rowing machine abs benefitsI get asked a lot of questions about rowing machine abs benefits.

Mainly, asking if rowing is a great workout for building better abs.

While I always had my personal opinion based on how a rowing machine effected me, I decided to dig into this question deeper.

I wanted to truly see how a rowing machine benefits abs.

I started by reaching out to different beginner rowers and asking them what specific questions they had about abs and rowing.

The two questions they came up with were:

  • “Can you get a flat, toned stomach or 6 pack from rowing?”
  • “What technique or exercises must be done to achieve it?”

Without a doubt rowing can and will burn fat from around your mid section. It does so by supplying a full-body workout that can burn up to 800 calories an hour.

Throughout the rowing stroke your core and abs are engaged but the real debate is on whether abs are a primary muscle used while rowing or a secondary muscle that doesn’t receive much attention.

While most rowers agree the abs are slightly more of a secondary muscle used, I have compiled a list of ways to fully engage your core while rowing.

Plus, I also give various exercises to supplement with your rowing workout that will undoubtedly get you the 6 pack abs you desire.

Do Rowing Machines Benefit Abs?

The answer to the question is without-a-doubt YES. A rowing machine benefits abs by constantly engaging the core throughout every rowing stroke and being a full-body fat burning workout.

A person will not see their abs unless they get rid of the layer of fat on top of them! So the best machine for getting a toned stomach is one that will build stronger abdominal muscles and burn the most fat…..A.K.A. a rowing machine!!

2 Major Reasons Rowing Machines Benefit Your Abs

So remember, the 2 main reasons why using a rowing machine can benefit your abs are:

  1. Rowing Machines help burn fat on the entire body.
  2. To perform a proper rowing stroke you must engage your core.

These two reasons alone prove that rowing machines hugely benefit your abs and can be used to get your ideal stomach.

Rowing Machine Muscles Used

The picture above shows all the muscles used during a rowing machine stroke. You can also read my article about the different muscles used while rowing to get a more in-depth perspective.

As you can see from the picture, the abdominals are a major muscle group used in a rowing stroke.

Just imagine sitting on the ground with your feet out straight. Then lean back and lean forward. You will feel your abs engage during this motion. This is essentially what is performed during a rowing stroke, with the added support of other muscle groups due to the foot rests and rowing handle.

In this article by Concept2, they explain how your abdominals are engaged throughout each phase of the rowing stroke. Proof from the creators of the best rowing machine on the market that your abdominals receive huge benefits from rowing!

Below I will explain how to make sure you are properly engaging your core while rowing. I will also provide some supplemental exercises to perform to really get those abs burning.

How to Properly Engage Your Abs While Rowing

A lot of rowers may not get the flat stomachs they desire because they simply aren’t performing a rowing stroke properly. In order to have proper form, you must be engaging your core throughout the stroke.

In the previously mentioned article by Concept2, the author noted that your abdominals should either be flexed, engaged (tight), or stabilizing the body in every step of the rowing stroke.

Here is a breakdown of what your core and abs should be doing in each step of the rowing stroke.


The Catch

Abdominals should be engaged and flexing your torso forward.

Rowing Machine Abs Catch

The Drive

As you drive with your legs and pull the handle to your upper abdomen, your entire upper body should be engaged.

You should feel your abs being tightened in order to keep an upright posture.

Rowing Machine Abs Drive

The Finish

As you finish and your back has a slight backward lean, your abs should be stabilizing your body and slowing down the momentum of your body swinging backwards.

Rowing Machine Abs Finish

The Recovery

As you recover back to the Catch position your abs will flex the torso forward and become engaged back at the starting position.

Rowing Machine Abs Recovery

Now that you know what your abs should be doing and feel like during each phase of the rowing stroke, we can talk about some key things to focus on while rowing.

While reading an article by the Daily Burn about 6 mistakes made on a rowing machine, I realized most of the mistakes were corrected by properly engaging your core.

So engaging your core while rowing really kills two birds with one stone. It helps you perform a more proper rowing stroke, while simultaneously working out your abs and core.

