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Rowing Machine Abs Benefits

rowing machine abs benefitsI get asked a lot of questions about rowing machine abs benefits.

Mainly, asking if rowing is a great workout for building better abs.

While I always had my personal opinion based on how a rowing machine effected me, I decided to dig into this question deeper.

I wanted to truly see how a rowing machine benefits abs.

I started by reaching out to different beginner rowers and asking them what specific questions they had about abs and rowing.

The two questions they came up with were:

  • “Can you get a flat, toned stomach or 6 pack from rowing?”
  • “What technique or exercises must be done to achieve it?”

Without a doubt rowing can and will burn fat from around your mid section. It does so by supplying a full-body workout that can burn up to 800 calories an hour.

Throughout the rowing stroke your core and abs are engaged but the real debate is on whether abs are a primary muscle used while rowing or a secondary muscle that doesn’t receive much attention.

While most rowers agree the abs are slightly more of a secondary muscle used, I have compiled a list of ways to fully engage your core while rowing.

Plus, I also give various exercises to supplement with your rowing workout that will undoubtedly get you the 6 pack abs you desire.

Do Rowing Machines Benefit Abs?

The answer to the question is without-a-doubt YES. A rowing machine benefits abs by constantly engaging the core throughout every rowing stroke and being a full-body fat burning workout.

A person will not see their abs unless they get rid of the layer of fat on top of them! So the best machine for getting a toned stomach is one that will build stronger abdominal muscles and burn the most fat…..A.K.A. a rowing machine!!

2 Major Reasons Rowing Machines Benefit Your Abs

So remember, the 2 main reasons why using a rowing machine can benefit your abs are:

  1. Rowing Machines help burn fat on the entire body.
  2. To perform a proper rowing stroke you must engage your core.

These two reasons alone prove that rowing machines hugely benefit your abs and can be used to get your ideal stomach.

Rowing Machine Muscles Used

The picture above shows all the muscles used during a rowing machine stroke. You can also read my article about the different muscles used while rowing to get a more in-depth perspective.

As you can see from the picture, the abdominals are a major muscle group used in a rowing stroke.

Just imagine sitting on the ground with your feet out straight. Then lean back and lean forward. You will feel your abs engage during this motion. This is essentially what is performed during a rowing stroke, with the added support of other muscle groups due to the foot rests and rowing handle.

In this article by Concept2, they explain how your abdominals are engaged throughout each phase of the rowing stroke. Proof from the creators of the best rowing machine on the market that your abdominals receive huge benefits from rowing!

Below I will explain how to make sure you are properly engaging your core while rowing. I will also provide some supplemental exercises to perform to really get those abs burning.

How to Properly Engage Your Abs While Rowing

A lot of rowers may not get the flat stomachs they desire because they simply aren’t performing a rowing stroke properly. In order to have proper form, you must be engaging your core throughout the stroke.

In the previously mentioned article by Concept2, the author noted that your abdominals should either be flexed, engaged (tight), or stabilizing the body in every step of the rowing stroke.

Here is a breakdown of what your core and abs should be doing in each step of the rowing stroke.

The Catch

Abdominals should be engaged and flexing your torso forward.

Rowing Machine Abs Catch

The Drive

As you drive with your legs and pull the handle to your upper abdomen, your entire upper body should be engaged.

You should feel your abs being tightened in order to keep an upright posture.

Rowing Machine Abs Drive

The Finish

As you finish and your back has a slight backward lean, your abs should be stabilizing your body and slowing down the momentum of your body swinging backwards.

Rowing Machine Abs Finish

The Recovery

As you recover back to the Catch position your abs will flex the torso forward and become engaged back at the starting position.

Rowing Machine Abs Recovery

Now that you know what your abs should be doing and feel like during each phase of the rowing stroke, we can talk about some key things to focus on while rowing.

While reading an article by the Daily Burn about 6 mistakes made on a rowing machine, I realized most of the mistakes were corrected by properly engaging your core.

So engaging your core while rowing really kills two birds with one stone. It helps you perform a more proper rowing stroke, while simultaneously working out your abs and core.

Here are a few tips I pulled from the article mentioned above:

Do Not Row With Just Your Arms

A lot of rowers put too much emphasis on pulling the handle with all their strength. This is not the proper way to perform a rowing stroke and can lead to many injuries.

To help fix this problem, rowers should remind themselves that 60% of rowing should come from pushing with your legs, 20% from bracing your core, and 20% from pulling with your arms.

Keep Your Back Straight Throughout Your Stroke

When rowing, your back should not be rounded or hunched over but should instead be erect and straight.

To fix a rounded back, rowers should focus on sitting up straight and having their core’s engaged. It is difficult to hunch over with your abs slightly tightened. Your shoulders should also be pulled back and not caved forward.

