What Muscles Does Rowing Work?

One of the many reasons athletic trainers encourage people to row is because of the way it works the body. Rowing is not only a cardiovascular exercise, but an exercise that engages more than 80% of the muscles in the human body. If you’re seeking an efficient approach to meet all of your athletic goals simultaneously, rowing is likely the best possible solution for you.

Your Heart

Your heart is one of the most important muscles to exercise. Great cardiovascular health is a crucial component of great overall health. A strong heart powers your entire circulatory system. Adequate cardiovascular exercise is necessary to pump blood and oxygen through the body, helping it to repair itself and mitigating the risk for developing heart disease.

Since cardiovascular exercise is the best type of exercise for burning calories, regular cardio workouts can help you shed unwanted body fat. Lower body fat can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other obesity related illnesses. Cardio, in conjunction with a proper diet, can even help extend your natural lifespan.

Your Core

Engaging your core at the end of each rowing stroke will give your core an excellent workout. Merely by utilizing the strength of your midsection to complete your motion, you’ll see effects similar to those of a situp with each pass.

Core strength helps to support the entire body, making it easier to maintain good posture and potentially prevent back problems related to constant slouching or hunching over. Many moms find that core workouts help their bodies to rebound after pregnancy, where core muscles are naturally stretched to accommodate a growing baby.

Your Legs

When you row, you use your legs to help you move the handle. This motion has an effect similar to a deadlift, but without any added weight or impact to the joints. Rowing is, in essence, mock lifting. While you do use your arms to help complete the motion, the strongest force is required of your legs. The bending and straightening of the legs will engage every muscle group of the leg, including the tendons and your hamstrings. The end result is stronger legs from a gentler workout.

Your Arms

The compound motion of rowing engages three muscle groups in and around your arms: your biceps, your triceps, and your deltoids. Your deltoids, the muscles that connect your shoulder blades to the front of your body, are engaged when you reach forward. The burden of pulling the handle rests mostly on your triceps, and your biceps are utilized to straighten your arms as you complete the motion.

Your Chest, Back, and Glutes

To a lesser degree, your chest, back, and glutes are also engaged while you row. Your pectoral muscles help to support your upper body as you use your arms to row. Your glutes are lightly engaged as you reach the apex of your leg motion. Your back is used to help support your core while you lean forward at the hips and keep your shoulders straight.

While it’s unlikely that you’re going to develop significant muscle mass in these areas strictly from rowing, you are likely to see an increase in muscle tone and definition with regular moderate intensity rowing.


Rowing is going to engage what nearly amounts to your entire body in a single low-impact workout. Nothing else quite compares to rowing in that sense – especially with such low impact. Rowing is a versatile solution for full body fitness and serves as the well rounded solution that many people are seeking. If you’re low on time and low on space, a rowing machine can help you address all of your fitness goals in the simplest way possible.

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