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“We Don’t Just Talk About Rowing – We Actually Row!”

Is Rowing Good For Abs?

is a rowing machine good for abs

Let’s face it; you can have super toned arms, firm, muscular legs, but if you’ve got a little poochy belly, you won’t feel the confidence that you would otherwise feel if your abs were tight and firm.

Everyone wants better-looking abdominal muscles (or simply abs). In order to get those, however, you need to do more than just sit-ups or work out on exercise bikes. You need to burn fat or reduce body fat over the abdominal area.

Did you know that a thin layer of fat over the abdominal muscles prevents you from seeing those six-pack abs! That’s true! And if there’s one way to remove that body fat, it’s through a full-body cardio workout that you can do using a rowing machine.

Are Rowing Machines Good for Abs?

To this question, my quick answer is a resounding Yes! Rowing is not only an amazing full-body workout that strengthens and tones your arms and legs, but it also offers one of the best cardiovascular workouts you can possibly get with a fitness machine. Not only that, it can help you burn up to 900 calories per hour, which is one of the reasons why it’s awesome for the abs!

Watch our YouTube video by Rowing Expert Max Secunda explaining how to use a rowing machine for killer abs:


Unfortunately for most people, a ripped midriff is a difficult-to-obtain status symbol that everyone wants but few can actually achieve. You’d be happy to know that indoor rowers will torch calories fast, burn fat, and get you one step towards achieving those much sought-after ripped abdominals.

While it’s true that you can’t ‘spot exercise’ your beer belly and make it disappear quickly, you can do cardio to increase your heart rate and reduce overall belly fat. As you work specific areas of your body, you encourage them to burn their surrounding fats as well.

Will Using a Rowing Machine Give Me a Six-Pack?

To that one, again, I say ‘Yes,’ although there is some debate among experts as to whether a rowing machine works the abdominal area as primary or secondary muscle groups.

By ‘primary’ we mean that rowing directly works your abs and eventually gives you a six-pack, while ‘secondary’ means that you get it as a sort of byproduct. The thing is that either way, you get your six-pack goal with a rowing machine IF you put in the work. There are ways to ensure that you’re using the correct primary muscle group when rowing, and we’ll get to that.

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Does a Rower Work Your Core?

Without a doubt, rowing machines work the core and that includes all abdominal muscles! What’s between you and your goal is that thin layer of fat that prevents you from seeing your much-coveted abs! You must work out to help burn off calories and direct muscle development toward that area.

Remember that rowing engages 86 percent of the muscles in the body, and a rowing machine will work your core muscles when the proper rowing stroke is performed. That means that this piece of exercise equipment is all you need for full-body conditioning, and the correct stroke in your workout will help you attain your goal.

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Will Rowing Give Me Ripped Abs?

In no time, it will. But if you’re just starting out, you may not feel your abdominals getting a good workout right away. The trick here is to NOT focus on going as fast as possible, but rather you should concentrate on having the proper form and rowing stroke. Once proper form becomes a habit, your muscle development will improve, increasing your speed and working out your core.

A rowing machine puts about 60 percent of the effort on your legs, with the arms, back, and abs splitting up the remaining 40 percent. Your workouts should focus more on the midriff to increase the amount of effort that your abs are putting forth. You’ll learn ‘how’ in the section below.

How to Properly Engage Your Abs While Rowing

There are 4 steps to a rowing stroke, and performing them correctly is the key to your desired muscle development. Here are the steps:

  1. The Catch- In the starting position, tighten your stomach muscles as you lean forward.
  2. The Drive- As you push back on the foot pedal with your legs and pull the handle towards the upper part of your stomach, you should feel your midriff tighten as you glide into an upright position.
  3. The Finish- Lean back your hips very slightly in this step; it’s your core that should be keeping your upper body stable as well as preventing you from leaning back too far.
  4. The Recovery- Use your abs, not your shoulders, to return to the catch position as you lean slightly forward.

Rowing Is SO Much More Than an Arm Workout

It seems as though many people focus on the upper limbs as they row. While this low-impact and non-weight-bearing exercise is first-rate when it comes to working out your arms and shoulders, maintaining proper form will help you work so much more!

rowing machine target muscle group used

Set a visual sequence of the muscles used while training on a rowing machine

During a rowing workout, many people focus on pulling the handle with as much force as possible. This isn’t necessary and isn’t even advisable as it will end up causing you more pain than gain!

To prevent back pain, you must protect the lower back. You should avoid hunching over or rounding your back. Focus on sitting up straight and using your stomach muscles to keep you in the proper position.

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Different Rowing Machine Abs Exercises

While you might believe that an indoor rowing machine only does exactly what the name implies, the truth is that you can also use it to perform other workouts, like planks and other routines that work your abs.

Use Rower as Another Type of Fitness Machine

Use the seat of your rowing machine like an ab-wheel to really work your core! Position the seat so that it is as far back as possible. Place your hands on both sides of the seat, your feet about 12-inches from the rower. Now slide forward, then use your abs to pull yourself back.

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Do Mountain Climbing with a Rowing Machine

You can also use rowers to perform the classic mountain climber exercise. For this exercise, push the seat towards the rear of the rowing machine. Place your hands on the floor as if you were going to do push-ups and place your toes on the edge of the seat. Now push backwards with your legs as you do a push-up. If that’s a bit much, you can eliminate the push-up portion until you’re stronger. You will certainly feel this one in your stomach and your leg muscles! Mountain climbers love the way it works the muscles they use in their sport – no wonder this exercise earned its name.

Use a Rowing Machine to Work Out Your Obliques

You can work your obliques (the abdominal muscles that are on the sides of the body) by using rowing machines. Hold the front portion of the rowing machine, and kneel on the seat. Twist your knees a bit so that you’re positioned a bit sideways. Stretch out and then pull back using your abs, not your arms. Repeat for 30 seconds, then do the opposite side.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to work with a personal trainer or a health professional in case you have special health conditions. Also bear in mind the following tips to avoid causing any injury to your back.

You shouldn’t let your butt lead you. Use your core to keep your body in the proper position to get the most benefits from your regimen.

If you’re using an indoor rowing machine to burn calories and gain various health benefits or for reasons other than professional racing, you can lean back a bit further on the Finish step. Leaning back a bit more in each stroke ensures that you work your core muscles to the max! When you feel your stomach muscles starting to shake from the effort, you know you’re in the correct position.

Take a few classes to ensure that you’re using the correct positions in all steps. Beginner classes are well worth the time, money, and effort.

Don’t forget a proper diet. You should consume a great deal of protein to build new muscle tissues. Think meat, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. Dairy is also important to build strong bones that will support those rippling midriff muscles!

Consider adding weight-lifting on your off days. Just two days a week will help reduce the fat that covers your stomach muscles.

Now get to work and set yourself up for that six-pack abs everyone admires!