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If you want an effective full-body low-impact workout that combines cardio and strength training, then rowing is the way to do it.
A rowing machine not only burns calories – which is good news for anyone looking to shave off a couple of inches from their waistline – but it also activates, engages, and strengthens nearly every muscle in the body.
So, why is this important? Well, traditional methods of getting fit and toned involved grueling cardio workouts to burn fat, followed by intense weight-lifting exercises to tone the body.
If this is your idea of “getting in shape,” that’s an old-school approach that would require dedicating a couple of hours every day to get through a cardio/strength training session. Rowing machines do both those things in a single workout.
This begs the question – what muscles does a rowing machine work? Here’s everything you need to know about it.
It is virtually impossible to name every one of the muscles involved during a rowing session. However, here's an overview of the main ones.
The deltoid muscle, which derives its name from the Greek letter – delta, is a large triangular muscle that sits between the shoulder and the upper arm. It is what gives this area of your arm its rounded shape.
The pectoralis major or “pecs" for short, is a thick muscle reminiscent of a fan, that connects the chest with the bones of the shoulder and upper arm. It forms the bulk of the muscles that sit beneath the breast tissue.
This is the muscle located on the front part of the upper arm, between the elbow and shoulder joints. It consists of a “short head” and a “long head” which both function as a single muscle. It allows you to flex your arm.
This is the muscle located at the back of the upper arm, between the elbow and shoulder joints. It has three heads. It helps stabilize the shoulder, as well as extend the elbow.
The abdominal muscles consist of four separate muscles that all contribute towards your overall core strength. They include:
The back muscles can be grouped into three classes – the deep, intermediate, and superficial muscles. The latter are the ones located directly beneath the skin and include the rhomboids and trapezius muscles.
The Latissimus Dorsi muscles commonly referred to as the "lats" are the pair of large V-shaped muscles that run from the upper arm to the lower back, connecting your arms to the spinal column.
They provide back and shoulder strength while stabilizing and protecting your spine. Strengthening these muscles helps with arm and shoulder movement, as well as supporting good posture.
The gluteal muscles, or “glutes,” for short, are the three major muscles that make up the buttocks – the Maximus, Minimus, and Medius. They act as the support base for the hips and pelvis and allow you to move and rotate your leg. That's what allows you to sit, stand, and walk.
The quadriceps or “quads” are one of the most powerful muscles in the body and form the major bulk of the thigh. They consist of four separate muscles and are located in the thigh’s anterior (front) compartment.
Hamstring muscles are the group of three posterior (back) thigh muscles located between the knee and the hip. You use them when you’re running, walking, and jumping since they allow you to flex your knee and extend your hip at the beginning of each step.
The calf muscles or “calves” are the two muscles located at the back of the lower leg. There’s the gastrocnemius, which is the larger one that forms the visibly round bulge beneath the skin, and the smaller flatter soleus muscle, which lies directly underneath it.
When rowing, there are four phases to a complete stroke. Each phase targets different muscle groups, which get stronger the more you engage them.
This is something you just don’t get with any other type of exercise. Here’s a complete overview of the muscles a rowing machine works during each phase of a stroke.
This is the beginning phase of a stroke. It is the position you assume when you’re at the front of the machine with your knees bent, arms straight, shins vertical, and your body leaning forward slightly.
The muscles groups you engage during the catch phase are:
This phase begins with you pushing off with your legs, sliding back on the machine through a vertical position while pulling the handlebar with your arms. The muscles groups you work during this phase are:
For the legs:
For the body swing:
For the arm pull-through:
This is the end of the drive phase where you reach the back of the machine with your legs fully extended, your upper body leaning slightly back, and the handlebar pulled to your abdomen. The muscles groups you work during this phase are:
This phase is essentially the reverse of everything you’ve done so far. It involves extending your arms outward first, leaning your hips forward as you bend your knees to slide to the front until you’re back in the catch position.
The muscles groups you work during this phase are:
If you thought that building muscle was reserved for bodybuilders, well, you thought wrong. Most people don’t realize just how essential muscle strengthening and endurance is to weight loss.
Here are a couple of reasons why using a rowing machine to build your muscles is important to help you achieve your fitness goals.
Fat cells store energy in the form of fat. Muscle cells need that energy to function. So, if you gain more lean muscle through workouts that specifically target them, you’re essentially increasing their energy requirements. So, it bumps up your overall metabolic rate causing you to burn more fat.
Increasing your muscular strength fortifies your tendons, bones, and ligaments. It builds up your core strength, which in turn improves your balance and coordination. This reduces the likelihood of suffering broken bones, tears to the tendon, and muscular sprains.
If you’ve ever needed help to open a jar of pickles, lift a box of books, or even move the sofa a couple of inches, strengthening your muscles would make these ordinary activities a lot easier to do.
Defined muscles give your body a great shape. Losing fat will certainly make you look trim, but if your overall goal is to get a toned body, then working your muscles is the way to do it.
Building lean muscle improves your general fitness and conditioning levels. It improves your cardiovascular health and blood chemistry.
So, you’ll be less likely to get the diseases that come about as a result of leading a sedentary lifestyle.
All in all, what muscles does a rowing machine work? The short answer is – all of them. It gives you a full-body workout.
Building lean muscle is the secret to improving your muscular strength and endurance. It will not only make doing everyday things like walking up and down a flight of stairs or lifting groceries easier. It will make your body look amazing as well.
So, go on… work those muscles to perfection!
Be sure to check out the best rowing machines for sale in 2021 and invest in better health for a brighter future.