What muscles do rowing machines work?

Updated April 17, 2017

A rowing machine is one of the most effective and comprehensive pieces of workout equipment that you can use. Not only does it provide a great cardiovascular workout that will help you torch calories and shed excess pounds, but it also provides direct stimulation of many different muscles and muscle groups. Rowing machines enable a great total body workout regardless of your specific goals.


Rhomboids are the muscles in your upper back, between your shoulder blades. These are the primary muscles worked when using rowing machines. To maximise stimulation of these muscles on a rowing machine, use proper form and keep yourself sitting up straight.

Latissimus Dorsi-Lats

The lats also get worked out using a rowing machine. They are located in the middle of your back, at each side. If you maintain a full range of motion and really squeeze with your back as you pull, your lats will be worked out very effectively.

Quadriceps and Hamstrings

The major muscle groups of your legs also get a workout with a rowing machine. You do more than pull on a rowing machine, you should also push yourself off with your legs. After a long 20- or 30-minute session on a rower, your legs will certainly feel the burn.

Core Muscles

One of the keys to making the most of a rowing machine workout is stabilising your body and keeping your back straight throughout the entire motion. As you do this, you target your core muscles, including your abdominals, obliques and lower back.

Biceps and Forearms

There's no way to pull with your back on a rowing machine without grabbing and extending with your arms. Therefore, your biceps and forearms also get secondarily worked during a rowing machine session.

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About the Author

Jake Emen is a freelance writer and online marketer with a a wide range of experience. He has worked in the SEO and online marketing realms for both nonprofit and for-profit companies and has firsthand experience with distance learning programs. He has attended New York University and Drexel University.