How to Improvise Your Own Rowing Machine

By Nick Nilsson
Author of Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss

When you think cardio training, what's the first thing that pops into your head? ...and I can almost guarantee you it probably wasn't anything to do with your UPPER body, right?

Well, here's the thing...what if you want to do cardio and your legs are trashed? Your intensity is going to suffer.

Or what if you've got heavy leg training coming up that you don't want to get your legs fatigued for in advance?


That's where ROWING can come in very's a GREAT upper-body focused cardiovascular exercise that is extremely effective for fat loss.

And while it does involve the legs to some extent, it primarily focuses on the upper body, which can give your legs a break while still getting you some great cardio training.

As a side bonus, I've found it can also help improve your back muscularity by pumping a lot of blood into those muscles for longer periods of time.

Now, what do you do if you don't have a rowing machine in your gym...or at home, if you train in a home gym?



That's when you've got to improvise...and I've got the perfect setup that mimics a rowing machine pretty much EXACTLY. It's very easy to do and all you need is some simple equipment.

First, you'll need a low pulley cable machine or a band (the cable is better).

This is my recommended source for training bands. (Note: Use Coupon Code "rbtfitstep" to get 10% off your purchase of a band package)

Second, you'll need a cable handle... I prefer the short straight bar attachment for this, to really mimic rowing.

Third, you'll need something to sit and roll on. I like to use a plant dolly (literally a few boards with some wheels on the bottom that's supposed to be used for moving plants - I got one at a hardware store for 20 bucks. It's actually an extremely versatile piece of improvised equipment that can be used for a LOT of different exercises).

Plant Dolly

Optionally, you can also add in something like foam wedges to set your feet to get a better angle of push, but they're not necessary.

And that's it!


How to Set Up The Improvised Rowing Machine

Attach the cable handle to the pulley and set your foam wedges against something solid (if you're using them).

Sit on the dolly and grab the cable handle, with your knees inside your arms.

How to Set Up The Improvised Rowing Machine

Now extend your legs. Wait until your legs are almost straight until you start the rowing with your arms.

How to Set Up The Improvised Rowing Machine

Finish the movement with a full contraction in your back muscles, bringing the handle into your midsection.

A post shared by Nick Nilsson (@nicknilsson1) on


On the way down, let the cable come down over your knees and repeat (there should be no real negative here, just FYI).

If you've used a rowing machine in the past, this will feel very natural - the movement is literally EXACTLY the same, only much cheaper to put together.

If you need more resistance, all you need to do is put more weight on the stack.

I've used this a number of times for interval training and find it VERY effective. I've been using a countdown timer with a set period on it (e.g. 15 minutes) and rowing for 20 seconds and resting 10, so it works out to 30 second blocks of time.

This is the easiest way to go in terms of keeping track of your work and rest intervals. You could very easily do something like 40 seconds work to 20 seconds rest as well.


If you want to do cardio but you're sick of the usual methods (and your lower body needs a break from it), give this a try. It'll be a fresh challenge to your body and a whole new way to do cardio.



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