Does it feel like there are more and more things to do every day and less time to do things you really want to do?
I feel your pain. Everyone knows that exercise is vital, but trying to find time gets harder with each passing year.
It only makes sense that, in order to save some time, you should pick a machine that will work as many muscles as possible while simultaneously giving you a cardio workout at the shortest time possible.
This way, you aren’t spending an hour on cardio 5 days a week, then another hour doing strength training on the weekends, then even more time if you want to do some stretching or yoga.
Fortunately, there is one such machine. You know what I’m talking about, of course, it’s a rowing machine!
A rowing machine will improve your muscle tone and give you a full-body workout, targeting all major muscle groups in a single session of 20-30 minutes a day.
Want to know more about how a rowing machine targets muscles you can’t even imagine?
Keep reading and be prepared to be amazed.
What Does a Rowing Machine Do for Your Body?
Did you know that a rowing machine works 86 percent of the muscles in your entire body? It’s true!
That’s not all ! You’ll learn more about the full benefits of rowing, so just keep reading and you will see what I’m talking about.
To complete one rowing stroke, you must work both the upper and lower body. This explains why you see professional rowers with such great legs, arms, shoulders, and glutes.
You can cheat with an elliptical, treadmill, and other types of fitness machines, but there’s really no way to cheat with a rowing machine!
That’s a good thing… or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
A rowing machine is the only machine I know that truly works all the major muscle groups in one workout.
What Our YouTube Video from Expert Rower Max Secunda Explaining Muscles Used in Rowing & How To Target Them:
Major Muscles Used in the Four Phases of a Rowing Stroke
A rowing stroke targets most muscle groups throughout its four phases, with each phase working a different set of muscles. I will use common terms for these muscles and may sometimes provide scientific names so you don’t have to look them up!
- The Catch – this is the start position, where you get ready to take off! This phase works your lower spine, the back of the calves, and the hamstrings.
- The Drive – at the start of the drive, you begin to push backward. This phase targets the mid/lower back, the shoulders and upper back muscles, the quads, the hamstrings, and the back of the calves. Once the legs are fully extended, you will be working all the shoulder muscles, including the traps (trapezius), lats (latissimus dorsi), the back of the arms, your core muscles (abdominals) and hip hinge as you swing your torso to the upright position, the forearms, the pectorals (chest), the lower spine, the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and the back of the thighs. Wow!
- The Finish – in the third phase, your glutes and quads contract as your core, biceps and back muscles stabilize your body.
- The Recovery – as you return to the starting position and hinge forward, it may feel as though you’re resting, but this phase targets the forearms, pectorals, both your abdominals and the obliques, shoulders, biceps, the back of the arms, the low/mid-back, quads, and hamstrings.
Watch our Youtube video below by expert rower Max Secunda:
Wow. I’m totally impressed, and I row all the time! I just didn’t think about how many muscles I’m actually using. Once you list them this way, it’s pretty impressive!
If you want to build muscle fast, nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a rowing machine! Take a look at those professional rowers, and you will see exactly what I’m talking about.
This is also true of fat burning. Rowing burns more calories than any other cardio machine, hands down!
Take note that nine different muscle groups are worked in a single rowing motion, from the lower body to the upper back and arms, and every major skeletal muscle, such as the abdominals, are worked in one rowing stroke.
- Click Here to Read Our Review on the Water Rower Ergatta
One More Upper Body Muscle that Wasn’t Mentioned
There is one more muscle in the upper body that this chart above doesn’t mention and that would be the heart.
Our hearts are muscles, and this is one of the biggest benefits of rowing. Rowing machines are one of the best cardio workouts on the planet.
Aerobic exercise is described as any activity that stimulates and strengthens the heart and lungs, and I tell you, rowing is one of the best aerobic workouts you can have.
As an avid rower, I can attest that a rowing workout gets your heart rate up there and keeps it in high territories long as you’re working.
When you maintain an elevated heart rate for more than 20 minutes, your body has no choice but to burn fat for fuel.
Rowing workouts are one of the best ways to reach cardiovascular fitness, gain muscle, and burn calories so you can lose weight all at the same time.
Does a Rowing Machine Help You Gain Muscle?
It absolutely does!
Besides burning calories like a volcano, the full-body workout you get from rowing machines makes building muscle easy!
This is one reason why I don’t pay much attention to the number on the bathroom scale. Muscle weighs more than fat, so while you may not see the numbers for your weight drop after a certain amount of time, you should see that you’ve gained muscle mass, not to mention, toned those nine muscle groups!
This is why I don’t often do strength training any longer- I get a good workout and muscle gain from the total body workout on my rowing machine (if you are new to rowing be sure to read our 30-day rowing machine challenge for beginners).
I do have another machine that I use when I want to shake things up a bit. It’s a monster workout, but I love it. You know how it is, sometimes, you want to try different workouts so you don’t get bored and your body does not become accustomed to the perfect exercise that rowing offers.
What machine am I talking about that provides a great workout for all fitness levels? It’s the Teeter Power10.
You can read more about the Teeter Power10 here if you’re interested.
Are Rowing Machines Low-Impact?
Yes, while this cardiovascular exercise machine gets most muscles worked, it provides a very low-impact, non-weight-bearing workout that prevents joint pain.
You may hear some people say that rowing hurts their back, but this can only be true if you aren’t performing the rowing stroke with proper form and technique.
For a true full-body workout, you need to do the rowing stroke properly. If you’re a beginner, take a class on how to row, or watch some of the instructional videos you can find online.
If you’re interested in cardio machines that are low-impact, you absolutely want the most popular machine-based exercises that you get with a rowing machine.
The Bottom Line
As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of the rowing machine, and I can talk non-stop about the benefits of rowing.
How can anyone not be a fan?
Any machine that gives you aerobic training, works skeletal muscles, helps you lose weight and gain muscle mass, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, and provides resistance training while working the whole body is a winner in my book.
Side view of my Hydrow machine
By the way, in case you’re wondering which rowing machine I use daily, it’s the Hydrow. There is nothing else like it! You can read more about the Hydrow – Click Here.
No matter what your focus is, whether it’s to build muscle, lower your body weight, improve your cardiovascular system, or all of the above, you can’t beat rowing!
A rowing machine workout is the best all-in-one workout you can get that isn’t a time-consuming monster. Try one today!
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.