint issues or limited mobility, an indoor rowing machine provides a safe and effective way to exercise without placing excessive strain on their bodies.
  2. Cardiovascular fitness: Rowing is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that can help improve heart health and strengthen the cardiovascular system. Regular rowing workouts can increase endurance, improve circulation, and enhance overall cardiovascular fitness, which is particularly beneficial for seniors looking to maintain or improve their cardiovascular health.
  3. Muscle strength and toning: Rowing engages a wide range of muscle groups, including the legs, core, arms, and back. By using an indoor rowing machine, seniors can work on building and toning their muscles, which is crucial for maintaining strength and mobility. Strengthening these muscle groups can also help with everyday activities and reduce the risk of falls.
  4. Joint flexibility and mobility: The rowing motion involves a full range of motion, promoting joint flexibility and mobility. Regular rowing exercises can help seniors improve their range of motion in the shoulders, hips, and knees, enhancing joint health and reducing stiffness.
  5. Weight management: Rowing is an effective calorie-burning exercise that can contribute to weight management. By incorporating rowing workouts into their routine, seniors can help maintain a healthy weight or achieve weight loss goals, which can have a positive impact on overall health and reduce the risk of obesity-related conditions.
  6. Improved posture and balance: Rowing requires proper posture and balance to perform the exercise correctly. Regular practice can help seniors improve their posture, strengthen their core muscles, and enhance overall balance. This can be particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of falls and maintaining stability in daily activities.
  7. Mental well-being: Exercise, including rowing, has been shown to have positive effects on mental well-being. It can help reduce stress, improve mood, and increase overall feelings of well-being. Seniors who engage in regular rowing workouts may experience enhanced cognitive function, improved sleep patterns, and a better overall quality of life.

Before starting any exercise program, including rowing, it’s essential for seniors to consult with their healthcare provider to ensure it’s suitable for their individual health needs and any pre-existing conditions they may have. It’s also important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of the workouts over time.

Proper Technique and Form

To maximize the benefits and minimize the risk of injury, seniors should focus on maintaining proper technique and form during rowing workouts. The rowing stroke consists of four phases: catch, drive, finish, and recovery. During the catch phase, the individual sits upright with the knees bent and arms extended, ready to initiate the movement. The drive phase involves pushing with the legs, followed by leaning back slightly and pulling the handle towards the chest. The finish phase occurs when the handle reaches the chest, and the recovery phase involves extending the arms forward, bending the knees, and sliding the seat back to the starting position. Proper posture, body alignment, and breathing techniques are crucial aspects to consider for optimal rowing performance.

Warm-Up and Cool-Down Exercises

Before starting a rowing session, it is essential for seniors to perform a proper warm-up routine. Dynamic warm-up exercises, such as arm swings, leg swings, and light jogging, help increase blood flow, warm up muscles, and prepare the body for the physical demands of rowing. After completing the workout, a cool-down routine is equally important. Stretching exercises, such as hamstring stretches and shoulder rolls, promote flexibility, reduce muscle soreness, and aid in recovery. Gradually lowering the heart rate and taking time for relaxation are essential during the cool-down phase.

Beginner Rowing Workouts for Seniors

For seniors who are new to rowing, starting with beginner-level workouts is recommended. These workouts should be of shorter duration and moderate intensity to allow the body to adapt gradually. Interval training is an effective method for beginners, involving alternating periods of rowing at a challenging pace with short periods of rest. Steady-state workouts, where seniors maintain a consistent pace throughout the session, are also beneficial. It is important for beginners to focus on maintaining proper stroke rate and adjusting the resistance levels based on their comfort and fitness level.

Intermediate Rowing Workouts for Seniors

As seniors progress and gain experience, they can advance to intermediate-level rowing workouts. These workouts involve increasing the intensity and duration of rowing sessions to further challenge the body. Interval variations, such as increasing work and rest periods, can be incorporated to push the limits and promote improvements in cardiovascular fitness. Power-based workouts, which focus on generating maximum force during the drive phase, help develop strength. Endurance-based rowing exercises, where seniors aim for longer duration sessions, enhance stamina and overall fitness.

Advanced Rowing Workouts for Seniors

Seniors who have developed a solid foundation in rowing can explore advanced workouts to further enhance their fitness level. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an effective method for advanced individuals, involving short bursts of maximum effort followed by brief periods of recovery. Pyramid workouts, where intensity gradually increases and then decreases, provide a challenging and varied workout experience. Tabata workouts, consisting of short, intense intervals, are another option for advanced seniors. Endurance challenges, such as rowing for longer distances or time durations, test and improve cardiovascular endurance.

Incorporating Variation in Rowing Workouts

To prevent monotony and maintain motivation, seniors should incorporate variation into their rowing routines. This can be achieved by changing resistance levels and stroke rates during workouts. Implementing different rowing techniques, such as steady, power, or rhythm-based strokes, adds diversity to the workouts and targets different muscle groups. Seniors can also introduce rowing drills and challenges to improve specific aspects of their rowing performance. Interval training with varying work-to-rest ratios provides a mix of intensity levels, keeping the workouts engaging and effective.

Rowing Machine Accessories and Modifications for Seniors

Seniors can enhance their rowing experience by utilizing various accessories and modifications available for rowing machines. Ergonomic seat cushions provide additional comfort and support during long rowing sessions. Handle grips with textured surfaces or foam padding assist seniors with limited hand strength in maintaining a secure grip. Foot straps and heel support promote stability and proper foot placement, minimizing the risk of slipping. Adjustable seat heights allow for easy access to the rowing machine, ensuring a safe and comfortable workout. The use of heart rate monitors and fitness tracking devices can provide valuable feedback and help seniors monitor their exercise intensity.

