What Muscles Does Rowing Not Work?

What Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

What Muscles Does Rowing Not Work? Rowing is often described as the perfect workout. It’s a whole-body exercise that can increase cardiovascular fitness, build muscle strength, and boost endurance. Although rowing works for many major muscle groups, it doesn’t target them all equally. However, understanding what muscles rowing does not work out can help rowers develop a comprehensive fitness routine that addresses these often overlooked areas.

A Whole-Body Workout Rowing

What Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

To understand the muscles that rowing does not work out, we first need to discuss what muscles rowing does work. Here are some of the main muscle groups involved in rowing:

  • Legs: Quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves
  • Core: Abdominals and lower back muscles
  • Upper body: Lats, deltoids, biceps, and triceps

The Underworked Muscles in Rowing

Despite the full-body nature of the rowing exercise, some muscles are notably underworked. This doesn’t mean they are not engaged at all, they just don’t get the same exercise intensity as others. Let’s take a closer look:


The pectorals, or “pecs,” are the muscles located in the chest region. Despite being a key upper-body muscle group, rowing alone may not fully develop the pectorals. You might need additional exercises like chest presses or push-ups to work this area fully.

Side Obliques

Rowing engages the core to a great extent but may not specifically work the side obliques as intensively. You may want to include targeted exercises such as Russian twists or side planks in your routine to help tone your obliques.

Neck and shoulders

The predominant motion in rowing is horizontal, and while it does engage the shoulder muscles, it largely leaves out the neck muscles as they aren’t directly involved in the movement. Acquiring a routine for neck and upper trap exercises can be beneficial to maintaining overall balanced strength and posture.

Closing Thoughts Muscles Does Rowing Not Work?

What Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

Rowing is an incredible workout that engages various muscle groups with each rowing stroke. However, knowing which muscles rowing does not work helps design a complete and balanced workout routine. Variations in exercises will give you a well-rounded fitness level, making sure all muscles are equally toned and strong. So, next time you sit down at the rowing machine, remember to add supplementary exercises to your regimen for those underworked muscles – your body will thank you!

Here’s What Muscles Rowing Does Not Work Out

The following list encompasses the muscles that may not receive as much attention during a rowing workout:

  1. Pectorals While rower exercises engage the upper body, the chest muscles might not be pushed to their limits. For this, integrate chest-specific exercises into your training, like push-ups or chest presses.
  2. Side Obliques Rowing does work the core; however, the side obliques might not get the same level of intensity as other muscles. A good addition here would be exercises focusing on these muscles – think Russian twists or side planks.
  3. Neck and Shoulders Take note that while rowing can engage your shoulder muscles, it may not target those in your neck, so consider adding neck-strengthening exercises to your workout, such as neck extensions, neck flexions, or shoulder shrugs.
  4. Forearms The rowing grip does exercise the forearms to an extent, but these muscles can still be underworked. Try incorporating forearm curls or wrist extensor exercises for a strengthened grip and better rowing performance.
  5. Hip Abductors and Adductors The rowing machine primarily focuses on the large leg muscles. Nonetheless, the hip abductors and adductors, which help in stabilizing the body, might not receive comparable stimulation. Some worthy exercises include clamshells and side leg raises.

Supplementary Exercises for Underworked Muscles

While rowing provides extensive exercise for most of your body, some muscles remain underworked and might require extra attention. The following are supplementary exercises that can be incorporated into your routine to target these muscles:

  1. Pectorals Bench press, dumbbell flyes, push-ups.
  2. Side Obliques Russian twists, side planks, bicycle crunches.
  3. Neck and Shoulders Neck extensions, neck flexions, shoulder shrugs.
  4. Forearms Wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, farmer’s walk.