Here are a few tips I pulled from the article:

Do Not Row With Just Your Arms

A lot of rowers put too much emphasis on pulling the handle with all their strength. This is not the proper way to perform a rowing stroke and can lead to many injuries.

To help fix this problem, rowers should remind themselves that 60% of rowing should come from pushing with your legs, 20% from bracing your core, and 20% from pulling with your arms.

Keep Your Back Straight Throughout Your Stroke

When rowing, your back should not be rounded or hunched over but should instead be erect and straight.

To fix a rounded back, rowers should focus on sitting up straight and having their core’s engaged. It is difficult to hunch over with your abs slightly tightened. Your shoulders should also be pulled back and not caved forward.

Do Not Rush Your Row

If your butt keeps slamming into the front of the rower or your body is jerking around uncontrollably, then you are probably rushing your row.

Remember that a rowing stroke should be a ratio of 1:2, meaning your recovery should be twice as long and your drive.

When you are in transition from Drive to Finish and Recovery to Catch,try to focus on engaging your core to control your deceleration and remain under control.

Keep Your Hands and Feet Connected

If you are not keeping your hands and feet connected it means your rear is shooting out ahead of your body. You will then have to pull quickly to get your top half to catch up with your butt.

Again, to fix this problem you will need to keep your core engaged throughout the row. Anytime during the rowing stroke you should be able to stop and be in a strong, sturdy position.

Add A Slight Lean to Your Finish

One final tip that can really improve your abdominal workout while rowing is something that requires a little trial and error.

Some rowers will say this is improper form and is a less efficient way to row. However, in my opinion, if you are only rowing for health benefits then I see no reason why it can’t be performed.

The movement I am referring to is during the Finish phase of the rowing stroke. During this phase your torso is leaning slightly back with the handle pulled to your lower chest. Your core should have been engaged to control your deceleration and is ready to flex into the Recovery phase.

To add an extra “crunch” to your abs, you can over-emphasize The Finish and lean a little further back than normal (see picture below). This will require you to flex your abs more to go into the Recovery phase, thus getting a better ab workout.

I would work into this slowly and only increase your lean slightly every workout until you reach a comfortable position. Having too much of a lean can cause injury, so you must be careful!

Please see the picture for a good demonstration of a “slight extra lean”. By adding this extra crunch you could potentially be adding 600 crunches to your workout!!!! (30 minute workout at 20 SPM)

Rowing-Machine-Abs-Lean           Rowing-Machine-Abs-Benefit-Lean

Different Rowing Machine Abs Exercises

Now that we know how to keep our core engaged while rowing we can be assured that each workout will give us the maximum amount of ab benefits.

To be able to really focus on your abs and get that desired 6 pack, you can incorporate a lot of different exercises with a rowing machine.

Check out the videos below of different workouts. Feel free to get creative after you get used to these workouts and come up with some of your own!

Feel free to post any new workouts in the comments below :)

1. Ab Rollout with Rower

  • Rowing seats can be used like an ab roll-out wheel to strengthen your abs and core.
  • You can put your feet on a bosu ball or a platform if you choose.

    Rowing Machine Ab Roll Out

2. Mountain Climbers with Pushup

  • A great rowing machine ab exercise is 2 legged mountain climber with a pushup.
  • This is my favorite exercise to supplement with rowing as it is also a full body workout.
  • There are a lot of variations to do with this workout such as just doing mountain climbers, mountain climbers focusing on the obliques, and pikes.
  • See the videos below for more examples.

    Rowing Machine Ab Mountain Climber

3. Obliques, Pikes, and Variations

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this article on rowing machine abs benefits very informative! I also hope it allows you to get the body and workout you desire!

Getting toned abs is never easy and it won’t happen overnight. Just remember to keep exercising everyday and eating healthy.

Plus, incorporate that rowing machine into your 6-pack ab plan!

Please ask any questions below in the comments and I will be more than happy to help :) If you know of any other great ab exercises for rowing machines please share!!!

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