What Muscles Does A Rowing Machine Target?

What Muscles Does A Rowing Machine Target?

Exercising on this machine is quite an experience. Simply speaking, it is lots of work! When you exercise or work-out on this machine, you are working almost, if not all, the muscles in your body. It is probably safe to say that the rowing machine practically gives you a full-body workout, sometimes to a point of exhaustion.

These machines are quite a common sight in reputed gyms around the country. They are used by young or old, male or female, and anyone who fully realizes the all-around benefits of working-out on these machines. Rowing machines copy the actual rowing activity that is typical with oars used on a row-boat, or kayak, on a lake, river, sea, or ocean.

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Exercising on these machines probably gives you four physical health benefits, for sure. You have a good chance to 1) build your muscles 2) decrease your weight 3) strengthen all your muscles and 4) improve on your cardiovascular health. These possible benefits should encourage you to start on your own “rowing” regime so that you can start burning those calories and unwanted fat while giving yourself a healthy heart through the cardio, it offers.

In most ways, this machine is more efficient at giving you a tougher, leaner body than a treadmill, almost comparable to an Elliptical in the positive benefits you can get from using it on a regular basis.

A caution to keep in mind before going overboard on using this machine is to check with your general physician or your doctor. Confirm for yourself, if this is safe for you, especially if you suffer from joint-pains, or have lower-back issues, or any heart conditions that may be detrimental to your health, and prevent consequent life-threatening, medical events.

The Phases on a Rowing Machine

There are four different phases or parts, to your stroke or a cycle on this machine, each of which may target different areas and relevant muscles in your body.

These are the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery phases of a rowing stroke.

Catch Phase of the Stroke

This is the start position on the rowing machine when you commence your exercise routine.

In this position, you grip the two handles and extend both your hands out fully, in a straight line. You
place your legs into the foot pedals and bend your knees into your chest.

The linear movable seat under you should be as forward as possible.


Muscles that this machine targets during the catch phase are the muscles in your triceps, traps,
shoulders, hamstrings, and abs.

Drive Phase of the Stroke

This phase is the thrust or the power of your rowing machine workout.

You drive yourself forcefully back by pressing against the foot pedals and try fully extending your legs in the process.

At the same time, you pull your arms to your chest so that your bent hands form a right angle or an angle of 90⁰ with the linear rails under your seat.

Muscles that this machine targets are in the legs, body, and arms as you place more emphasis simultaneously on these body parts. On your legs, while using them to push back, your body when swinging it backward, and pulling your arms in - into your abdomen.


So, during the drive phase, the muscles targeted are the muscles in your shoulders, quads, traps, glutes, biceps, chest, and hamstrings.

Finish Phase of the Stroke

In this phase, you are at the end of the drive and have pulled your rowing arms past the 90⁰ angle, fully towards the area of your abdomen.


Muscles that this machine targets during this phase are the muscles in your left and right sides of your back and those in your forearms, which are now included.

Recovery Phase of the Stroke

Now you lean and slide forward on the seat under you, bending your legs with the knees into your chest, relaxing and straightening both your arms simultaneously, to return to the catch position.

Muscles that this machine targets during the recovery phase are the muscles in your triceps, abs, and your wrist muscles.


This process, from the catch phase to the recovery phase, is now repeated again and again until you have achieved your goal in terms of total calories burnt or total distance covered, which you can read on the display dial in front of you.

The Takeaway

The rowing machine will not target your muscles to give you a body-building sort of a body, ever. So, this is something you will not achieve with using this machine as it does not build muscle like helping you put on more bulk.

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What it will more probably give you is a good shape, possibly leaner than what you were before you started your date with the rowing machine! Your arms, legs, and abdominal areas should look better than ever before, as all the fat will be burned due to the time spent on this wonderful machine.


You are still wondering if exercising on this rowing sort of a machine gives you a full-body workout? Of course, it does!

By burning fat and calories in your body, your muscles get tightened, while giving you a superb workout at the same time. A consequence of this exercise is also the fact that you will feel more energetic throughout your day.

While on the rowing machine, you are repeatedly moving many large and small muscles all over your body as you exercise. This causes you to take deeper breaths, while your heartbeat rate is also increasing, at the same time. A healthy dose of cardio?

We have described the four phases, of the action on this machine in detail and learned about the major muscles in your body that are used while exercising on this machine.

Practically speaking, you will have used just about every major and minor muscle in your body when you complete a full cycle or one stroke of movement, on the rowing machine. This, probably is the right time, to start using one for yourself?