Do Not Rush Your Row

If your butt keeps slamming into the front of the rower or your body is jerking around uncontrollably, then you are probably rushing your row.

Remember that a rowing stroke should be a ratio of 1:2, meaning your recovery should be twice as long and your drive.

When you are in transition from Drive to Finish and Recovery to Catch,try to focus on engaging your core to control your deceleration and remain under control.

Keep Your Hands and Feet Connected

If you are not keeping your hands and feet connected it means your rear is shooting out ahead of your body. You will then have to pull quickly to get your top half to catch up with your butt.

Again, to fix this problem you will need to keep your core engaged throughout the row. Anytime during the rowing stroke you should be able to stop and be in a strong, sturdy position.

Add A Slight Lean to Your Finish

One final tip that can really improve your abdominal workout while rowing is something that requires a little trial and error.

Some rowers will say this is improper form and is a less efficient way to row. However, in my opinion, if you are only rowing for health benefits then I see no reason why it can’t be performed.

The movement I am referring to is during the Finish phase of the rowing stroke. During this phase your torso is leaning slightly back with the handle pulled to your lower chest. Your core should have been engaged to control your deceleration and is ready to flex into the Recovery phase.

To add an extra “crunch” to your abs, you can over-emphasize The Finish and lean a little further back than normal (see picture below). This will require you to flex your abs more to go into the Recovery phase, thus getting a better ab workout.

I would work into this slowly and only increase your lean slightly every workout until you reach a comfortable position. Having too much of a lean can cause injury, so you must be careful!

Please see the picture for a good demonstration of a “slight extra lean”. By adding this extra crunch you could potentially be adding 600 crunches to your workout!!!! (30 minute workout at 20 SPM)

Rowing-Machine-Abs-Lean           Rowing-Machine-Abs-Benefit-Lean

Does Rowing Machine Work Abs?

Yes, rowing machine workouts work your abs. And the results of this are ripped abs. In addition to working your arbs, working out on your home rowing machine also trains your upper back, pecs, and arms. Also, it works your obliques since rowing works up to 35% of your upper body.

You can also expect your home rowing machine to work up to 75% of your lower body. More specifically, it works your quads, glutes, and calves. So, that means you can achieve a full-body workout when using a rowing machine to work out. And your workout results improve even further as you gain more rowing experience.

Is Rowing Machine Good for Abs?

Yes, a rowing machine is good for your abs since it strengthens them. It can be the ultimate abs machine you need to muscle up your midsection. Usually, hopping on your home rowing machine and using it a few minutes daily will work your abs. Besides, up to 35% of the muscles worked are in your upper body.

Besides strengthening your abs, rowing does the same for your pecs, arms, and obliques. Even if you have a rowing machine, you can still develop your abs using non-rowing workouts.

And the best part is you can still target your midsection without rowing and still have well-defined abs. So, you want to be in a plank position to work your abs on your rowing machine. Usually, you will rest your feet on your rower’s seat with your hands on the floor.

Also, you want to ensure your shoulders are above your wrists and your spine long, not to mention your belly button lifted in and up – this is how you start.

The Starting Point

Then you want to pike your butt up, which requires you to move the seat towards your hands. And you will use your abs to do the entire thing.

When performing this move, you want to ensure you’ve stacked your hips above the shoulders. And you will keep your palms firmly planted on the floor because you will need plenty of support for stability.

The Returning Point

After you’ve stacked your hips above your shoulders, you want to return to the starting point or position. So, you will move in reverse slowly and with great control. You want to do this exercise 10 times.

Pull Your Knee Towards Your Armpit

Once you’re back to the starting position, you want to lift your right foot off the rower’s seat. Then pull this foot forward towards your right armpit.

You will take it back and rest it on the seat. And repeat the entire move but this time around, with your left foot. Also, you want to perform this move 10 times.

Do Some Push-Ups Too

You can also incorporate a few push-ups between the pikes and controlled mountain climber workouts. Then you can repeat the moves as many times as you can. And this is how you acquire and maintain abs on a rowing machine using a non-rowing workout.

Different Rowing Machine Abs Exercises

Now that we know how to keep our core engaged while rowing we can be assured that each workout will give us the maximum amount of ab benefits.

To be able to really focus on your abs and get that desired 6 pack, you can incorporate a lot of different exercises with a rowing machine.

Check out the videos below of different workouts. Feel free to get creative after you get used to these workouts and come up with some of your own!

