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Hi friends! This is Kathleen with an article about something everyone in the world wants but few actually have- those 6-pack abs.
Maybe you’re one of the many people who see those photos of young, beautiful people modeling their ripped abs with a cute little belly button ring, and think “I WISH!”
Want to turn your wish into reality? You can do it, you know, but yes, it does take some time, commitment, and a lot of sweat, but ripped abs isn’t an impossible dream.
Do you plan on using the indoor rowing machines at the gym or do you have one at home? Or maybe you’re considering buying one in the near future? You might be thinking that you will need to do hours of planks to get those abs because a rowing machine isn’t going to get you there, right?
You CAN get that washboard belly from rowing if you follow this one little trick.
Want to know what that trick is?
Keep reading because I’m going to spill the beans and fill you in on all the details!
Table of Contents
Which Muscles Does a Rowing Machine Work?
I think one reason why people believe that a rowing machine doesn’t work the abdominal muscles is that the movement of the stroke is deceiving.
In fact, ask most people which muscles do the majority of the work when rowing ( read more on muscles worked in rowing ), and they will tell you either the arms or the shoulders. That isn’t true, of course.
While the abdominal muscles don’t do the majority of the work, they should be engaged around 90 percent of the time.
The muscles used by the body to perform a rowing stroke include (not necessarily in this order):
- Latissimus dorsi
- Abs (including the obliques)
If you aren’t familiar with some of these names, in layman’s terms, these muscles are:
- The back of the upper arm
- The front of the upper arm
- The chest
- The various muscles in the back (the lats, traps, and rhomboids)
- The butt
- The front of the thighs
- The back of the thighs
- The stomach muscles
- The back of the lower legs
If you’ve never used a rowing machine before, sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Now put your arms in front of you and imagine pulling on an oar. You should feel your abs contracting to keep your upper body stable and straight.
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Can You Lose Belly Fat with a Rowing Machine Workout?
You sure can! I’m living proof of that!
The sad truth about that stubborn pooch belly is that you could literally do thousands of situps a day and not lose one ounce of fat.
We cannot exercise fat away by working certain parts of the body, as much as we wish we could!
This isn’t to say that doing planks or other exercises won’t strengthen those muscles, it absolutely will! However, there is really only one way to burn fat and that is aerobic exercise.
You need to get your heart rate up and have a sweat fest in order to burn fat. Even then, your body will decide where it wants to take stored fat and use it as fuel, but if you commit yourself to regular cardio exercise, you will eventually burn off that unwanted spare tire.
This is why a rowing workout is the perfect all-in-one machine!
Not only do you get a full-body workout (meaning all the major muscle groups of the body are being exercised) but you also get a cardio workout to burn the maximum amount of fat and calories possible!
It’s a total win-win situation!
OK, So Can You Get a Six Pack from a Rowing Workout?
Yes, a sculpted six-pack is completely possible.
If you’ve listened (or seen) other rowing fanatics who say otherwise or don’t have decent abs, it’s usually because they aren’t doing the rowing strokes properly.
Of course, some individuals have a natural layer of fat over the abdominal muscles due to their genetic makeup, but these cases are rare.
The majority of people can have a flat, toned belly just by using the rowing machine.
Any personal trainer will tell you that you need to lower your overall body fat composition to let those beautiful abs show through. Regular use of a rowing machine can reduce your overall body fat.
Rowing machine workouts offer a super cardio intense exercise that burns as much as 900 calories an hour (depending on certain factors).
Even those who row at moderate intensities can easily burn 200 calories in 20 minutes!
Is Rowing Bad for Diastasis Recti – Read Our Full Articles Here!
How to Work Your Abs During the Rowing Stroke
Let me explain how you can work your abs during each phase of the rowing stroke. When you maintain proper form, you not only work those abdominals, but you also won’t experience back pain.
- The Catch Position- This is the starting position. Feel your abs tighten as you prepare yourself for the next phase
- The Drive Position- As you push back with your legs, your torso should be sitting straight up. You should feel your abs working to keep you upright. DO NOT bend back during the drive! You also should not slouch forward during this phase.
- The Finish Position- Your legs are completely extended. As you pull the handle towards your chest, lean back slightly. If you’re new to rowing, picture a clock. Bend back so that your torso is sitting at about 11 o’clock. If you’ve been rowing for a while, you may be strong enough to bend back to the 10 O’clock position. If your lower back hurts, you are slouching forward, like the letter C. Be sure to sit up straight and bend back just a bit, so that your abs are doing the work. Keep your arms near your ribcage and keep your core engaged.
