What Muscles Does a Rowing Machine Work

April 18, 2024 3 min read

What Muscles does a rowing machine work

What muscles does a rowing machine work

A popular choice, rowing machines are a good workout for those looking to work their full-body in a single session. But what muscles are actually being targeted during a rowing machine workout? Let's dive into the science behind this effective exercise.

Upper Body

When using a rowing machine, the primary muscles engaged in the upper body are the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius. These muscles work together to pull the handle towards the chest, mimicking the motion of rowing a boat. Additionally, the biceps and forearms are activated as they assist in the pulling motion.


The core muscles, including the abdominals and obliques, play a crucial role in stabilizing the body during the rowing motion. Engaging the core not only helps maintain proper form but also strengthens these muscles over time, leading to improved posture and overall stability.

Lower Body

One of the key benefits of using a rowing machine is the engagement of the lower body muscles. The quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves are all activated during the pushing phase of the rowing stroke. This comprehensive lower body workout helps improve strength, endurance, and power in these muscle groups.

Cardiovascular System

In addition to targeting specific muscle groups, rowing is also an excellent cardiovascular exercise. By incorporating both aerobic and anaerobic elements, rowing helps improve heart health, increase lung capacity, and burn calories efficiently. This makes it a great option for those looking to improve their overall fitness level.


There are principally 4 phases to the rowing movement.

Lets consider each movement pattern of the rowing stroke to understand why it is a fantastic full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups throughout the movement. Understanding which muscles are at work during each phase of the rowing stroke can help you optimize your technique and maximize your workout efficiency.

What muscles are engaged during the catch phase.

During the catch phase of the rowing stroke, the primary muscles engaged are the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. These muscles work together to extend the knees and hips, allowing you to push off the foot stretcher and propel the boat forward.

Which muscles are activated during the drive phase.

As you transition from the catch to the drive phase, the focus shifts to the back muscles, specifically the latissimus dorsi and the erector spinae. These muscles help you maintain a strong posture and generate power as you pull the handle towards your body.

What muscles are involved during the finish phase.

During the finish phase of the rowing stroke, the primary muscles engaged are the biceps, forearms, and upper back muscles. These muscles work together to complete the stroke by pulling the handle towards the chest and finishing the movement with a strong contraction.

Which muscles are active during the recovery phase.

During the recovery phase, the focus shifts back to the leg muscles, specifically the hamstrings and glutes. These muscles help you smoothly return to the catch position by bending the knees and sliding the seat forward, preparing for the next stroke.

Concluding Thoughts

So, the next time you hop on a rowing machine, remember that you're not just working out one muscle group – you're engaging multiple muscles throughout your body. This full-body workout is not only effective but also time-efficient, making it a valuable addition to any fitness routine.

By understanding the role of each muscle group in the rowing movement, you can ensure proper form, prevent injury, and optimize your performance on the water or rowing machine. Remember to engage your core muscles throughout the entire stroke to stabilise your body and enhance your overall rowing experience.


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