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Cardio Fitness

What Muscles Do Row Machines Work?

So, what muscles do row machines work? Find the answer to this question and more here in our latest blog post. Read now!

Published: 7/25/19

What Muscles Do Row Machines Work

Unless you have participated in one of our Team Training sessions, you may not even know what an indoor rowing machine looks like. The indoor rowing machine lives in the cardio section of most gyms. It is low to the ground with a sliding seat, foot straps, and a cable attached to a handlebar. That cable is usually resting on a cylinder filled with water at the front of the cardio machine. Sounds a little different, right? Right. The rower is one of the best cardio exercise machines and can give you an incredible low-impact, full-body cardio workout. This machine forces you to use your arms, legs, and core to complete every single row and has a significant number of benefits. But, what muscles do row machines work? Let’s find out here.

Anatomy of a Row

To complete a rowing motion with perfect form, you should know how to create the best possible rowing movement. To break this down, we want to talk about the components of a row. A perfect rowing motion has three main ingredients: the catch, the drive, and the recovery. Each of these components works for different parts of your body and its core muscles. We are going to elaborate on this for you, but remember as you are reading that all three of these make one complete row. So the core muscles listed all compile to be one entire row’s worth of muscles worked. We think you will be pretty intrigued by this cardio exercise.

The Catch 

The catch is at the very beginning of every row. In this position, you are holding onto the handle with your knees bent as you sit straight up near the front of the air rower. Your arms will stretch out beside either side of the knee as you hold the bar near your shins in front of you. This part of the rowing workout works your lower back, hamstrings, and calves. With this movement, you want to make sure to keep a straight back, with your shoulders away from your ears, your legs bent in towards your chest, and your feet pressed down onto the foot pads. Make sure that your feet are strapped in at the widest part of your foot, and then get ready for the next part of the aerobic exercise.

The Drive

The drive is the middle part of the row where you are pulling the cable back towards you. This part of the full body workout engages your lats, pectoral muscles, trapezius, deltoids, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, abdominals, lower back, and even your wrists—wow, that’s a lot of muscle mass! To perform this movement correctly, make sure that you are using your legs in the beginning, to push back. Then, in the middle of the movement—when you feel a little resistance on the cable—use your abs and arms and pull the cable back, keeping the cable level with the front of the machine as you finish the movement. It can be a little tricky to get used to this at first, but—remember—form is essential. Go slow, don’t rush the process, and make sure that you have proper form with every aerobic exercise that you do to prevent injury. We love this video, which goes over the rowing technique in an easy-to-learn way. 

The Recovery 

The recovery is where you complete the movement by pulling the bar all the way to your body, and heading back to the catch. Again, keep your cable level with the front of the cardio machine, then, in a controlled manner, return to the start (the catch) and begin all over again. If you feel your arms dipping lower than they went on your drive, try and adjust back to the level position. You want to make sure that you are engaging your leg muscles during this movement and keeping good posture so as not to hunch your back when you go forward. This action works your lower back, wrists, hamstrings, quadriceps, abdominals, chest, shoulders, back, biceps, and triceps. Again—wow. What is there not to love about this full body workout? Many rowers call the full movement the Push, Swing, Pull. Meaning that you push back with your legs, swing back with your core, pull with your arms, and then return to start in a controlled manner.

If you are a beginner to rowing machines, or even a seasoned air rower and want to learn more about proper rowing stroke form with the assistance of a Coach, try out one of our Team Training classes where we use the row machine for cardiovascular fitness during some of the workout routines. A Coach will be there to correct your form to help you prevent injury, and to motivate you to push yourself to increase your endurance during your row. Rowing is a great low-impact workout to try, so don’t be scared. You can also come into any of our Chuze locations to try out a rowing machine in the cardio section and get to work! The row machine benefits are endless. We can’t wait to see you at the location nearest you soon.

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