What Muscles Does Rowing Work – The Answer

Rowing is an Olympic sport and has always been fairly popular but mainly as a thing to watch, not so much to take part in by the majority of the population. Now, since the arrival and rise of CrossFit and their use of rowing machines, more and more people have been performing this movement on a regular basis, and this is, in our opinion, a good thing.

Whether you row in a boat or the gym, it will always provide you with a great, whole body workout. Since this movement is so complex, it might be hard to figure out what muscles are recruited during the motions of rowing. Let's clarify on this topic a little bit today.

Benefits Of Rowing

  • Low Impact - this is one of the major benefits of this movement because it provides you with a great, full body workout while not being stressful to the joints as opposed to running, for example. If done properly, there is little to no chance to get injured while rowing. Overweight individuals, as well as people with injuries, might want to consider rowing before any other cardio exercises.
  • Excellent Cardio Workout – recruitment of large muscle groups combined with steady and repetitive motions make your body raise its heart rate and increase the oxygen intake, and this is why rowing is a perfect aerobic exercise.
  • Calorie Burn – depending on the intensity and speed at which it is performed, and hour of rowing can burn anywhere between 400-800 calories. People who are using rowing machines at their homes can’t possibly find a better and more efficient indoors calorie burner.
  • Whole Body Workout – another great thing about rowing is that it involves the entire body. Your legs, torso, and arms will all get involved, and this is the reason why this movement is so energy-demanding.

What Muscles Does Rowing Work?

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As we’ve already mentioned, the entire body is activated during this exercise, but now let’s be more precise and show the exact muscles that get worked.

1. Lower Body
  • Quadriceps – these are the large muscles on the front, and on the sides of your thighs. They get activated as you push with your legs.
  • Hamstrings – hamstrings are the long, thin muscles that run down the back of your thighs.
  • Calves – calves are located under the knees and do a lot of work during rowing.
  • Gluteus – a.k.a. the butt usually works in conjunction with the hamstrings.
2. Upper Body
  • Rectus Abdominis – these are the abdominal muscles in the belly region that have to stay contracted throughout the rowing motions.
  • Internal And External Obliques – these are the muscles on the sides of your abdomen.
  • Erector Spinae – these long, thin muscles are used to straighten and rotate the back.
  • Pectoralis Major – these are the big chest muscles.
  • Trapezius – the large muscle that runs from your neck to the middle of your back. It gets activated by pulling motions.
  • Deltoids – the shoulders.
  • Biceps – the muscles above your elbows on the front side of the arms.
  • Triceps – the muscles above the elbow on the back side of the arms.
  • Forearms – these are the muscles below the elbows.

How To Row Correctly?

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To better understand the rowing technique is essential if you want to get the most out of this exercise. The simplest way to explain this movement is to break it down into four phases. By doing this, we will also be able to highlight which muscles do the most work in each phase.

1. First Phase

This is the beginning body position of the movement. The torso is leaning forward, arms are fully extended, and with an overhand grip, the hands are holding the handles. The legs should be flexed with the feet placed on the rowing machine's pedals. Hamstrings, calves and spinal erectors are most active here.

2. Second Phase

With the torso still leaning forward and arms extended, the legs start to push away from the starting position. This will activate the quadriceps and rhomboids in addition to the three previously mentioned muscles.

3. Third Phase

The torso is leaning slightly backward, the legs are fully extended, and the arms start pulling the handles towards the middle of the abdomen. This is the phase that activates the glutes, the front side of abs, traps, shoulders, triceps, forearms, and pecs.

4. Fourth Phase

This is the final phase where the torso is leaning back, the legs are fully extended, and arms fully flexed backward. This phase will engage the obliques and biceps.

So we have slowly reached the conclusion of our article. Rowing is a highly beneficial exercise, and there is really no reason why you shouldn't try it. Study this article carefully, do more research if you wish and get on with it. Besides, remember to equip necessary gears before starting your training schedule such as ankle weights, Elbow Compression Sleeve, etc.

Thank you for reading and stay strong!

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