While coaching some incredible athletes this past weekend we reached some real breakthroughs and saw some really fast times coming from the group. At the end of our work together, though, one question continued to rise to the top.

The question of “Do I row differently for calories?” This question pops up pretty consistently so it’s about time we address the big the elephant in the room.

The short answer is, no. You do not change your technique to row for calories. The long answer is still no. But, you do need to understand what happens to the machine when you row for calories. 

When you row, what matters most is your ability to produce consistent, mechanically advantageous connection to the machine; that you know HOW to connect to the machine and you understand how to move your body to maximize your ability to produce results. 

Whether you row for split, meters, calories, watts, or hopes and dreams, you will always be as effective as you can possibly be. No amount of adjusting your good movement will make you any better at rowing for calories.

So, the long answer. When you’re rowing, what matters most is your ability to produce consistent, mechanically advantageous connection to the machine. With that being said again, you need to understand how the machine measures calories. 

Let’s start here:

Now if you didn’t notice anything funny, let us point something out. Let’s use 27 cals as our reference point. If you were to row 27 calories at a 1:30 split, it would take you :50s and you’d row 277 meters en route to your 27 calorie piece.

Now let’s say you’re in the middle of a workout and you have to row that 27 calories again so this time you settle on a 2:00 pace because you came out of the gates so hard the first time. It would take you 1:37, and you’d row 406 meters.


Yes, if you row a slower split you end up being punished by rowing more meters to accomplish the same amount of calories. And it’s not a small punishment either. Just look at how much longer it takes to accomplish those extra meters.

Let us just look at the difference between a 1:40 and a 1:50 split for the 27 calorie row. It’s 16-second total time difference by rowing 10 seconds slower.

So here’s where it pays to understand the machine. No, you do not row differently as far as mechanics are concerned but yes, it behooves you to work harder during calories as it will reward you with a shorter distance and less time.

So that’s the secret. We don’t use a different technique to row for calories, we just know that if we sandbag a row it won’t turn out pretty and this is where the myth has come from that we need to row differently for calories.

Spread the word, it’s time to squelch this myth and bring people back to good mechanical advantageous technique.

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