Training with the rowing machine: This is how rowing becomes an effective full-body workout

The rowing machine is ideal for efficient full-body training – but only if it is used properly. That is why you should know what to look for during training and which muscles are being used. Only in this way can everyone achieve the best results for themselves.


Which muscles does the rowing machine train?

Rowing is one of the few sports that uses almost all muscle groups and trains strength, endurance, coordination, circulation and the heart. 

All main muscle groups are trained:

  • Shoulder muscles
  • Arm muscles (biceps, triceps, finger muscles)
  • Back muscles (trunk)
  • Abdominal muscles (upper, side and lower abdominal muscles, chest muscles)
  • Glutes
  • Leg muscles (thigh, knee, lower leg, calf and foot muscles)

The focus is on the large back muscle (latissimus), which lies below the shoulder blades along the entire length of the spine, the trapezius muscle, which lies between the shoulder blades and the lower back. Pushing off with the legs also puts a lot of strain on the thighs and calves.

What should I look out for when doing rowing machine training?

First of all, it is important to be in the correct position when rowing. Above all, make sure that you are in an upright position and never bend your lower back too much backwards or forwards: When moving, the straight upper body should not be inclined more than ten degrees forward. It is best to fix a certain point on the wall with your eyes when exercising, this ensures good posture. To prevent your feet from slipping off during the exercise, you should always tighten the foot straps. The hips form a line with the knees and feet: make sure that the hip bones are at the same height, the knees are not turned inwards or outwards and the feet are firmly on the footboard. 

You don’t necessarily have to stretch before exercising, but you should slow down the movements initially so that your body gets used to them. After rowing, however, stretching exercises help to relax the muscles again. 

Common mistakes on the rowing machine

The most common mistake when training on the rowing machine: Instead of an upright posture, the body easily lapses into a hunched back while the head is pushed forward. This causes back pain and tension does not relieve. That is why you should – especially as a beginner – consciously make sure that your upper body is kept straight. It also helps to start with less weight until you internalize the technique, and then build up from there.

Another beginner’s mistake is stretching your elbows outward and pulling your shoulders up. The body tenses up automatically. Instead, you should bend your elbows and pull your shoulder blades together behind your back with the pulling motion.

When rowing, it comes down to fluid movements, not forceful tearing and letting go. The rowing rod is pulled powerfully towards the body and then brought back again, and there is never a complete loosening and re-application of the force.

How do I train properly?

If you carry out the process a few times with concentration, you will internalize it relatively quickly: You start by pushing off with your legs. Then lean your upper body back slightly. Only then do you pull your arms towards your body and your shoulder blades together behind your body. Back to the starting position, do the movements in reverse: first stretch your arms, then lean your upper body forward and finally bend your legs again. With a little practice, these steps merge and the movements become smoother.

Beginners should do about 20 beats per minute – for at least 15 minutes, three times a week. You should always take a day off between training sessions. As with all sports, the same applies here: Do not overuse yourself. Start slowly and increase the intensity as you exercise, before slowing down again towards the end. Don’t forget to stretch your muscles afterwards!

What rowing machines are there?

You can find rowing machines in almost every gym. They differ mainly according to their resistance systems:

If you want to buy your own rowing machine, it is worthwhile to take a test in the gym and speak to an experienced trainer. It is important for a healthy training that you can adapt the device individually, preferably continuously. The resistance should be changeable, the oar strokes should be displayed and a clock with timer should be available.

Calorie Consumption And Other Benefits

Since rowing uses so many different muscles, the calorie consumption is also comparatively high. On average, you burn between 400 and 800 kcal in a one-hour strength training session – depending on the load and intensity. 

Unlike many other sports, rowing is largely possible without the risk of injury. The steady movements put only little strain on the joints and fortunately there is no risk of a boat collision in the living room. As a result, there are usually only small skin abrasions on the hands or blistering. 

The training improves endurance and blood circulation, the ability to coordinate is increased and important risk factors such as lack of exercise, obesity, high blood pressure and metabolic diseases are reduced. Rowing also promotes mental strength and reduces stress – whether on the water or in the living room.



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