Does using a rowing machine build muscles

Does using a rowing machine build muscles?

When you hear about rowing machines, you might think that it is only used for cardiovascular training and toning, and it is not for strength training. When it comes to muscle building, rowing machines are not often seen as an option to achieve muscle mass.

Muscle Building: Does using a rowing machine build muscles?

Rowing machines are actually capable of toning up muscles due to the low-impact workout that would fit even those who are recovering from injury. When you use a rowing machine, you are advised to learn how to row properly in order to maximize the rowing machine’s potential to help you with your workouts.

When you row, five major muscles are active: leg muscles, midsection or the core, upper back, arms and hips. Each of these five muscle sets are crucial in various parts of the rowing process.


In order to get started rowing, you need to push yourself from the foot pedal with the help of your leg or get into the catch position. While in this position, you are extending your knees and hips, and are targeting the largest muscles in the body which are located in front of your thighs (quadriceps), in the back of your thighs (hamstrings) and the back of your hips (gluteus maximus).

Midsection or the core

When you push your legs, the force should be transmitted through your back and arms. In order to stabilize your body and prevent injury, your core, or your midsection, takes in that force. Your erector spinae would then assist you in extending your lower back while you lean.

Upper back

As you move the handle close to your upper body, you pull both your arms and shoulders back. As a result, you are using your upper back muscles and shoulder muscles.


Your biceps help you bend your elbows and pull the handle closer to your chest, helping you complete the rowing process. Then, your triceps work with your chest muscles and your anterior deltoids to extend your arms again for the next stroke.


As you slide forward to do the next stroke, you notice that you tend to slide forward as you extend your arms forward. Your hips and hamstrings contract to help you bend your knees and help you do the next stroke.

Considering the active muscles that are used when rowing, it is a question whether muscle mass is built when rowing. When you row, the muscles being used are those which help with endurance.

These muscles are similar to those used by marathon runners to make sure they can use their muscles for a long period of time, but are not that bulky in nature. The muscles used by power lifters are mostly bulky in nature and help the body carry heavy weight for a short period and these are mostly targeted by other exercises such as weight lifting.

However, that isn’t to say that rowing machines won’t help power lifters with their workouts because when you use a rowing machine, it helps bring down body fat and helps power lifters get that ripped look they are after.

Rowing machines are also very good to do upper and lower body workouts, helping the body build its endurance capacity and strength. You can also do this exercise every day. It can also improve cardio health.

Experts also suggest that rowing machines are perfect to build long and lean muscles that bodybuilders hope to achieve without having to feel tired throughout their workout.

Here are some examples of workouts that you can do with a rowing machine to help build muscles as you go along.

  • Do a warmup for five minutes and then row for up to 100 meters. Once you reach this target, do 10 reps of body weight squats before following it with another 200 meters rowing. Do another body weight squat for 10 reps and do 20 alternate reverse lunges before ending the exercise routine with 10 biceps curls to overhead press. Repeat the entire workout for 3 rounds and rest when you need to
  • Do a warmup for five minutes then row as fast as you can until you reach 100 meters. Then, jump out of the rowing machine to do 5 body weight squats, pushups and feet-elevated mountain climbers each. Rest when necessary before you increase the number of reps and meters per round; when you feel its OK to end, finish your workout with a 60-second plank.

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