When starting out, many people obsess about rowing machine strokes per minute, but this isn’t necessarily what you should be most concerned about when using an indoor rower.
Keep in mind that your primary focus when rowing for exercise is to get a good cardiovascular workout, not to break any speed records. It’s also important to remember that the numbers for strokes per minute can be deceptive.
Rather than trying to push yourself to use as many strokes per minute as you can, you should focus on reaching the optimal heart rate for a good cardiovascular workout. Try rowing to achieve and maintain your target heart rate for at least twenty minutes at a fairly steady rate.
For many people, a good rate is about 25 rowing machine strokes per minute. If you go too slowly, you won’t elevate your heart rate enough to give you the cardio results you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you try to push yourself to do too many strokes per minute, you could end up with muscle exhaustion, forcing you to quit rowing before you’ve got enough cardio time in.
Once you reach the point where you can easily maintain your target heart rate for 30-40 minutes at a steady rate, you can start changing things up by varying your stroke speed.
Try working up to 30 strokes per minute and maintaining it for 3-4 minutes, then push yourself to 35 strokes for one minute before dropping back down to 20-25 strokes per minute in order to recover. Repeating this process for a half hour will give you an excellent interval workout.
Some people confuse rowing machine strokes per minute with overall speed. You can have, for instance, two people both covering a specific distance, such as 500 meters, at the same speed of three minutes, but using a different number of strokes because one person is using more power in each stroke.
The more powerful your stroke, the more quickly you’ll cover the distance regardless of your strokes per minute. Fortunately, most of today’s best indoor rowers have consoles that can help you gauge your power, strokes and speed accurately.
It may be helpful to talk to someone who has rowed regularly or is a competitive rower if you’d like to learn more about the relative importance of your rowing machine strokes per minute.
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