What Does a Rowing Machine Do For Your Body?

What Does a Rowing Machine Do For Your Body“What does a rowing machine do for your body?”

Is this the thought that runs through your mind as you walk past one in the gym?

Each piece of equipment in a gym has a specific purpose for your body.

So you begin to go through each piece.

Free weights and weight machines are for strength training. Treadmills, ellipticals and bikes are for cardiovascular exercise.

But rowing machines? What is their purpose?

If you don’t know, you’re not alone! Apparently most people are unaware of what it does for your body because I rarely see anyone in a health club using them.

Simply put – a rowing machine is your body’s best friend. They give your entire body a thorough workout inside and out (literally).

Here’s a short list of what a rowing machine does for your body:

A Rowing Machine Provides a Full-Body Workout

One of the rowing machine’s claims to fame is it’s fantastic for working out your whole body.

Your upper and lower body are required to complete a full rowing stroke. This is a good and bad thing depending on how you look at it.

It’s a good thing because you’ll be getting a solid workout that’s guaranteed to get you sweating.

It’s a “bad thing” because unlike an elliptical, you can’t cheat! Meaning, on an elliptical you can let go of the handles to give your arms a rest but still “keep going”.  On a rowing machine, you must use your entire body to complete a full stroke every time!

Okay, it’s not really a “bad thing”! It’s really a good thing since the rower forces you to give it your all, the whole time, without taking any shortcuts!

A rowing machine is one of the few machines on the market that truly works out your entire body.

Muscles Worked on Rowing Machine

The images below highlight the phases of a rowing motion and the muscles engaged during a single rowing stroke:

What does a rowing machine do for your body

The “Catch”- Muscles worked:  Erector Spinae, Gastrochnemius and Soleus, and Hamstrings.

What does a rowing machine do for your body

Start of The “Drive”-  Muscles worked:  Erector Spinae, Rhomboids, Quadriceps, Gastrochnemius and Soleus, and Hamstrings.

What does a rowing machine do for your body

The “Drive”-  Muscles worked:   Erector Spinae, Rectus Abdominus, Triceps, Rhomboids, Deltoids, Trapezius, Pectoralis Major, Wrist Extensors and Flexors, Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, and Gastrochnemius and Soleus.

What does a rowing machine do for your body

The “Finish”  Muscles worked:   Erector Spinae, Wrist Extensors and Flexors, Triceps, Biceps, Deltoids, Pectoralis Major, Rectus Abdominus, Internal and External Obliques, Quadriceps, and Hamstrings.

(Images credit:  Concept2 UK, http://concept2.co.uk/rower/muscle_groups)

If you want to see a complete breakdown of all the muscles used while performing a full rowing stroke check out my full muscle breakdown article.

You can also continue reading below to see the best full-body rowing machine workouts.

A Rowing Machine Provides The Ultimate Cardiovascular Exercise

In a nutshell, cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is an activity that raises your heart rate and keeps it at that elevated heart rate for a period of time.

According to Dictionary.com, aerobic exercises are “any of various sustained exercises, such as jogging, rowing, swimming, or cycling, that stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs, thereby improving the body’s utilization of oxygen.”

Anyone who uses a rowing machine knows that they stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs!

Rowing Ultimate Cardiovascular Exercise

Whether it’s when you push off with your legs or use your upper-body to pull the handle to your midsection, a rower requires use of all muscle groups. Your entire body is working which will easily get your heart rate up and keep it there.

This makes rowing extremely efficient at burning calories and shedding fat, since your whole body has to work – the entire time!

I wrote about rowing machines and fat burning in the the article Will A Rowing Machine Help Me Lose Weight?

Since rowing is done at a pace where you’re able to perform the exercise for several minutes at a time without stopping, it’s ideal for aerobic exercise and strengthening your muscles.

Rowers can also perform HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts to incorporate anaerobic exercises into their routine as well!

Being able to perform full body aerobic and anaerobic exercises is one of the main reasons people love using rowing machines!

Adjustable Resistance Allows for Different Cardio Workouts

The ability to switch between aerobic and anaerobic workouts is also easy because most rowers come with adjustable or variable resistance.

For example, if you want to have an aerobic workout but you’re concerned about having enough stamina to finish, you can lower the resistance or row at a slower pace to make each rowing stroke easier. The energy you preserve can then be used later to help complete the workout.

You can also increase the resistance or row faster to get a killer anaerobic workout!

Rowing Is Low Impact and Non-Weight Bearing 

Another less known claim to fame for a rower is it’s low-impact and non-weight bearing because rowing is performed while sitting down.

Rowing is ideal for everyone but this makes a rowing machine even more beneficial. Especially for people with weak joints and people rehabilitating after surgery.

Rowing Machine for Knee Pain

High-impact activities such as playing sports that involve a great deal of running and jumping put a lot of stress on your joints and is weight bearing since you have to support the weight of your body.

These activities are terrible for people with bad knees and ankles.

Even if you currently don’t have any bad joints, you might eventually. Especially if you always participate in high-impact activities.  So mix your workout up with a low-impact exercise like rowing!

Best Rowing Machine Exercises

Now that we know a rowing machine provides a low impact full-body cardiovascular exercise, we need to know which exercises are the best!

Lucky for us a brand new book named The Erg Book was written with over 375 of the best indoor rowing machine exercises.

‘The Short and Snarky Coxswains’ teamed up with Peter Cannia to provide an informative and humorous book about an otherwise very boring subject.

What Does a Rowing Machine do for your body

The book is great for rowers of all experience levels and fitness types.  Here is what you will see inside:

  • 375+ of the best indoor rowing workouts
  • 14-week indoor training plan
  • Rowing machine technique tips
  • Best body circuit exercises
  • Much, much more…

The book is easy to navigate and it is simple to find a workout that fits your specific needs on any given day. You can click the photo or this link for a full review and sample of the book.

Final Thoughts

The next time you ask yourself “what does a rowing machine do for your body?”, you now know that it:

  • Provides a solid full-body workout

  • Is a superior source for aerobic and anaerobic exercises

  • Is efficient at burning calories and shedding fat

  • Preserves your joints by providing a high-intensity, low-impact and non-weight bearing workout

You are guaranteed to get a gut-wrenching, heart-pumping workout from a rowing machine.  They are suitable for all fitness levels, from a complete beginner to a seasoned Olympic athlete. Plus, they have no age limit!

So get out there and start getting a full body workout on a rowing machine!!!

Now it’s your turn to share! Tell us in the comment section below: What does a rowing machine do for your body?

With your new knowledge of how beneficial a rowing machine is to your body you can begin to read rowing machine reviews! Check out the two pages below for help choosing a rowing machine.

Check out my rowing machine comparison page to compare all the different models.

You can also visit the rowing machine concierge page, where you can fill out a form and I’ll choose a model for you!

Real Athletes Row

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