Feel free to post any new workouts in the comments below :)

1. Ab Rollout with Rower

  • Rowing seats can be used like an ab roll-out wheel to strengthen your abs and core.
  • You can put your feet on a Bosu Balance Trainer, 65cm - Blue or a platform if you choose.Rowing Machine Ab Roll Out

2. Mountain Climbers with Pushup

  • A great rowing machine ab exercise is 2 legged mountain climber with a pushup.
  • This is my favorite exercise to supplement with rowing as it is also a full body workout.
  • There are a lot of variations to do with this workout such as just doing mountain climbers, mountain climbers focusing on the obliques, and pikes.
  • See the videos below for more examples.Rowing Machine Ab Mountain Climber

3. Obliques, Pikes, and Variations

What Is Your Rowing Machine Fitness Level?

Your rowing machine fitness level should be 3 to 5, especially if you’re a beginner. Rowing machines using air resistance usually have a damper setting from 1 to 10. A lower damper setting of 1 usually creates low air resistance for easier workouts.

But a higher damper setting produces a higher air resistance for an increased workout challenge. Since rowing machine users have different fitness levels, they will set the damper at various levels.

If you’re a beginner, you want to range the damper setting from 3 to 5. If you want to row for extended periods, set the damper at 3. Besides, setting the damper to 3 gears you up for more challenging rowing sessions.

But if you want shorter rowing sessions, set the damper at 5. More often than not, your fitness level will require you to use damper settings ranging from 3 to 5.

Are Rowing Machines Good for Strength Training?

Yes, rowing machines are good for strength training. Usually, you can adjust the damper setting for a heavier pull. Increasing the tension requires more effort. As a result, you will work your muscles and strengthen them.

One body part that benefits from the intense workout is your back. You exercise the upper back muscles as you shift your body back and forth when pulling. As a result, you will have a strengthened upper back.

Besides strengthening muscles in your upper back, rowing works major muscles in your arms and legs. Also, it strengthens muscle groups in your core. So, if you’d love to strengthen your midsection, a rowing machine will help you achieve your goal.

Since rowing machines build key muscle groups in your core, upper, and lower body, they are good for strength training. Therefore, consider adding rowing as a workout routine in your daily exercises.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this article on rowing machine abs benefits very informative! I also hope it allows you to get the body and workout you desire!

Getting toned abs is never easy and it won’t happen overnight. Just remember to keep exercising everyday and eating healthy.

Plus, incorporate that rowing machine into your 6-pack ab plan!

Please ask any questions below in the comments and I will be more than happy to help :) If you know of any other great ab exercises for rowing machines please share!!!

Recommended Reading

Rowing Machine Muscles Used

How to Prevent Rowing Machine Butt Pain?

How Long Should You Row on a Rowing Machine?

The Ultimate Guide to Rowing Machine Back Pain


  1. Hello
    I am 60 years old wome. I do get pain in below the ribs when i do swimming.
    I also get hamaroids by pushing more on spin classes.All this made me do no exercise.put on more kilos now.
    I need to loose 20 kg in order to get out of borderline diabetis.
    can i row and do tummy exercises on rowing machine with out any one looking my form ?

    1. Hi Mallika,

      Yes, you can use rowing to lose the weight and I think it’s a great idea. Just watch some form videos on YouTube, set the rower to the easiest setting, and practice everyday.

      I’m sure you will be glad you started once you get used to it!

  2. Thanks for the information. I’m 42 and I have crohns. I’ve been looking for something to keep me in shape and I think I found it.

      1. Hi so the concept 2 is delayed in shipping
        I bought the Exterra ERG220 from Dick’s for the mean time. Can I do all the same activities on here and in your opinion is it sufficient?

        1. You can definitely do all the same activities. It’s not going to be the same as the Concept2 but you may find it’s all you need. The Concept2 is ~$950 compared to this model at ~$300 – so there are going to be some quality improvements and rowing stroke enhancements with the additional cost. The Concept2 will also have a far more advanced monitor which some people like so you can really compare workouts and track accurate data.

    1. Hi
      I’m 41 and I won’t to get rid of my stomach area fat. Will using a rolling machine help me shed fat off that section?

  3. Edwin Thank you so much for this information. I never thought you could do more than rowing with a rowing machine. I am 62 year old woman that just started working out with a rowing machine. I can tell already it will do more for me then my treadmill ever did and now with your tips it will do more than just a rowing machine. I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for giving your time and asking nothing in return.

    Thank you
    Rachel in VA.

  4. Thank you for your post. I am starting a fashion and fitness blog and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE rowing. I found your info very helpful. I was going to link to your post. Thank you.


    1. Hi Holly,

      I would really consider consulting with your doctor. I’m not in a position to be able to give medical advice.

      If you sat on the floor with your feet straight out and leaned forward and backwards, this would be a similar feeling of strain on your abs with rowing.

  5. Dear Edwin;
    I am a 70 woman who has owned my Concept 2 for two years. I seem to suffer from an acute lack of stict-to-it-tivness. I will work on my rower consistently for a while and then drift away for the next six months, come back and do it again.

