What Muscles do you Work Out on a Rowing Machine?

Have you ever used a rowing machine before? There's no set ideal for who can row and who can't. Anyone can add it freely to their workout routine.
What Muscles do you Work Out on a Rowing Machine?

Last update: 30 October, 2019

Rowing machines are popular in gyms because they work out the entire body and offer great results. In our post today, we’ll explain which muscles really get a great work out with it!

Ergometers, or rowing machines, simulate the water sport. You can fit it into your normal exercise routine or row to practice for upcoming competitions.

Muscles that you work out on a rowing machine

Many people use rowing in various workout routines. But many don’t know exactly which muscles they’re using. Despite that, people add them into their workouts simply because they know that rowing is a complete workout.

Aside from working out the entire body, it can help users lose weight because it burns calories while keeping backs and joints free from tension. If that’s not enough reason to add it to your routine, check out the muscles that benefit most from it.

Abdominal area

Your core gets a great workout on the rowing machine because your abdominal muscles contract to keep your back stable. Your abs also help to keep your body balanced.

rowing abs

Rowing machine: legs

At first, you might think that rowing mainly focuses on your arms and shoulders. But your legs also play an important role because they have to flex along with your movements. Your quads and hamstrings actually help your body row.

Working out your legs on a rowing machine is a great way to tone and strengthen them. The more energy and strength you use in your legs, the more you’ll define them.


We normally build our glutes with squats but rowing on an ergometer is another great option. Even though you’re seated on the machine, your glutes contract with every push during your workout.

That means you can work out your bottom and legs on one machine. What’s more, it doesn’t just tone your glutes, but it also burns fat and improves blood circulation.

Biceps and back

You have to use your biceps as you flex your elbows to row. Similarly, your triceps will stay busy as well.

We want to remind you that you should use the same amount of force in your arms and legs to work them out evenly.

Now, your shoulders and back are also star players on the rowing machine– especially your trapezius and rhomboid musclesThese two muscles keep your upper body firm and in place throughout the entire workout.

Additionally, you can really strengthen your latissimus dorsi muscle, which is the biggest and widest in your upper body area, on the rowing machine. This muscle gets a great workout because it has to keep your shoulders and arms in check. But of course, warming up sufficiently before rowing is essential because this muscle will be working non-stop.


Your chest benefits when you flex your arms and use your shoulders on the ergometer. By training your arms and chest on the rowing machine, you can actually improve your ability in other exercises as well, such as in push-ups or pull-ups.

rowing benefits

Rowing: work your wrists and flexor tendons

Aside from the normal list of muscles that we want to strengthen at the gym– legs, glutes, arms and more– you can also work out your wrists and flexor tendons. Strengthening them can benefit you in other exercises and everyday life.

You work out your wrists and flexor tendons as you grab the machine. But, be careful not to grab with too much force. You should be using most of your energy to work out your other muscles evenly.

In short, a rowing machine offers plenty of benefits for your body: it defines muscles, releases endorphins, improves coordination, reduces the appearance of cellulite, increases blood flow and more. Don’t wait any longer and get started on the rowing machine!


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Secher, N. H., & Volianitis, S. (2009). RowingRowing (pp. 1–174). Blackwell Publishing Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444312614
  • Caldwell, J. S., McNair, P. J., & Williams, M. (2003). The effects of repetitive motion on lumbar flexion and erector spinae muscle activity in rowers. Clinical Biomechanics18(8), 704–711. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0268-0033(03)00117-7
  • Demarie, S., Quaresima, V., Ferrari, M., Billat, V., Sbriccoli, P., & Faina, M. (2008). Auxiliary muscles and slow component during rowing. International Journal of Sports Medicine29(10), 823–832. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2008-1038411

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.