Injury Prevention and Safety Tips

When using an indoor rowing machine, seniors should keep the following injury prevention and safety tips in mind:

  1. Consult with a healthcare provider: Before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or concerns, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider. They can assess your fitness level, provide guidance specific to your needs, and ensure rowing is safe for you.
  2. Warm-up and cool-down: Begin each rowing session with a proper warm-up routine to prepare your muscles and joints for exercise. This can include light cardio activities such as walking or cycling, followed by dynamic stretches. Similarly, end your workout with a cool-down period and static stretches to help prevent muscle stiffness and promote recovery.
  3. Learn proper technique: It’s essential to learn and practice proper rowing technique to avoid strain and injury. Seek guidance from a qualified instructor or watch instructional videos to understand the correct form and posture. Pay attention to your body alignment, grip, and movement coordination throughout the rowing stroke.
  4. Start slowly and progress gradually: If you’re new to rowing or haven’t exercised in a while, begin with shorter sessions at a low intensity. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts over time as your fitness level improves. Avoid pushing yourself too hard initially to prevent overexertion and strain.
  5. Adjust the resistance level: Most indoor rowing machines allow you to adjust the resistance level. Set it at a comfortable level that challenges you without causing excessive strain or joint discomfort. As you gain strength and endurance, you can gradually increase the resistance.
  6. Maintain proper posture: Good posture is crucial during rowing to prevent unnecessary strain on your back and joints. Sit tall, engage your core, and avoid slouching or rounding your back. Keep your shoulders relaxed, and ensure your knees are properly aligned with your feet during the rowing stroke.
  7. Use proper footwear: Wear supportive and well-fitting athletic shoes while rowing to provide stability and reduce the risk of foot or ankle injuries. Avoid rowing barefoot or using footwear that lacks proper support.
  8. Listen to your body: Pay attention to any pain or discomfort during rowing. If you experience sharp pain, unusual soreness, or joint discomfort, stop exercising and consult with your healthcare provider. Pushing through pain can lead to further injury.
  9. Stay hydrated: Maintain proper hydration before, during, and after rowing sessions. Drink water or other suitable fluids to prevent dehydration, as seniors may be more susceptible to dehydration and its associated complications.
  10. Regular maintenance and safety checks: Ensure that your indoor rowing machine is properly maintained and in good working condition. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and safety checks to avoid any mechanical issues that could potentially cause accidents or injuries.

By following these injury prevention and safety tips, seniors can enjoy the benefits of indoor rowing while minimizing the risk of injuries.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While rowing offers numerous benefits, there are common mistakes that seniors should avoid to ensure safe and effective workouts. Rounding the back during the rowing stroke increases the risk of back injuries and decreases the effectiveness of the exercise. It is essential to engage the legs and core muscles, instead of relying excessively on arm strength. Pulling the handle too close to the chest or overextending the arms can strain the shoulders and lead to discomfort. Rushing the recovery phase without allowing enough time for rest can impact the quality of the stroke. Neglecting to maintain consistent breathing patterns can affect the overall performance and efficiency of rowing exercises.

Tracking Progress and Setting Goals

Tracking progress is a valuable tool to stay motivated and monitor improvements in rowing workouts. Rowing machine monitors and tracking apps provide data on metrics such as distance, stroke rate, and calories burned. Seniors can set realistic goals based on their fitness level and health condition. It is important to celebrate milestones and achievements along the way, adjusting goals as needed to maintain progress and challenge oneself.

Safety Considerations for Seniors or Elderly

Seniors or the elderly should take specific safety considerations into account when engaging in rowing exercises. Consulting with a healthcare professional before starting a rowing program ensures that there are no contraindications or health risks. Gradual progression in intensity and duration of workouts allows the body to adapt without overwhelming it. Monitoring heart rate and exercising within target heart rate zones ensures that the workouts are effective and safe. Staying hydrated throughout rowing sessions is important to prevent dehydration. Seniors should be aware of warning signs or symptoms, such as chest pain or dizziness, that may require medical attention.


Indoor rowing machine workouts offer a wide range of benefits for seniors or the elderly population. Incorporating rowing exercises into a regular fitness routine can improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, enhance joint mobility, aid in weight management, and promote mental well-being. By following proper technique and form, warming up and cooling down adequately, and gradually progressing in their workouts, seniors can safely and effectively reap the rewards of rowing. With the right accessories, modifications, and safety considerations, rowing can be an enjoyable and accessible exercise option for seniors to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Are rowing machines safe for seniors?

Rowing machines designed for use indoors are excellent options for seniors. Athletes and those who are serious about their fitness frequently participate in rowing because it is a sport with a low impact. The positive results of using a rowing machine for exercise will not be accompanied by any unfavorable side effects, such as increased stress on the joints.

Is rowing good for 70 year olds?

It’s possible that rowing is the best kind of exercise for older people. It is a very efficient workout that works your entire body and activates all of your muscles while also enhancing your bone density, strengthening your heart and lungs, and assisting you in shedding excess pounds.

Does rowing strengthen your bones?

Any type of exercise that places a substantial amount of load on the bones can build bone mass. Rowing has been shown in a variety of research projects to meet the requirements of this criterion and is one of the most effective ways to increase bone mineral density (BMD).

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