All About Rowing Machines: Which Muscles Do They Work?

Olu Ojo
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Rowing machines are a great way to get in shape and stay fit.

They work out all the major muscle groups, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings, back muscles, core muscles, and more!

Rowing machine exercises allow you to build your upper body muscles while also strengthening your lower body through a seated leg press motion.

You can even target specific muscle groups by adjusting your grip, making them one of the most versatile elements in any home gym.

When it comes to using rowing machines for fitness activities, there is a slew of advantages to be found!

One example would be that working out with rower equipment will help build endurance, which means you get more from each hour spent exercising than before.

Affordability is another major benefit – many models cost less than $200

Here is what you need to know about rowing machines: what they do for your body; what type of exercises you can do with them; what kinds of benefits they give you; what precautions to take when using them; how much space is needed for one at home or in the gym.

What Muscles Do Rowing Machines Work?

When people ask me what muscles I’m using when I row, I respond, “All of them.”

The answer is that rowing machines work a variety of different muscle groups, depending on how you use them.

If you’re looking to tone your arms, then the rowing machine is a great way to do it.

It works your biceps and triceps muscles as you pull the handles towards you.

Rowing also works your back muscles, which helps improve posture and prevents back pain.

The leg muscles are also worked when you row, as you push off from the foot pedals with each stroke. This can help strengthen and tone your thighs and calves.

And finally, rowing also engages your abs and core muscles, so it’s a great way to get your core in shape too.

This type of workout makes the rower one of the most popular pieces of exercise equipment around!

It’s easy to use, helps you burn calories and fat while strengthening all different parts of your body for a healthy, toned look.

For best results, be sure to vary up your workouts with rowing machines so that each part gets worked out evenly over time.

Then get ready for an excellent whole-body workout every time you hop on this machine!

Rowing Workout Strokes

You can use four different strokes on a rowing machine: catch, drive, finish, and recovery.

Let’s look at which of the body’s muscles each of these strokes work.

The Catch

The catch is the start of a rowing stroke. After that, you can have the rowing machine’s seat slid all the way forward and be close to the front of the machine.

To do the catch, bend your knees up close to your chest and keep your shins straight up and down.

Stand with your arms out in front of you and make sure that they are shoulder-width apart, and then bend over a little bit at the hips.

You should engage your core to keep straight. The muscles that are worked while performing the catch stroke are the triceps, deltoids, trapezius, abdominals, lower back muscles, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

The Drive

This part of the rowing stroke is where you use your legs to push off against the machine.

You are primarily working both your lower body muscles like the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes during this phase.

Extend your legs as far as they will go while using the foot stretchers, then pull the oar toward you. Then swing your body upright using your core and hip hinge.

After that, extend your shoulders, arms, and back to pull the handlebar toward your sternum or ribcage by engaging them all in a single swift motion.

The Finish

The finish is when you reach the end of your rowing stroke and extend your arms forward.

This move works your quadriceps and glutes. It also works out many muscles, including abs (obliques), lower back, chest, and shoulders.

Each muscle that makes up the torso is activated during the finish motion to keep your body stabilized.

It also allows for cardio benefits like an elevated heart rate due to all of those muscle movements involved in rowing!

As you hinge backward at the hips, engage your core to keep your body steady.

Hinging slightly back at the hips allows you to fully extend your legs by bringing the handle all the way in toward your chest.

There will be no catch or finish when using machines other than water rowing machines, like air resistance models since the machine will cease to move when your hands leave the handlebars.

The Recovery

The recovery is when you return your arms to the starting position. This rowing stroke works your biceps and forearms again.

The triceps work to extend the arms outward and away from the body.

As you slide up to the catch, the abdominals flex the body forward while the hamstrings and calves tighten.

It’s also a good time to take a breath and get ready for the next stroke.

what muscles do rowing machines work

FAQs about Rowing Machine Workout

Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?

Rowing may help you burn calories and develop strong, defined muscles while also providing a good workout.

Is this workout really effective at reducing weight? I think so….however, it will take more work to boost your heart rate and then help you reduce weight.

How long should you work out on a rowing machine?

The ideal time to lose weight is when you exercise on a regular basis and aim for at least 30 minutes of rowing each week.

Ensure to give yourself enough rest in between your workout routines.

What muscles does a rowing machine not work?

Rowing machines don’t work the chest, forearms, and wrist muscles, as well as the core region’s inner thigh, side, and middle-back muscles.

The important muscle group that rowers do not target is the pushing muscles.

But this shouldn’t be a problem as your rowing workout routines can easily be supplemented with a good set of pushups.

What muscles get toned from rowing?

Rowing is a low-impact exercise, making it a good choice for those just starting out or having joint problems.

The recovery stroke of the rowing machine targets the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

In addition to working the lower body muscles, the rowing machine also tones the upper body.

The pulling motion engages the back, shoulders, and arms.

So if you’re looking for a workout that will sculpt your entire body and tone these muscles, the rower is definitely worth considering!

Will a rowing machine get me in shape?

If you’re looking for a quick and easy approach to shed some pounds, a rowing machine is just what you need.

Rowing is a fantastic exercise since it targets several areas of your body at once, including your muscles and cardiovascular system, all while providing a single workout that you can do in your own home.

How soon will I see results from rowing

You can begin to notice results in as little as 14 days if you follow this routine three days per week, along with good nutrition.

Do I need special shoes to use a rowing machine?

You do not have to wear special shoes when using a rower; however, wearing what you would typically wear at the gym is recommended, especially if you are using the machine on a hard surface.

Do you have to use resistance on a rowing machine?

You do not have to use resistance on a rowing machine; in fact, many people find it more challenging to row without any added weight.

However, adding weights or using an adjustable bench will increase the intensity of your workout.

working out the muscles with a rowing machine

Wrap up

Rowing machines work muscles in your arms, legs, back, shoulders, chest, abs, and many smaller stabilizing muscles throughout these areas.

You can focus on what part of your body you would like to strengthen by choosing a different type of stroke or intensity level for each workout session – this will help you get more out of every rowing machine exercise!

Rowing machines are a great addition to your home gym or fitness studio because they offer an intense cardio body workout that’s easy on the joints.

With so many rowing machines available, you may be wondering which one will best accommodate your needs and budget- here are the best rowing machines of this year that we recommend.

For additional information on how to get the best out of rowing exercises, I highly recommend this article by garagegymreviews.



  1. Rowing and your muscles
  2. Does a Rowing Machine Help You Gain Muscle?
  3. The Benefits of a Rowing Machine


Olu_author bio

Olu is a fitness enthusiast and a passionate entrepreneur who loves to blog about life-saving lifestyle habits, hacks, and travel. He lives in the Western part of Canada.

Olu has two bachelor’s degrees in Veterinary Medicine and Applied Accounting with a CPA designation. He currently shuffles time between completing a Master of Business Administration degree education, Accounting professional practice, and Blogging.

He has freelanced lifestyle write-ups and articles for many top-ranked authority websites since 2010.



  • Olu Ojo

    My name is Olu. I am a passionate entrepreneur who loves to write about Pets, Home Improvement Hacks & Products, Fitness, and Travel Lifestyle. I have two bachelor's degrees in Veterinary Medicine and Applied Accounting with a CPA designation. I currently shuffle time between completing a Master of Business Administration Degree Education, Professional Practice, and Content writing. I have freelanced lifestyle content and posts for many top authority websites like MSN, and Wealth of Geeks.

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