Exercises To Help Work All The Remaining Muscles

In addition to the specific exercises mentioned above, there are a few more general workouts that can help develop the muscles that rowing overlooks. Including these in your workout regimen can ensure an all-round and balanced strength training:

  1. Hip Abductors and Adductors Clamshell exercises, side lying leg lifts, and lateral lunges can help strengthen these often neglected areas.
  2. Glute Muscles Hip thrusts, squats, and lunges are ideal for targeting your glute muscles.
  3. Calf Muscles Jumping rope and calf raises can assist in working the calf muscles more.
  4. Upper Trapezius Overhead shrugs, lateral neck flexion, and extension exercises.

Squats Why Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

Squats are a powerful quadriceps and glute exercise that also solicits the hip abductors and adductors, muscles not typically worked extensively by rowing. Variations such as sumo squats or goblet squats can also help engage the muscles differently.

Triceps Extension

Triceps extensions are specifically targeted exercises for your triceps, a muscle that might not be intensely worked during rowing. This exercise can be done with a dumbbell, a barbell, or a cable machine, giving you various ways to integrate this into your routine.

Forearm Curls Why Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

Forearm curls can be an excellent addition to your routine if rowing is not adequately challenging your forearms. You can do these with a barbell or dumbbells, with both overhand and underhand grips to work different parts of the forearms.

Plank and Side Plank

Planks and side planks target your core – particularly your obliques. Including both exercises in your routine may help balance the core work from your rowing workouts.

Chest Press Why Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

The chest press can be an effective exercise to engage your pectorals, which rowing might not fully work. Both barbell and dumbbell variations can be incorporated into your exercise plan.

Neck and Shoulder Exercises

Consider adding a series of neck and shoulder exercises such as neck rotations, shoulder shrugs, and overhead presses. These can help strengthen your neck as well as shoulder muscles.

Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is a great exercise for working the glutes and hip muscles, and also engaging the hamstrings. Try incorporating glute bridges into your routine to make sure these muscles don’t get overlooked during your rowing workouts.

Pull-Ups Forearm Curls Why Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

Pull-ups are an excellent exercise to complement your rowing, enhancing overall upper-body strength. It can work the large muscles in your back, which are crucial for rowing, along with forearms, biceps, and shoulders. Adding pull-ups to your regimen can further balance your workout routine.

Push Ups Variations

Push-up variations are not only great for your chest muscles, but also for your triceps, deltoids, and abs. Traditional push-ups, decline push-ups, and diamond push-ups can each target your muscles in slightly different ways. Including a mix of these variations in your routine can allow for a more comprehensive workout.

Planks Forearm Curls Why Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

Planks are a versatile exercise that can efficiently work your core, back and shoulders. Regular planks, side planks, or reverse planks, each target different sets of muscles. These can supplement your rowing training by bringing balance and stability to your core and spine.

Wrist Curls Forearm Curls Why Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

Wrist curls are another way to improve your grip strength and work the forearms. Overhand and underhand wrist curls can both be incorporated into your training routine. These exercises will support your rowing by enhancing your grip and overall forearm strength.

Shoulder Press

The shoulder press is a valuable addition to your training regimen, targeting the deltoids, trapezius, and other shoulder muscles. This can provide an extra boost to your overall upper body strength, supporting your rowing efficiency and power.

Calf Raises

Calf raises can help target the often underrated calf muscles. This simple but effective exercise can be performed using a step or a weight. Regular calf raises training will enhance not just calf strength, but also the stability and balance necessary for rowing.

Cross-Training Activities

Cross-training with activities such as swimming, weight lifting, cycling, or running can also be great additions to your training regimen, offering diversified workouts and holistic development of the body.

Rest and Recovery

Lastly, remember that rest and recovery are as important as the workouts. Make sure to allow your body ample time to heal and regain strength after an intense workout session. Good sleep, proper nutrition, and regular hydration are crucial factors in this recovery process. Including restorative practices like yoga, meditation, and foam rolling can also aid in soothing muscle soreness and reducing the risk of injury.

Inverted Rows

Inverted rows are an excellent exercise to strengthen your upper body, particularly your back muscles, biceps, and forearms. It’s a reverse version of the traditional push-up and helps in improving your body balance while rowing. You can perform this exercise using a bar set at hip height, or a Smith machine. This exercise mimics the rowing motion, offering a more sports-specific workout and helping to improve the overall rowing performance.

