Which Muscles Does a Rowing Machine Work?

Rowing machines are pieces of cardiovascular equipment. This type of exercise causes you to work your major muscles in a repetitive motion for an extended period of time. Working out on the rowing machine can not only increase your aerobic capacity, but it can also strengthen multiple muscle groups at the same time. This type of strength is known as muscle endurance.


The glutes are the muscles in your butt. You are working these muscles on the rowing machine when you push off the platform with your feet. This motion is called hip extension.


The quadriceps are the large muscles found in the fronts of the thighs. In similar fashion to the glutes, you are contracting these muscles when you push off the platform. Every time your knees go from a bent to a straight position, these muscles get called into play.


The hamstrings are the opposing muscles of the quadriceps, and they are found in the backs of the thighs. Every time your knees bend, your hamstrings get worked. This is an action you would see as your body moves forward on the machine.


Multiple muscles in your back get activated when you use the rowing machine. Every time you pull the handle toward your body, you engage your latissimus dorsi, rhomboids major and minor, and erector spinae, which are located in the lower back.


The shoulder muscles get recruited when your arms are elevated in front of your body. The posterior, lateral and anterior deltoids, and the upper, mid and lower trapezius are examples of these.


The biceps are the muscles that flex the elbows. This means every time your lower arms bend, the biceps get worked. You would notice this motion when you are pulling the handle toward your body.


The abdominals are a stabilizing muscle group that gets worked on a rowing machine. They contract to hold your body in proper alignment while you perform work with your other muscles.

About this Author

Kevin Rail has worked in the fitness industry since 2001 and has been writing since 2004. He has professional experience as a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, motivational engineer and freelance fitness writer. He currently writes a monthly column for Ron Jones High-Performance Health. Rail has a bachelor’s degree in sports management: fitness and wellness from California University of Pennsylvania.