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Hi friends! It’s Kathleen again. Can we talk about muscles and rowing for a few minutes?
While you may not want Arnold Schwarzenegger-type muscles, I think almost everyone wants either a bit of bicep and pectorals to show off in a swimsuit. Or you may want those long, lean muscles that you always find in dancers. There are some of us who want ripped abs and others who want a big round booty.
Everyone is a bit different and whatever type of muscle you are looking for, I’ve got the answer for you.
First, let’s answer the question, “Do rowing machines build muscle?” Of course it does. A rowing machine gives you a great workout that helps build and tone muscle, burn calories, and make your heart healthy without hurting your joints.
I’m not forgetting about you, seniors! Heck, we are all going to be seniors eventually! You may not be interested in 6-pack abs, but if nothing else, I’m sure you want to keep the muscles you do have, improve your sense of balance, and stay as active as possible.
Related Post – Click Here to Read My Article on the Best Rowing Machines for Seniors
I’ve got just the thing for seniors as well as younger folks, and it isn’t weight lifting (Not to knock weight lifting, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea). After injuring my back, I discovered this fascinating exercise machine that gives you a great workout for building muscle and burning calories like crazy, all in one piece of easy-to-use exercise equipment.
Let me tell you today about rowing machine workouts and why you need to jump on the rowing machine craze!
Table of Contents
How I Discovered the Magic of Rowing Machine Workouts
I don’t know about you, but before my back injury, I went to my local gym pretty regularly. I did the usual treadmill, stair climber, and occasionally I worked out on an exercise bike, but I literally didn’t give the rowing machines in the corner a second glance.
In fact, I remember that one time, I watched a young man doing his rowing workout and I thought, “Oh wow. That’s so extreme!”
I really didn’t understand why anyone who wasn’t on the Olympic rowing team would be interested in a rowing machine until that day when I could no longer do my treadmill or exercise bike workouts.
My physical therapist told me to start experimenting with other types of exercise. If my back hurt, I had to stop, but she encouraged me to try a wide range of equipment.
I quickly discovered that a great many cardio machines hurt my back. I didn’t want to give up on my fitness goals or lose my current fitness level, so I persistently tried different exercise methods looking for the perfect exercise.
Then I found it. I think it was the last machine I tried but lo and behold, my back didn’t mind the rowing machine!
I found that I didn’t really know how to row, so I took the gym up on its offer of one free rowing class. That was all it took. I was completely hooked!
Does Rowing Build Muscle & What Does a Workout Offer?
I had no idea how incredibly beneficial working out on a rowing machine would be and even wondered what was so great about sliding on your butt and pulling on a handle.
Let me tell you, if you haven’t tried and aren’t into rowing machines now, you are missing out! A rowing machine is your body’s best friend, and it is respectful of your time.
No, don’t laugh! It’s true! When I used a treadmill, I realized that I was only working the lower half of my body. I would spend 45-60 minutes on the treadmill, only to go hit up the weights to work my upper body. That was another 30 minutes or so.
With a rowing machine, you get a full-body workout, so you don’t need to exercise longer than you need to or have time for.
I also discovered that a rowing machine offers aerobic exercise, but it is low-impact. No more achy knees, hips, or ankles from running on the treadmill!
When it comes to building muscle, nothing even comes close to a rowing machine workout. Well, OK, lifting weights will really build muscle, but it won’t give you the cardiovascular fitness that you need.
A rowing machine will work nine different muscle groups, which is about 86 percent of the muscles in your body. Try to do that at one time while lifting weights!
Since you’re working nearly all of the muscles in your body at the same time (read more on muscles worked in rowing ), you will burn calories like twigs in a furnace!
I also like the fact that since the “work” that your body is doing is fairly evenly distributed between most of the skeletal muscles, you don’t get tired as quickly as when you do some other exercises.
Your legs do most of the work, it’s true, but your upper arms, shoulders, back, and core muscles also get to take their turn at rowing.
In short, you can lose weight or maintain your body weight, get aerobic exercise for a healthy heart, work your lower body and upper body, and build muscle in all the major muscle groups in one workout using just one machine.
I don’t know about you, but this was like a miracle for me! I was impressed with the rowing machine from the first time I used it, and I still love it.
Do Rowers Build Muscle?
Do a Google search of “Olympic Rowers” and take a look at those images! I think that answers your question right there, but if you can’t do that search right now, the answer is a resounding YES!
Rowing machine workouts help you build muscle by involving all the major muscle groups in the body with each stroke and requiring you to work against resistance. Rowing is a true, full-body workout that offers muscle building, often the same type of muscle building that you see with weight lifting.