Lateral Raises Why Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

Lateral raises are a smart addition to your exercise routine, working out your deltoids and upper trapezius muscles. These muscles help stabilize your shoulder and upper body during rowing. This exercise can be done with dumbbells or resistance bands, both offering different intensities to customize the workout to your fitness level.

Hamstring Curls

Hamstring curls are particularly beneficial for rowers, as they target the muscles at the back of your thighs that are crucial to your rowing stroke. You can perform them with a machine, stability ball, or resistance bands. Regular hamstring curls can increase your strength and flexibility, improving your rowing performance and reducing the risk of injury.


Deadlifts are a total-body strength training exercise, focusing primarily on your back, glutes, and hamstrings. Contributing valuable strength to your rowing stroke, deadlifts can be done with a barbell or kettlebell. Learning the proper form is vital to avoid injuries. Deadlifts not only improve your rowing performance but also enhance your posture and stability.


Shrugs are ideal for strengthening your neck and upper shoulders. They also target the trapezius and deltoid muscles, providing an extra benefit for your rowing training. Because shrugs predominantly work the upper body, they can greatly aid your rowing performance by improving your pull strength. These can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, or a resistance machine. Including shrugs in your fitness routine will add a well-rounded dynamic to your overall workout.

Superset Rowing With Another Exercise

What Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

Super setting your rowing exercises with other workouts can optimize your training efficiency and intensify your routine. For example, you could pair a rowing interval with kettlebell swings or squats, targeting different muscle groups simultaneously.

This type of training can boost your muscular endurance and cardiovascular health, revamping your overall fitness level. It’s best to choose exercises that work different muscle groups than rowing to ensure a balanced workout. Remember, a varied fitness program helps prevent overuse injuries and promotes more comprehensive physical development.

Combine Rowing With Handstand Walk

Combining your rowing with handstand walks can drastically improve your balance, coordination, and upper body strength. This exercise not only targets your shoulders, arms, and core, but it also improves proprioception which is beneficial for all forms of sports and physical activities.

Performing handstand walks requires control and stability, so practicing this regularly can significantly enhance your rowing performance. Remember to progress slowly and ensure safety while trying handstand walks. A wall can provide support when you are starting out, gradually reducing its use as your strength and confidence grow.

Combine Rowing With Weighted Lunges

Combining rowing with weighted lunges can provide an excellent lower-body workout, targeting the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. This combination allows you to develop both your lower body strength and your aerobic endurance, supporting your rowing ability.

Weighted lunges add an extra challenge to the standard lunge, requiring more power and effort from your leg muscles. You can perform this exercise with a pair of dumbbells, a barbell, or a weighted vest, depending on your preference and fitness level. As always, ensure proper form and balance to prevent injuries. This combined approach helps you optimize your rowing performance and build overall fitness.

Combine Rowing With Burpees

What Muscles Does Rowing Not Work

Combining rowing with burpees can elevate your overall physical conditioning, pushing your cardiovascular endurance to new heights. This explosive, full-body exercise targets your core, chest, and legs, offering an excellent complement to the predominantly upper-body workout of rowing. In addition, burpees can help improve your agility, coordination, and strength.

You can integrate burpees into your rowing workout as a high-intensity interval, which will not just increase your cardio health but also promote muscular endurance and caloric burn. Be sure to execute each burpee with proper form to avoid undue stress on your knees and back. Implementing this combined approach can lead to significant improvements in your rowing performance and total body fitness.

Combine Rowing With Swimming

Combining rowing with swimming can offer a whole-body, endurance-building workout while providing a welcome change of scenery and pace. Swimming involves all major muscle groups and can especially enhance your stamina and cardiovascular health, helping to boost your rowing performance. Different strokes target different muscles, offering a balanced workout that integrates well with your rowing routine.

