How to Make Sense of Rowing For Calories

June 17, 2017
Belly Fat Exercise – Learn How to Lose Belly Fat
June 17, 2017

When it comes to rowing for calories, there is much confusion. All of a sudden we feel like we’ve been thrown into a different dimension and we’re driving at km/h, or for some of us, trying to figure out how much weight is on a barbell in kilograms. Perhaps for you, it’s the other way around.

What seemed simple and measurable now makes us feel like were rowing in the dark! In this video, we show how you can finally make sense of rowing for calories so you can row blind no more.

As a result, you will be able to put actual numbers such as distance, split, and cal/h to your desired outcome so you know just how hard you need to go. This is priceless information to have whether it be competition or training and reaching your full potential in fitness.

For greater detail, coaching cues, and points of performance train with us at

Dark Horse Rowing is built for indoor rowers and gyms who want to use the rowing machine as a tool for their training, workouts, weight loss and recovering from injury.

You’ll get workouts, coaching, and support all around the Concept 2 rowing machine. This is THE place to get great workouts and understand the rowing machine.

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Rowing For Calories vs. Rowing For Meters
We understand the confusion. Not unlike the confusion an American might feel driving in England where they drive on the other side of the road, moving at speed limits displayed in km/h and pay in pounds instead of dollars at the gas station where they are selling the gas by the liter and not the gallon. Even in weightlifting, it seems confusing when one begins to use kilos or in tack when one might program run 4 – 400m laps compared to a 1-mile run. A similar situation is happening with rowing when it comes to rowing for time or distance versus rowing for calories.
What Actually Changes
There is a common pattern in the situations described above. The difference in the unit of measurement. When you drive on the other side of the road you still need to push the gas to accelerate or push the break to slow down, driving in km/h doesn’t make you faster or slower, it just appears in a different unit. Paying in pounds instead of dollars to fill up your gas tank in liters doesn’t make it bigger or smaller than in gallons. A 220.5 lb snatch feels just as heavy as a 100kg one. And, you can run 1600m in the same 6 minutes you run a mile in 6 minutes. The unit of measurement is changing but nothing else. You will still use the same snatch technique and that perfect pose running. The same is also true when you row for distance, time or calories. Your technique, power output or basic machine setting shouldn’t change regarding the given conditions.
Understanding Why
It’s not surprising when changing units it causes some confusion. However, it can be cleared up by understanding the relation between one unit and another. The question at hand isn’t how to row for calories, but how you can translate calories to units you are familiar with. How can you translate the cal/h to a 500m pace that makes sense or the other way around?
Distance measures how far you’ve gone. How far you’ve gone depends on how fast you’ve gone for how long. When you go faster you go farther in any given period of time. Calories measures how much energy you’ve put into the system. When you go faster, you put more energy into the rower at any given period of time. Therefore, calories are a unit of energy.
Energy = Power Output x Time
Power output is measured by the rowing machine every second based on the duration of the row, how fast the flywheel slows down, how many times it spins around, and the chosen unit displayed on the monitor. Calories are calculated based on power output performed over a certain time.
The Actual Difference
We already mentioned rowing for calories is just a different unit of measurement. What we didn’t mention is rowing at a higher cal/h (lower average 500m pace) will eventually result in lower total distance as well. In our case, if Jason is 18.3 seconds faster on his average 500m pace he would have gained 1:09.2 and would have rowed 143m less.
Know and Understand Your Numbers
Now that you understand the only thing changing is the unit of measurement, your technique and most efficient machine settings such as your drag factor should remain the same. And, when you go faster you are rewarded exponentially when rowing for calories.

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  1. Peter Fox says:

    You did not explain anything at all. But nice try …
    The first 7 minutes were a complete waste!

  2. ironhazes says:

    Hey Dark Horse Rowing. I am rowing here in Sarnia with Justin Farina. I am gonna do a couple of these calorie based work outs and ask him if he has seen this video. It's a bit tongue-in-cheek because he usually asks for pictures with time/500m. in the screen. My earliest pics sometimes showed calories in the screen and he would tell me to take another pic and "stop showing calories!" I do very much appreciate the video and the nice surprise was that Vic could have rowed a shorter distance if he would have understood the calorie-setting. Keep up the good stuff. P.s. Justin recommends your videos to us all the time!! Carlo.

  3. First off, I'm really enjoying these videos. As a triathlete used to using a power meter on a bike, this is a fairly simple concept explained in quite a complex way (IMO). Your Concept2 offers a reading for the number of watts generated with every stroke. If you know how many watts it takes to burn on kilocalorie (or one joule), you can fairly easily work out how many calories (or joules, or kilojoules) you've expended in a known period of time. More watts for longer=more calories expended. There are other considerations to think about with regard to the calories you'll expend post-exercise, as your metabolic rate slowly returns to it's basal rate.

  4. we use mph in the uk

  5. Chris Si says:

    I think this video addresses 30% of the confusion with rowing.. the other components being:
    50% – How to I figure out the appropriate effort I should put in to get the best results? Fewer hard pulls? Lots of short sharp pulls?
    20% – what does this damper lever thing actually do to my output?

  6. If you're looking to grow your channel more I suggest making two types of videos. Ones that are titled for beginners and go over novice topics such as form or damper setting. And also posting advanced rowing videos such at steady state aerobic threshold or weight exercises. I like your videos now but there seems to be some gray area between beginner and advanced videos

  7. edinborogh says:

    awesome video! 6 months in to rowing, i do 10 times of 500 meters, 10 times one minute, 3 sets of 1,500 and all with one minute rest between his set. the goal – few sets of 2K… total calories burn p/minute is 12-14 or almost 700 p/hour. lost 10 KG in the process! thank for the encouragement and awesome content guys! |