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Let’s face it, no matter what time of year it is, whether you’re male or female, young or old, everyone wants to look slim, trim, and toned!
Besides sticking to a good diet plan, you also need to put your muscles to work, and rowing is one of the best ways to do it!
If you’re short on time, here are the key points of this article:
- Rowing is a full-body workout that engages all the major muscle groups in the lower and upper body.
- You can burn major calories and grow new muscle mass working out in a rowing machine.
- Toned muscles can be seen in as little as two weeks.
- The trick to rowing workouts is to be consistent and use the proper form.
When it comes to weight loss, your diet is the most important factor. Keto or Weight Watchers can cause you to lose weight even if you don’t exercise, but you know what you get? Flabby tushies, saggy arms, jelly bellies, and legs that will remind you of a plucked chicken. Not a pretty sight.
You can avoid all that via exercise, but in today’s busy world, who has an hour or more each day for that? I’ve got the answer— a rowing machine! Keep reading and I’ll tell you all about it.
Let’s take an in-depth look at which muscles are used in rowing.
What Muscles Are Used in Rowing?
Whether you are talking about a rowing machine or rowing on the water, the muscles used will be the same.
The muscle groups that are used include:
- Quads (the front of the thighs)
- Hamstrings (the back of the thighs)
- The glutes (your behind)
- Latissimus dorsi or lats (the back/side muscles)
- The core muscles (abdominals)
- Shoulder muscles
- Triceps (the back of the upper arm – read more on does rowing build biceps)
- Biceps (the front of the upper arm)
- The lower back
- Calves (both front and back)
Watch Expert Rower & YouTuber Max Secunda Teaching What Muscles Rowing Works:
Which Muscles Does Rowing Use the Most?
This appears to be a matter of debate.
For many years, I’ve heard non-rowers say that it was arm strength that gave rowers the power they needed. That’s probably because, from the spectator’s point of view, they could only see from the waist up.
I’ve rowed for decades now, and I know for a fact that it’s the legs doing most of the work. Yes, you do work your arms and core, but power strokes don’t come from the arms.
Think about it. The leg muscles are much larger than arm muscles, so it makes sense that they would do the majority of the work.
However, some experts, such as those from Hydrow, think that the effort is equal. Because you are using nearly all your muscles, the workload is generally equal at the end of a complete stroke.
Whether they are correct, or I am, no one can argue that for a full-body workout, nothing beats rowing!
How Will Rowing Change My Body?
While you might see outward changes within a couple of weeks (depending on how often and how hard you work out), there are lots of changes occurring that you can’t see in the mirror.
- Your Metabolism Remains Elevated. A higher metabolism means more calories burned, but did you know that cardio workouts, such as rowing, keeps your metabolism elevated for several hours after you have stopped exercising? That’s like free calorie burning! This is especially true if you do HIIT workouts.
- You Become a More Efficient Machine. If you pay attention to your body, you’ll quickly notice that you can go further (exercise longer) without becoming fatigued. You will also be able to consume less food to keep going. Think of your new and improved self as a lean, mean, working machine!
- Your Heart and Cardiovascular System Will Work Better. You might be able to feel this change as you work out or do other types of activities. Imagine shoveling snow or doing some other intense workout and not get as tired as quickly as before. People will start asking you how you stay in such great shape!
Of course, the physical changes that you will see in every muscle in your body are plenty of motivation to keep going!
How Long Before I See Results?
This depends on many factors, including your diet, age, and current physical condition. It also matters how often, how hard, and how long you work out.
For people who are 20-30 pounds overweight and who commit to doing an effective workout (such as HIIT) for at least 20-30 minutes 5 days per week, they will probably see results in about 90 days or 12 weeks.
This doesn’t mean you won’t see changes before then. I think most people start to see muscle definition in about 3 weeks, but an entire body transformation will take a few months.
However, if you are already in pretty good physical condition, have less than 10 pounds to lose, and you exercise fairly hard for the same time period mentioned above, you could see results in 2 weeks.
There are lots of online sites showing before and after rowing pictures, but I would take those with a grain of salt. If you’re 100 pounds overweight, you will not look like a bodybuilder in 90 days no matter how hard you work out.
Recommendations for Losing Weight and Getting those Fabulously Toned Muscles
When it comes to weight loss, it’s all about the diet. Science has yet to find a way where humans can eat donuts every day and lose weight.
You could go Keto or do the Mediterranean diet, or you could simply cut back on calories, but you must follow a healthy, plant-based diet (unless you’re doing Keto) most of the time if you hope to lose weight.
Doing rowing workouts will work both the upper and lower body at the same time. This is one of the best workouts to build muscle, strengthen muscles, and reduce fat.
Don’t get obsessed with the scale. You could be losing fat and adding muscle, which means you may find that the scale is “stuck” on a certain number. Muscle weighs more than fat (luckily, it also burns more calories).
I do recommend that you weigh only once a month but take pictures of yourself. That’s the true measurement, right? Pictures don’t lie (unless they are photoshopped, of course).
Wear a bathing suit or just your underwear and take a picture from all sides. Do this every week, and after a month or 6 weeks, compare the pictures. If you’ve used your fitness machine most days of the week and eaten a good diet, I guarantee that you are going to see amazing results.
How Does Rowing Compare to Other Types of Exercise?
It’s true that other exercise machines work multiple muscle groups, but rowing is different.
You’ll find that treadmills, exercise bikes, and stair climbers only work the lower body. While these are cardio workouts, they don’t really do much for your body above the waist.
Yes, these pieces of cardio equipment will give you terrific-looking legs, but you’ll need to work out for longer periods to burn the same number of calories that rowing does.
This is especially true if you want to combat that belly fat. Belly fat will be reduced via cardio workouts, but not all workout equipment will give you those six-pack abs.
A rowing machine will work those core muscles like crazy. Don’t believe me, look at any professional rower. Those are abdominal muscles to be proud of!
A rowing workout will use just about every muscle in your body every time you work out. You can’t say that about any other piece of equipment, other than perhaps ellipticals.
Ellipticals will also work many of the same muscles that rowing does, but there is one thing to consider. Unless you use a seated elliptical, this is a weight-bearing exercise that can be stressful on the joints.
A rowing machine workout is a super low-impact workout. No stress on the knees, hips, feet, or ankles. When the strokes are done properly, even people with low back problems find that rowing machines prevent back pain and strengthen the back muscles.
Are There Any Cons to a Rowing Machine?
It’s important that beginners learn how to do the rowing stroke properly. If you hear someone say that a rowing machine hurt their back or gave them a backache, I can assure you that they weren’t doing the strokes properly.
Most of the new rowing machines, called smart rowers or connected rowers, have programs showing you how to do the strokes properly. It doesn’t take very long to learn, and like riding a bicycle, once you’ve got the hang of it, you won’t want to stop!
The Bottom Line
It’s pretty easy to talk about the muscles used in rowing because the answer is, “Dang, nearly all of them!”
If you want those toned, well-defined, lean rowing machine muscles, if you want to burn fat and get a body that you’re proud to show off, and if you want energy like crazy, you should incorporate rowing workouts into your exercise routine.
Build muscle, build endurance, and feel 10 years younger? Whoever said NO to that?!
Stay active and healthy, everyone, and enjoy rowing!
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Written by Petra Amara – RowingCrazy.com
CEO & Founder of RowingCrazy, National Rower, Coxswain Womens Eight Team, Rowing Coach & Writer
Petra is a Mother of two and owner of Rowingcrazy.com. Petra lives and breathes rowing, she also has a passion for writing which lead her to start RowingCrazy.com to share her rowing experience and expertise with others.