This combination can also help reduce the impact on your joints due to its low-impact nature, making it an excellent option for cross-training. Moreover, swimming can improve your breathing technique, a vital aspect of maintaining rhythm and pace in rowing. Regardless of your swimming skill level, integrating it into your rowing routine can provide substantial benefits for your overall fitness and rowing performance.

Is A Rowing Machine Enough To Get Ripped?

The rowing machine can indeed help you get ripped, provided it is part of a properly structured workout routine and paired with a balanced diet. It targets and strengthens a variety of muscle groups including your arms, legs, back, and abs. Rowing also delivers a solid cardiovascular workout that burns calories and fat.

However, to maximize muscle definition, incorporating weight-training exercises and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with your rowing routine may provide better results. Additionally, it’s important to factor in adequate nutrition and recovery time to allow your muscles to grow and develop. It’s always recommended to consult with a fitness professional to create a personalized workout plan that suits your specific goals and needs.

Does Rowing Work All Muscles?

Rowing is a comprehensive full-body workout that engages almost all of your major muscle groups. It primarily targets the muscles in your back, arms, core, and legs. When you pull, you engage the muscles in your arms, shoulders, and back. The sliding movement works your core, thighs, and lower leg muscles.

At the same time, the action of bending and extending your knees utilizes your glutes and hamstrings. It is important to note that while rowing does work a wide range of muscles, the level of engagement for each muscle group can vary. For optimal muscle development and a balanced workout, it is advised to complement rowing with other forms of exercise that target different sets of muscles.

Will Rowing Help To Bulk or Cut?

Rowing can contribute to both bulking and cutting, depending on your workout plan and nutrition. For bulking, you would need to pair your intense rowing sessions with strength training exercises and a high-protein, high-calorie diet to build muscle mass. For cutting, rowing can serve as an effective cardio workout that burns calories and helps reduce body fat, especially when combined with a calorie-controlled diet.

What’s A Good Rowing Schedule?

A good rowing schedule will be one that aligns with your fitness goals and personal routine, taking into account your current fitness level and allowing for progression over time. For beginners, it might be optimal to start with three sessions of 15 to 20 minutes each week, gradually increasing the duration and intensity as your fitness level improves. For more advanced rowers, four to five sessions a week, ranging from 30 to 60 minutes each, could be more suitable. These sessions should ideally incorporate a mix of steady-state rowing, intervals, and variation in strokes to target different muscle groups and keep the workout challenging.

Why Do People Love Rowing?

People love rowing for a variety of reasons. It’s a full-body workout that strengthens many major muscle groups, promotes cardiovascular health, and can improve posture and flexibility. Many enjoy the rhythmic, meditative aspect of rowing, which can provide a mental break and reduce stress levels. The low-impact nature of rowing makes it accessible to individuals at various fitness levels and those with joint issues. For some, it’s the sense of challenge and personal mastery.


Rowing is a versatile and efficient workout that can significantly boost your fitness levels and performance when used correctly. From combining rowing with burpees and swimming to the potential of getting ripped and working all muscles, rowing offers an array of benefits. It’s potent for both bulking and cutting phases, offering a comprehensive training routine. However, like any fitness journey, it’s essential to pair it with a balanced diet and other forms of exercise.

FAQs: About What Muscles Does Rowing Not Work?

Is rowing good for weight loss?

Yes, rowing is an effective exercise for weight loss as it provides a high-intensity, full-body workout that burns a substantial amount of calories.

Can I use a rowing machine every day?

Yes, you can use a rowing machine daily, but it’s essential to listen to your body and ensure you’re getting enough rest to avoid overtraining.

Is it okay to row with a bad back?

While rowing can strengthen your back muscles, it’s important to use proper form to avoid further injury. If you have a bad back, you should consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise regimen.

Can rowing help me tone my abs?

Yes, rowing engages your core muscles significantly, which can help you tone and strengthen your abs. However, remember that a targeted plan that includes a balanced diet and additional core exercises can enhance abs development.

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