Rowers tend to have more of a muscular build than those using popular machine-based exercises, such as cross country skiing or even ellipticals.
Even though your legs do most of the work, you will find that rowing machine workouts give you larger and stronger shoulders, biceps, back, and arm muscles.
This is because rowing is similar, in some aspects, to a kettlebell swing workout. You engage your core muscles so that you transfer some of the effort from your legs to pulling the handle.
When you consider the amount of sitting that many of us do during a typical work week, it makes total sense that this natural pulling motion of rowing workouts is the answer you’ve been looking for.
You can actually get in a good workout in only 10 or 15 minutes a day, but I think most people will do 30 minutes most days of the week.
Can I get Ripped from a Rowing Machine?
You sure can! Rowing is a high-intensity but a low-impact form of exercise. You can use a rowing machine to gain endurance and stamina (such as training for a marathon) or use it to build muscle.
When I first started rowing, I thought that I would still need to work on my abdominals, but that was certainly not the case!
I found that when the rowing strokes are performed correctly, you work those core muscles HARD! It’s hard work keeping the torso in an upright position as you move, and I can say that my belly has never looked better!
Rowers often have pretty large shoulders and biceps, as well as very tight and toned backs. Ladies, if you want to ditch that bra fat, you need to take up rowing! Backless tops and dresses will become your wardrobe favorite!
To top it all off, you can reach new levels of cardiovascular fitness simply by rowing. This incredible full-body workout gives you everything you go to the gym for in one single machine and all during one workout.
You don’t need to hit the free weights, you don’t need a cross-country skiing machine, you only need to jump on that rowing machine to gain muscle, experience weight loss, and work the entire body!
Speaking of weights, that brings me to the next question.
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Can Rowing Machine Workouts Replace Weights?
It would depend on your fitness goals.
People aiming to join bodybuilding competitions will need to use free weights and should not put all their hopes on a rowing machine. Rowing does offer some resistance training, but it only has so much “weight” to offer. For the majority of people, especially most women, rowing workouts should be adequate, and they can skip those weight training sessions.
I do have a set of resistance bands that I like to use on my rest days. I put on my favorite show and use the bands. Resistance bands aren’t aerobic exercise, but they keep me in shape and make rowing easier.
Most women tend to have weaker upper body muscles. We want tight and toned upper body muscles (no one loves their bat wings, right?), but we don’t want to look like the Hulk in drag.
I believe that a rowing machine gives you just enough shoulder and arm muscle mass that make you look good without looking like a bodybuilder (read more on how a rowing machine tone arms) (read more on how a rowing machine tone arms).
I also love how rowing has improved the overall tone and shape of my legs! I fear no dress or skirt, no matter how short! I used to be self-conscious about wearing shorts in the summer but not after all the great exercise I get from my rowing machine.
If you want more muscle mass than what a rowing machine can offer, then you should consider adding resistance training to your workout program.
So the answer to this question is- it depends on what muscle size you are aiming for.
Rowing Machines Vs Other Cardiovascular Fitness Machines
Can other machines at the gym outdo rowing machines in offering the same entire-body workout and muscle-building benefits at the same time?
I don’t think so.
I believe that the only type of exercise that you can do that would even come close to what a rowing machine offers would be jumping rope. Jumping rope burns more calories than any other type of exercise, hands down. However, while it is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health, it won’t do much for your back or biceps.
Besides, my knees could never put up with jumping rope for 30 or more minutes each day! Give me a low-impact workout on a rowing machine any day!
Nothing else comes close to what a rowing machine has to offer! Even ellipticals, as great as they are, can’t match the workout you get from a rowing machine.
The Final Take Away
Of course, to get the most out of your full-body workout, you need to mix things up. Our bodies are notoriously smart, and they actually become accustomed to doing the same workout over and over again.
This means that you should both change up your rowing workouts and/or add some other types of workouts to your exercise program. Try HIIT workouts for a real cardiovascular system shake-up, or you can do racing against your friends and the loser buys dinner.
I like to add different types of exercise to my week. I take my dogs for long walks, I have a very extensive garden (zucchini anyone?), and I enjoy swimming when I can. I also do resistance bands, and I have been known to do a pretty mean cumbia dance if I have the right partner.
A healthy diet is also every bit as important as exercise is.
Mix up your workouts, eat a healthy, plant-based diet, and see if rowing isn’t the most fun you can have while sitting down!
Written by Kathleen Langdon – TheHealthPot.com Founder
Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES)
Kathleen, a mother of two, struggled with ongoing weight and health issues. She created this website after she turned her life around. She built Thehealthpot.com to help inspire and motivate others with their fitness goals. Read more about Kathleen here.