    I broke my ankle March 12 and the doctor just gave me permission to go back to using my rowing machine. My physical being is pretty much gone from almost a total lack of use.

    My question is how do I know which number to set the dial at? Originally I just left it on the number that it came on which was like a 2 but then I read that it should be higher but how do I know exactly how much higher?

    Thank you for being kind enough to help out folks like me.

    Have a GREAT DAY!

    Sincerely yours,
    Karen Olesen

    1. Hi Karen!

      Thank you for reaching out! I think the best article for you to read is right on the Concept2 website. It is their damper 101 article.

      Most people set it around 5 but it really depends on what type of workout you are looking for. This article should help explain it better!

      Let me know if you need anything else!

  6. I love my rowing machine I was size 14 when I started to use it in March. It’s the end of June and I’m a size 8! I Just open my window and enjoy nature while listening to music and working out. It’s very relaxing. I enjoy the movement and once you get used to it it feels great. I can easily be in mine for over an hr.

    1. Hi Annette,

      Thank you for reaching out! It’s great to hear you’ve had so much success with the rowing machine!

  7. I have a lot of fat to get rid of around my tummy and all over really would a Rower be good to do that and how long should I be on it for I would be on it every day during the week Monday to Friday so how long for a day please get back thankyou

    1. Hi Tracey,

      Yes, the rowing machine is great for losing weight. It has helped a lot of people transform their bodies: Check out some results here

      The first thing you need to do is get started! Start rowing about 20 minutes per day and see how you feel. You can adjust up or down based on how your body responds. The key to losing weight is a healthy diet (most important) and consistent exercise.

      It’s much better to work out 10 minutes everyday (and you will almost always do more) than to set your expectations too high and then stop after a month.

      Hope that helps and good luck!!

  8. Just wanted to say “Thank You” for sharing this information! I found it extremely helpful! Its detailed but not complicated and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m 62 and getting back to the gym to tone & lose some weight around my tummy (that seems to keep collecting & NOT wanting to go away). I eat healthy & I’m sure now with your tips I can get it off!! Again Thank You for sharing!!

    1. Thank you for the kind words Peggy! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and glad to hear you are ready to get into great shape!!

  9. Great read Edwin. Rowing machines dug out and set up ready to go!!

    What training regime should I be looking at.. what show l I start of with? 10 mins?? And what timescale should I progress with each day. If you could suggest a guidance that would be appreciated. Thanks

    1. Hi Sammie! That’s great to hear and thank you for the kind words!

      I really think listening to your body is the best indicator of how hard to push yourself. Starting off with 10 minutes sounds about right but if you want to do more then go for it!

      It’s hard to give guidance because there are so many variables when working out. You may be doing “stead-state” workouts or maybe “HIIT” exercises. (I would research both if you don’t know what they are). I think the most important thing is to have fun so that you want to come back and row the next day!

  10. Should I be contracting my ab muscles as I row? I don’t want to develop an outward curved ab area! I heard that can happen if you don’t hold in your abs as you row. Is this true?

    1. Hi Susan – Yes, you should be engaging your core while you row. It’s not a full-on 100% engagement but probably in the 25% range. This is similar to running, where most people don’t realize that you should be engaging your core to maintain proper form.

      I have not heard of the curved ab issue – Please link to the article if you have it!

      1. It’s the condition called asdiastasis recti where the connective tissue between the ab muscles separates and causes the pooching out of the abdomen.

        1. This is out of my area of expertise whether or not this would happen but I assume if you are engaging your core you should be fine! Engaging your core also helps to keep proper form and keeps your spine in alignment

  11. Edwin,
    Thank you so much for this article! It is informative, well written and easy to follow. I gifted myself a rowing machine two days ago and can now look forward to my full body workout!

  12. Thanks for the post. If I row it for 45 mins a day for 5000meters, is it too slow? What’s the time that I should target for? Thanks

    1. Hi Winnie – there are so many different ways to train that there is really no optimal speed. I would go with what your gut is telling you and whatever you find most enjoyable. You can even switch it up and row hard one day and easy the next.

      There are countless studies that show exercising slowly (under a zone 2 heart rate) can be much better for burning fat and building an aerobic base. So there are benefits to going slow! I would do some research on “HIIT” training and “Zone 2” training and see which you like better :)

  13. I’m getting a rowing machine for Christmas.. I’ve been reading a lot about how to properly use it.. Your article has given me more info and extras than any other. Thank you.. At 69 years old I need to tone my entire body but mostly trim my stomach area down.. I will try all your advice..

  14. Thank you for such a fantastic article. After thinking of buying one for a couple of months – you have truly inspired me and I have just ordered one! Thank you so much again, and for making me a healthier person 🥰

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