What Muscles Does a Rowing Machine Work?

men and women are working on rowing machines

A rower or a rowing machine is getting popular as home gym equipment. It’s an excellent strength trainer. You’ll definitely amp up the full body with such a piece. Besides, it’s a great tool for cardio workouts if you crave burning loads of calories.

An indoor rowing machine provides intensive training that activates upper and lower body muscle groups. The gear mimics real rowing motion on the water. You’re able to burn fat as well as gain muscles. What a great item to hit the fitness goals!

Let’s find how exactly a rower is beneficial for your body.

What Does a Rowing Machine Workout?

If you’re considering a rower you may question “What does a rowing machine work?”. Let’s find out whether this equipment is suitable for your workout routine. We bet it is, and here’s why.

Rowing is a highly efficient exercise. Performing a rowing stroke involves nine muscle groups. Unlike other cardio machines like a StairMaster. These muscle groups make up 86% of our body’s muscles, which is impressive. Thus, a rowing machine is advantageous for overall body conditioning.

Here’s the chart that exhibits rowing machine muscles targeted. As you can see, both the upper body and lower body are involved. Rowing workouts provide a wide range of resistance levels to hit various muscles.

Rowing Machine Muscles Worked Chart

rowing machine muscles targeted chart

woman is pulling a handlebar on rowing machine

Rowing Machine Muscle Group Used

Let’s do some anatomy. A rowing stroke activates such lower body muscles as quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. As for upper body muscles, these are deltoids, pecs, biceps, upper back, latissimus dorsi (mid back), triceps, and lats. Your core muscles are also engaged when row: abs and obliques.

Some people assume rowing is only about arms and shoulder muscles. But there are way more benefits. Rowing machines are great for the full-body workout to gain muscles and weight loss.

Another point you should know, a rowing stroke consists of four phases. Let’s get the nitty-gritty of the rowing motion to understand how it works on the muscle groups.

Rowing Machine Muscles Used: Step-by-Step Guide

the catch stage with rowing machine

1. The Catch

The catch is the beginning position when your knees are bent and your arms are holding the handle. Hinge forward to reach the bar. The seat is close to the machine. The knees are near the chest when in the catch position.

The Catch: Muscles Used

  • During this motion, your triceps are activated to extend your arms. So you can reach the handlebar and grip it.
  • Back muscles are also engaged. The latissimus dorsi controls your arm extension. And the trapezius muscles activate the shoulder blades.
  • Such leg muscles as glutes, hamstrings, and calves compress during the catch. As the shins are placed vertically.

the drive stange with rowing machine

2. The Drive

The next stage of the stroke is named the drive. Start pushing your feet off from the footrest. Your legs are fully extended. Squeeze your core while performing the drive. The hip hinge helps to get the body into an upright position.

While pulling the handlebar, engage your arms, shoulders, and back. Pull the handle towards the ribcage. All the moves described must be performed as one fluid motion.

The Drive: Muscles Used

  • Your biceps are engaged when pulling the handlebar. When your hands reach the knees, pull the bar to the lower ribs.
  • When your body is driving back, the shoulder muscles are contracting.
  • During the drive phase, contract your glutes. Your hamstrings and glutes are activated to extend your hips. Your upper body is slightly hinged at the time, creating a 45-degree angle.
  • The handlebar is close to the breastbone. In the meantime, your abs are contracted to keep you stabilized.
  • As the bar is pulled towards the ribs, back muscles are activated. Both upper back and lower back muscles help to get your torso into an upright position.

the finish stage with rowing machine

3. The Finish

The finish is the third stage. The squeezed core helps to stabilize the body. Slightly hinge at the hips. The legs are fully extended. The handlebar is in front of the breastbone. Your upper arms perform a rowing motion.

The Finish: Muscles Used

  • Your biceps are contracted during the phase to stabilize the back muscles. It helps to rotate the upper arms.
  • All the torso muscles are engaged to provide stability. These are external abdominal oblique, internal abdominal oblique, pyramidal, and transverse abdominis.

the recovery stage with rowing machine

4. The Recovery

The final stage of a row motion is the recovery phase. In short, this is a reverse move of all the three previous stages. Extend your arms in front of you. They face the flywheel and are parallel to the floor.

Hinge forward from the hips. Bend your knees with your hamstrings. Pull forward till you reach the starting position again. Control your motion during this stage to activate all the muscle groups required.

The Recovery: Muscles Used

  • The triceps are engaged to extend your arms.
  • Your glutes, hamstrings, and calves are contracted while you slide your seat. They help you to get back to the start point.

All of these four stages use rowing muscles in the arms, chest, back, and legs. Thus, while rowing, a wide range of muscle groups are activated to perform the stroke.

woman is performing rowing motion

Rowing Machine Muscle Gain

Can you grow muscles with a rowing machine? The answer is yes! Rowers provide excellent resistance training as well as cardio workouts. While performing a stroke, you activate various muscle groups all over the body. That makes it beneficial for gaining muscle mass.

Besides, a rowing motion lessens the risk of getting cardiovascular disease. Your heart and lungs are working hard during the cardio activity. The exercise keeps your heart rate escalated and activates calorie burn. It’s called an aerobic exercise, during which your body consumes a large amount of oxygen to work aptly.

Such a cardio workout is low impact that makes it friendly for everyone. No matter what your fitness level is, rowing machines provide a range of superb health benefits.

man in red t shirt is pulling the handle

Rowing Machine Calories Burned

Let’s get calories burned on rowing machine explained. Using the gear can help to burn 600-1000 calories per hour. Such an exercise is ideal for people who want to lose weight.

Keep in mind that the number of calories burned with a rower depends on a range of factors. It includes your age, current weight, metabolic system, health state, etc.

Calories Burned Rowing Machine Chart

Here’s the chart that reveals calories burned according to the rowing intensity and user’s current weight. The numbers showed here are approximate.

Weight / IntensityLight (30 min)Moderate (30 min)Hard (30 min)
135 lbs106214260
145 lbs116232280
155 lbs122244298
165 lbs132262318
175 lbs140280340
185 lbs148294358
195 lbs156312378
205 lbs162326396
215 lbs172 344416
225 lbs178358434

seniors are working on rowing machine

Indoor Rower Muscle Groups Reviewed

A rowing machine is a golden nugget in the world of home gym equipment. It provides great motion and a range of resistance levels. That makes the gear worthy while planning a home gym. The piece would be a great addition to the bare essentials like dumbbells and a stability ball.

Rower machines are used for strength training and cardio. Such a low-impact exercise is essential for the full-body workout. More than 80% of your muscles are engaged to perform a rowing stroke. The muscle groups include arms, back, shoulders, core, and legs.

One of the most significant benefits is that the machine helps to burn lots of calories. A 60-min session could burn up to 1000 calories! What an efficient exercise for your fitness routine.

Image Source: shutterstock.com, concept2.co.uk.