What Muscles Does Rowing Work?

What Muscles Does Rowing Work

The muscles involved include those in your back, shoulders, hips, and thighs. Rowing exercises with a machine target your upper body, lower body, and core. 

In this article, we will go into more detail which muscles are working while you are rowing. 

Rowing And Rowing Machines

Some people like actually getting onto the water and rowing. Yet for the majority of people, a rowing machine is a lot more accessible and safe.

A rowing machine can help you to lose weight, while also performing cardio and strengthening your body. 

It is known that you can gain muscles from rowing without having to bulk up. It is a very low impact yet effective way to strengthen your muscles, including your heart and lungs. 

Muscles That Are Worked During Rowing

The main muscle groups used during rowing are:

  • Upper Body – Chest, Biceps, Triceps, Forearm, Shoulder
  • Lower Body – Gluteus Maximus, Quadriceps, Hamstring, Calves
  • Core – Abdomen, Back, Pelvic Floor

As you can see, there are many muscle groups that are being worked during rowing. You should be able to notice these as they become stronger.

A rowing machine is one of the best ways to get fit and burn fat at the same time. In fact, studies show that rowing machines can burn around 100 calories per hour! So if you want to lose weight, try rowing instead of running or jogging.

When you row, it is important to focus on your breathing. If you find yourself holding your breath or gasping for air, then you need to slow down and take a break. Once you feel comfortable with your breathing, continue to row. 

How To Use A Rowing Machine?

There are two types of rowing machines out there: Water Rower and Air Rower. Both work by pulling against resistance. But how do they differ? Let's look at both of them.

Water Rowers

A water rowing machine uses water to provide resistance. These machines use a flywheel system to simulate rowing.

The user sits in an ergometer (a seat) that has footrests. There is a handle attached to the flywheel. Pulling the handle moves the flywheel via pulleys and belts. As the flywheel turns, it pulls against the belt. This creates resistance.

Air Rowers

An air rowing machine works much like a treadmill. It has a motor that spins a fan blade. The fan pushes air across a screen, creating resistance.

The user stands on a platform that has handles. By pulling the handles forward and backward, the user moves the platform via rollers and belts. Resistance comes from the fan pushing against the blades of the screen.

So Which One Is Better?

Both water and air rowers are excellent choices when looking for a home workout machine. However, each type has its pros and cons.

If you prefer something quieter, choose an air rower. On the other hand, if you prefer something with more intensity, go for a water rower. However, both water and air rowers will give you a full-body workout.

Four Phases Of A Rowing Stroke

Four Phases Of A Rowing Stroke

To really understand what muscles are working while you are rowing, we need to take a closer look into the four stages of a rowing stroke. 

Phases of Rowing

The Catch

This is the beginning of the stroke, where you will have your seat slide to the front of the machine. Your body will be almost hunched over as you hold onto the handle.

To begin the catch, your knees will be bent towards your chest, and your shins will be in a straight-up position. Then to start, hold your arm out straight, with a shoulder width apart. Here your core should be engaged. 

The muscles worked in this section includes:  the triceps, biceps, lower back, calves, trapezius, and hamstrings. 

The Drive

When it comes to the drive of your rowing stroke, you want to fully extend your legs by pushing away. Then you use your hips and core to put your body into an upright position.

Then you use your shoulders, arms, and back to help you pull the handle towards your chest. The drive will be completed in one fluid step. 

With this step, you will engage your upper and lower muscles. Yet you also connect with your upper back and core to stay stable. 

The Finish

During the third phase, use both your core muscles and your legs to stabilize your body while you hinge slightly backward at the hips.

Then, use that momentum to fully extend each leg as you row the oar. Your upper arm rotates inwardly, simulating a rolling motion. 

The finish most intensively engages your biceps, triceps, shoulder muscles, and abdominal muscles. However, the leg extension also requires your glutes and quads to contract.

The Recovery

The recovery is just the first three steps, but in reverse. You should start by extending your arms out in front, hinging forward from your hips, bending your knees, and pulling yourself forward.

Then, you'll need to bring your legs up behind you, straighten your knees, hinge forward from your hips, and bend your elbows. 

Finally, you'll be in the catch position again. Make sure you control your movement during this phase because it activates your triceps, forearms, trapezii, deltoids, abs, hamstrings, and calf muscles.

Each rower uses his or her arms to complete an entire stroke. This requires activation of each major muscle group. Rowing is a great cardio workout because it works every major muscle group.

Final Thoughts

Rowing is a complete body workout as it engages around 86% of the muscles in your body. This is a full body exercise and is really easy to learn how to do.

Rowing can help you to strengthen your entire body, as there are very few muscles rowing does not use.

We hope you have found this article useful and persuaded you to give rowing a try, the next time you see a rowing machine free at the gym. 

If you are in your journey to weight loss and are wondering if you should add rowing into your routine, check out this article on how many calories rowing burns to help you decide.

Kevin Harris
Latest posts by Kevin Harris (see all)