Main Muscle Groups Used in a Rowing Machine Workout

Rowing machines are one of the most popular types of cardio equipment in gyms and fitness facilities.

They provide a low-impact, effective workout that is great for people who want to stay healthy without putting too much strain on their joints or muscles.

In this article, we will discuss what muscle groups get targeted when you use a rowing machine and how they can benefit your health. Main Muscle Groups Used in a Rowing Machine Workout

Ask around to find out which is the most complete fitness machine, and you will most often get the rower. It responds better than any other device because it works 80% of your muscles each session (even more than elliptical machines).

It accomplishes this thanks to its design:

  • A rowing machine's sliding seat requires your legs to continuously push off the ground.
  • The handle in a rowing machine causes you to use your arms and shoulders.
  • The exercises work your abdominal and back muscles to control your upper body thrust during forward and backward movements.

The benefits of rowing machines are:

  • Working the most muscles of any exercise machine
  • Improving strength and stamina in your upper body, legs, abs, and back
  • Helping to improve posture by strengthening core muscles
  • Burning fat faster than other exercises.
  • The rowing machine also works on coordination which is important for sports like tennis, basketball, golf, and baseball
  • Pulling the rowing machine in your workout routine will help you improve muscle tone and strength.

What muscle groups does a rowing machine work?

The rowing machine provides total muscle reinforcement and offers no other workout machine experience.

With the rowing machine, you will strengthen your back, arm, ab, chest, and glutes toning them while firming up your butt. Every part of your body—from head to toe—will feel the benefits of this intense exercise.

Core muscles

The rowing machine's design works your core muscles. The abdominal and back muscles are constantly engaged in order to maintain a proper posture while you row, the obliques help control upper body thrust during forward and backward movements, strengthening them at the same time.

Your Back

Your back is a critical component for a rowing machine workout.

The backward and forward motion of your body with each stroke will strengthen the muscles that run along your spine, while also providing stability to protect you from injury.

Your glutes, abdominal muscles, arms, and shoulders—all work together to control how you row.

Your chest muscles, biceps, and tricep all contribute to your rowing motion as well.

Your lower back is the powerhouse in this type of workout as it assists with each stroke you take while also stabilizing any movements that occur on either side of your spine.

Your Chest

We briefly mentioned your chest muscles, biceps, and tricep as they are important muscles that contribute to the rowing motions.

Your chest is where your arms attach from so it's natural for this area of your body to feel a little sorer than any other after days or weeks of work on the machine.

By strengthening these muscles, you will be able to have a better rowing motion as well

Also, your arms and shoulders will become more stable. You'll also get less back fatigue from the exercise since this muscle is used when moving in any direction on either side of your spine.

The best way to prevent chest pain is by doing exercises to strengthen your chest muscles and stretching them out afterward.

A couple of good stretches for the chest are Chest Pulls, Bent-Over Twists, and Cobra Pose.


The long, powerful muscles that form the upper arm are called the biceps.

Their job is to flex your elbow and keep you from sticking out your chin too much when looking up.

The shorter muscle on the back of this same arm is called the triceps. It helps with extending or straightening out your arms.

The rowing action works the muscles in your back, chest, and shoulders so well that you'll be able to lift more weight or do push-ups afterward.

The biceps are used for flexing at the elbow while rowing, but they're also engaged when pulling down on a barbell curl with both hands.

The triceps are used during the rowing action, but they're also engaged when pushing down on a barbell press with both hands.

Leg Muscles

The muscles in your thigh work together with the major muscle groups of your body to allow for movement.

When using a rowing machine, you use these muscles and others like the hamstrings as well when pulling on the handlebars.

On either leg, there's one large muscle called an Adductor Magnus that helps keep your knees close together and also helps the kneecap move forward or backward.

The hamstring muscles on either side of your body work with other leg muscles to straighten your knee when you're standing up from a bent position, like coming out of a rower's starting crouch.

The largest muscle in the lower body is the quadriceps femoris muscle, which attaches to your knee and hip.

When you use a rower machine, this muscle works with other muscles in both legs (including those that do most of the work during walking) to straighten out your leg from bent positions.

There are many other smaller muscles that also help you move your legs back and forth in a rowing machine.

These include iliopsoas, iliacus, tensor fascia latae (TFL), iliotibial band (ITB) and sartorius. However, the focus in this article is on the quadriceps femoris muscle.

