The Best Warmup to Do Before a Rowing Workout

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Updated May 7, 2023

How do you typically warm up before your rowing workout? Do you even warm up at all? And if you’re a coach or instructor, do you take a few minutes to actively plan and think about how the warmup is going to support the rest of the workout? It’s time well spent, to be sure, and in this post we’re diving in on why the rowing workout warmup is important, whether you’re a fitness professional or you row on your own. And we’ll give you a rowing workout warmup you can row along with, so no more excuses!


Why it’s Important to Do a Rowing Workout Warmup


Hey, life’s busy.  Sometimes you can barely find the time to get to the gym or get on your home rowing machine. Who’s got time to do a proper warmup?


You do!


Or at least you should if you want to make the most of it. And by “most of it” we mean your workout, not the warmup.


If you’re like most people, left to your own devices you’ll spend less than 5 minutes just randomly sliding back and forth on the monorail, paying more attention to the TV or your friend on the machine next to you.


We get it, we’ve all done it. Especially when we’re in a hurry or coming into the workout feeling frazzled and still “buzzing” from the rest of our day.


And news flash, it can happen to trainers, too!  We sometimes get a little lazy about being intentional with what is actually a very important part of the workout.


Good workout start with great warmups. So be intentional with those few minutes!

4 Tips For The Best Rowing Workout Warmup

1. Use the warmup to pattern quality movement in the main workout


 The primary purpose of the warmup is to bring up the body temperature and prepare the heart, joints and muscles for the work ahead. It’s also the time to shake off the rest of the day and bring your head into the room (Whether you’re the instructor or the student!).


If you’re going to be doing strength moves off the machine it’s important to take time during the warmup to get the muscles and joints ready for that work as well.


Stretching and some light dynamic work or bodyweight moves should be targeted to whatever muscle groups are going to be center stage in the main workout. 


2. Use the time to zero in on rowing technique and establish any technique themes for the workout


The warmup is prime time for practicing rowing technique. One of the best ways is to do the pick drill and use that to imprint good technique.  We also love feet-out rowing as a way to uncover and address any technique errors.


COACHES: Pick one or two key things you’re going to focus on in the warmup and then refer back to them in the workout. Hip swing, knees down, ratio, proper order of operations, etc. 


Whatever it is, start to work the language and the technique elements into the warmup and then reference them the same way during the workout so they register with your students.


REMEMBER: Don’t give your rowing clients too many things to focus on in one session, they’ll just get overwhelmed


Teaching Tip: Give your #rowing students just a couple of technique things to work on each class. That way they'll make progress and not feel overwhelmed. Share on X



3. The shorter the workout, the longer the warmup


We all wish we could get warmed up in just 5 minutes! But particularly if you’re 40+, you likely need a little more time than that.


Even 10 minutes can be enough to prep for a longer workout, but if the workout is short you want to be sure you don’t skip the warmup! 


Short, high-intensity workouts require you to already have a good sweat rolling so that when the timer starts you’re ready to HIT IT! You want to make the most of that 15- 20-minute workout so get to the point where you’re working hard right out of the gate.


COACHES: When you’re warming up for a higher-intensity workout be sure to include higher-intensity bouts in the warmup as well. Don’t wait until the main workout to take those first hard strokes.


One good way to approach it is to do a hard 10 strokes (known in rowing as a Power 10) at the top of every minute of the warmup. 


The shorter the workout, the longer the warmup #fitness Share on X


4. How to know if you’ve done a good warmup


There’s a Goldilocks zone where you’ll know if you’ve done a good warmup:


You should be starting to sweat “around the edges” and feel like you’ve done something. Definitely feel ready to take off any sweatshirts or outer layers you started with.


But if you’re breathing hard and need to take a minute to rest before you can get off the machine, you’ve probably gone a little too hard.


4 Best Rowing Workout Warmups

Even if the main workout doesn’t involve rowing, the erg and its total-body, non-impact exercise is a fantastic place to prepare for any other kind of effort.


PS: Warmups also make fabulous beginner rowing workouts: If you’re just starting out with rowing, pick a warmup you like, do a round of it, and check in with how you’re feeling. Then do a second or even a third time through if you’re feeling up for it!


Here are three warmups we love. They’ll get you ready for your workout, and you’ll have fun doing them, too!


Whichever workout you pick, do a few minutes of easy rowing first.


If rowing at full slide (coming all the way to the catch position) doesn’t feel good at the very beginning, this is your chance to warm up into it. Start out rowing at half- or three-quarters slide first!


Want some technique refreshers and drills to work on while you warm up? Our YouTube channel and our RowReady program are chock-full of drills and other helpful rowing hints.

On to the workouts!

From our RowReady workout program

4 minutes at a stroke rate of 22 strokes per minute

3 minutes at 24 spm

2 minutes at 26 spm

1 minute at 28 spm


From our book 101 Best Rowing Workouts

For each round, row 10 strokes at the prescribed stroke rate, then 20 strokes at whatever rate feels comfortable for a warmup. On the early rounds, that rate may actually be higher than what you’re doing on the 10 “on” strokes.


Round 1: 10 strokes at 20 spm

Round 2: 10 strokes at 20 spm

Round 3: 10 strokes at 22 spm

Round 4: 10 strokes at 22 spm

Round 5: 10 strokes at 24 spm


An on-water rowing classic

Total time: 15 mins (approx.)

1 stroke hard, one easy

2 strokes hard, two easy

And so on up to 10 strokes hard, 10 easy


No prescribed stroke rates here, just do what feels like a good effort on the hard strokes and catch your breath on the easy strokes.


BONUS: Row Along With This Workout Warmup

Ready to row in less than 10 minutes! Do the all-important pick drill plus a stroke rate pyramid with UCanRow2 / Concept2 Master Instructor (and Olympian) Heather Alschuler!



Try these warmups and let us know in the comments which one was your favorite!


Want to add on a full-on workout after the warmup?

These will do the trick:


UCanRow2 on Demand

Meter Monster & Flywheel Frenzy training programs

Monster Meter endurance rowing workouts



Even if your main workout doesn’t involve rowing, the erg and its total-body, non-impact exercise is a fantastic place to prepare for any other kind of effort. Share on X


Don't waste the workout warm up! It's super important and a few minutes on the rowing machine will get your whole body revved and ready to work! Share on X


Your workout time is self-care! Give yourself the gift of giving it your full attention. Share on X

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