Learn how to use a rowing machine, perfect your form and eventually get your 2k time under 7 minutes.

Wondering how to use a rowing machine correctly? You’re not alone. There’s a reason Steve Redgrave used to renounce the coxless four after seemingly every Olympics (only to inevitably knuckle down and scoop another gold medal at the next one): rowing is hard – even when you’re using the best rowing machines money can buy.

More specifically, the 2,000m – the distance of every Olympic event – emphasises endurance, power delivery and mental toughness. It’s also one of the few forms of cardio that packs on serious muscle.

A 7min 30sec 2k row is respectable; less than 7 minutes is impressive.

Benefits of rowing

Rowing burns a serious amount of calories: an intense workout on a rowing machine torches more than 300 in just 30 minutes. But it isn’t just good for weight loss.

Like cycling, rowing is a zero-impact endurance exercise that improves heart and lung function while working every major muscle in your body.

The drive phase engages your leg muscles, then your core and finally your upper body. No wonder it’s part of so many CrossFit WODs (workouts of the day) and a regular fixture at the CrossFit Games.

What damper setting to use on the rower?

It’s simple: if you’re a big guy, go for eight to nine and hit a lower stroke-per-minute rating.

Smaller? Set it at six or seven and go faster.

How to use a rowing machine correctly

2K Row Training Plan: How To Achieve Sub-7 Minutes | Men's Fitness UK

1. The catch

  • Keep your arms straight, head up and upper body leaning forwards from the hips.
  • “Your shins shouldn’t go past vertical,” says David Hart of rowing machine company Concept2. “And don’t overreach.”
2K Row Training Plan: How To Achieve Sub-7 Minutes | Men's Fitness UK

2. The drive

  • Start the drive by pressing with your legs.
  • As you move, lean back slightly, then finally add the arm pull.
  • “Your hands move in a straight line to and from the flywheel,” says Hart.
2K Row Training Plan: How To Achieve Sub-7 Minutes | Men's Fitness UK

3. The finish

  • “At the end of the stroke, your upper body should be leaning back to about 11 o’clock,’ says Hart.
  • “Keep the handle held lightly below your ribs and don’t ‘chicken wing’ it – keep your elbows in.”
2K Row Training Plan: How To Achieve Sub-7 Minutes | Men's Fitness UK

4. The recovery

  • “Extend your arms until they’re straight, then lean forwards from your hips,” says Hart.
  • “Once your hands have cleared your knees, allow your knees to bend and slide the seat forward.”

2K Row Training Plan

Devised by Gym Jones coach Pieter Vodden, this 2k-smashing strategy takes just 11 days

Day 1:

30sec row, 90 sec recovery

  • Aim for 150m per 30sec and increase that by 1m per round.
  • Take it as far as you can – 170 is the goal.

Day 2:


Day 3:

10 x 500m row, 1min rest

  • Try to hold your intended 2k split time pace.
  • If you’re shooting for a 7min 2k, you need to hit 1min 45sec.
  • On the last round, go all out.

Day 4 & 5:


Day 6:

10 min warm-up, 1,000m row as fast as possible

Day 7:


Day 8:

10min warm-up, 1,500m row as fast as possible

Day 9 & 10:


Day 11:

20min warm-up at slow place

  • Include occasional ‘power 10s’ – ten hard strokes at your target 2k pace

2,000m row, fast