The most famous rowing machine workout is the "Crossfit Total". This workout includes a rower and other exercises like squats, sit-ups, and pull-ups to measure strength, endurance, or power. 

It's said that doing this type of workout can give you an amazing body.

People often use the rowing machine as a rehabilitation tool, particularly after they have surgery on their backs and need to strengthen the muscles in that area without doing other activities like running or climbing stairs.

If you're looking for an intense workout that will keep your heart rate up all throughout, then rowing machines may not be the right answer for you.

The key to a successful rowing machine workout is finding out which muscles are targeted so that you can properly train them with weights and other exercises in order to tone up those areas of your body.

Here's a List of Rowing Machine exercises:

The 2000-Meter Mixup

This exercise means you row for 2000 meters. Switch to another rower and do the same thing with that one, or switch over to a stationary bike.

Repeat until you've completed all your reps on both rowing machines or bikes. Then get back in sync by switching places again without stopping.

The Row and Burpee Challenge

This exercise is similar to the Row and Burpee, but with pushups.

Do as many rows or push-ups as you can in 60 seconds without stopping. Then repeat for a total of four rounds if it's your first time.

The Row and Fight

This exercise means you complete one row, then a fighting movement that is either: burpee pull-ups or push-ups with alternating punches for 30 seconds each without stopping. Then repeat for four rounds if it's your first time.

Bobby Maximus' Row to Hell

This exercise is the ultimate row workout. You complete a rowing machine for 20 seconds, then sprint or run at full speed on a flat surface or over hill-sides to recover for 30 seconds and repeat as many times as you can or want in five minutes. Remember to warm up before doing this one!

The Calorie Count-Up

This workout is one of the fastest calorie-burning workouts.

There are three rounds that last 30 seconds each, where you complete the rowing machine for five seconds then a plank or push up to recover and repeat until your time has finished.

If it's too hard to hold for both at once, alternate them as quickly as you can.

The Long Row

This workout is a great one for endurance and strength-building that works your whole body!

You complete the rowing machine, then do squat jumps or lunges to recover as quickly as you can for five rounds in 20 minutes.

Endurance Rowing Session

If you're looking to train for a marathon, this session is perfect.

You row at your own pace with short breaks in between 20 rounds of rowing and 50 minutes to complete.

Make sure you have access to the resistance settings so that you can adjust it as needed!

The Power Row Session (for advanced users)

This rowing machine session is for those of you who want to use your whole body and push it past its limits.

You row at high-intensity intervals with short breaks in between 15 rounds of rowing, 45 minutes to complete.

Lunch Break Rowing Session (for beginners)

For the ones who are just getting into rowing, this session is perfect.

You row at your own pace with short breaks in between five rounds of rowing and 15 minutes to complete.

The first step you should take before starting any workout program on the rowing machine is a proper warm-up!

Tips for Using the Rower Safely

- Use proper form and keep your back straight while pulling the handle towards you.

- Maintain hand contact with the handle throughout.

- Keep your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and toes pointed forward.

- Engage the muscles of the lower back to avoid overarching or rounding out of your spine.

- Do not stop feeling in front, between, or behind you when moving from one side stroke to another

- Keep your head in alignment with the spine and avoid tilting to one side.

- Do not extend your arms fully before beginning the pull.

- Use a wide grip for more work, and a narrow grip if you're looking to improve blood flow in your hands or wrists.

- Be sure to maintain an upright posture with shoulders relaxed throughout the duration of your workout on the rower!

- Keep your chest lifted and avoid rounding out of the back or arching too far forward.

- Do not stop feeling in front, between, or behind you when moving from one side stroke to another.

- It is important to keep a slight bend in the elbows for most rows so that they do not become fully extended.

- Keep your stomach muscles tight throughout the duration of the row to keep core engaged and spine neutral.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it.

Rowing is a great workout that uses the whole body, while also providing intense cardiovascular and muscular conditioning.

For those who have limited time to work out or just want to add some variety to their fitness routine, rowing can be a valuable addition.

It’s easy on your joints too because it doesn't rely on weight-bearing as other exercises do.

Plus, you don't need any extra equipment like weights or bulky machines, either. Just the rowing machine.

So what are you waiting for?

Hop on that rower and get to work!

There's plenty to choose from here.

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