- The Recovery Position- As you return to the start position, remember to sit up straight and don’t let your butt hit your heels.
As you can see, when the rowing strokes are done correctly, your core muscles are engaged at all times.
If you have never used a rowing machine before, you might consider getting a personal trainer or taking a few classes to teach you how to row properly.
Another option is to set up a mirror (or record yourself using your cell phone) and watch some of the instructional videos available online. You can monitor your own position in the mirror or see yourself on your cell phone video and make whatever corrections you may need to make.
Beginners sometimes get disappointed at how slowly they are rowing, but have a bit of patience! Proper rowing stroke form is more important than your speed!
Give yourself a bit of time and you will do the strokes properly without giving it a second thought.
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Other Tips to Help Improve Your Abs and Rowing Technique
While newbies might be shaking their heads thinking that this all sounds so complicated, it really isn’t.
Learning how a rowing machine works and how to get the most out of it is no more difficult than learning a new recipe. It may take you two or three tries to get everything right, but soon you will be making it from memory.
The same is true with rowing machines. I also had to learn to not let my torso slouch like the letter C, but it didn’t take me more than 10 sessions before I could do the strokes properly without thinking about it.
You won’t find a more effective fat-burning exercise than rowing machines. Exercise bikes, especially assault bikes, may burn the most calories, but they only work the leg muscles. Using a rowing machine will not only make weight loss easy, but it will also work those ab muscles and upper body muscles. No other machine does all that!
Let me tell you a few other tricks and tips that I’ve discovered during my rowing journey:
- Don’t keep a death grip on the handle. The majority of your effort should be directed at the legs, not the arms
- Keep your arms close to the rib cage. You risk hurting your elbow and shoulder if you let your arms stick out to the side like chicken wings!
- Keep your back straight. This is perhaps the #1 mistake beginners do that often gives them back pain
- Don’t rush. If your fanny is hitting your heels or sticks out behind you, you are probably going too fast. Slow down and breathe. Speed will come with time.
- Use your rowing machine to work your abs so they become stronger, making rowing easier for you overall
Let me tell you a few tricks I learned about #5.
Rowing Machine Abs Exercises
Before I owned my own indoor rowing machine, I had no idea that you could use it for other exercises, including working the abdominal muscles.
While you engage the abs doing the rowing stroke, you can build up these muscles and make them stronger when you aren’t rowing. You will find out that you will not only burn calories, but also work the core muscles that make rowing easier.
A few of the exercises you can do with rowing machines include:
- Mountain Climbers with Push Up- This is a tough one, but wow, will you ever see results. Put the seat all the way back. Put your feet on the seat and your hands on the ground in front of you. Using your feet, push back on the seat until it reaches the front of the machine and then do a push-up. Pull your feet towards your head and straighten your elbows.
- The Abdominal Roll Out- If mountain climbers are too difficult, try this one. Pull the seat all the way to the back and put your hands on each side of the seat. Your body should make a sort of upside-down “V” shape, your behind should be sticking out towards the ceiling. Push the seat forward with your hand until the seat hits the end of its travel or until you are completely prone. Return to start by pulling your abdominals in.
- Pistol Squat- This is another one that you will feel in your core muscles from the first rep. Pull the seat all the way back and place your forearms where your butt usually would be. Your legs should be straight. Push the seat forward as far as you can, then pull your abdominals in hard to return the seat to the start position.
If you can manage to do just a few reps of any or all of the exercises above, you will find those core muscles getting tight and hard faster than a kid can eat an Oreo cookie!
The Final Takeaway
Exercise bikes and treadmills are good workouts that burn calories, but using a rowing machine will get you 6-pack abs and a great full-body workout at the same time, something that the other two machines can never claim.
Take your time and use the proper form when rowing. This alone will work your core muscles, but if you want more, you can use your rowing machine for some serious workouts that you will really feel to the core!
Everyone wants a beautiful, buff body that they can show off at the beach, but getting a flat belly takes some real work.
That old saying, “If you don’t play, you can’t win” also applies to your workouts. If you don’t put in the effort, you won’t get the benefits.
Work that mid-section and get lots of cardio using your rowing machine most days of the week and you will be able to kiss that spare tire goodbye!
Good luck, my friends, and if no one has told you this today, You’re Awesome!
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.