Rowing machines are a staple of home gyms and health clubs worldwide. A rowing machine mimics the rowing stroke, activating many key muscle groups while offering a low-impact workout.
There are many options when it comes to affordable rowing machines, but for those without a machine, there are many exercises that provide an alternative workout. Keep reading to find out some of the benefits of rowing and 8 substitute exercises you can perform without the machine.
Table of Contents
- Alternative To Rowing Machine: 8 Substitute Workouts You Can Do At Home
- Benefits Of Rowing Machine & Alternative Workouts
- How To Build Your Own Rowing Machine (DIY Homemade Rower)
- Common Rowing Machine Questions
Alternative To Rowing Machine: 8 Substitute Workouts You Can Do At Home
1. Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebells are a piece of versatile gym equipment that allows users to perform many different exercises. Kettlebell swings are a great exercise to improve cardiovascular health and burn calories.
Depending on the swinging motion, this exercise can provide a similarly targeted workout to the rowing machine. The following muscles are targeted: abs, shoulders, lats, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hamstrings.
To perform kettlebell swings, follow the steps below:
GGP Training Tip - To maximize each and every swing, make sure you lift with your glutes when bringing the kettlebell up to eye level.
Related Article - Benefits of Kettlebell Swings
2. Barbell/Squat rack Inverted Row
This exercise is the perfect muscle builder and preparation to start completing pull-ups. It only requires you to pull part of your body weight, rather than the whole. The barbell inverted row is a fantastic exercise to build back muscles and an excellent alternative to doing pull-ups and rowing.
The following muscles are targeted: lats, middle and lower back, and the rear deltoids. Depending on your hand grip, the biceps are also strongly activated.
To perform inverted barbell rows, follow these steps:
GGP Training Tip - To hit your rear delts and traps, use a wide grip and bring your lower chest up to the bar.
3. Dumbbell Bent Over Row
Dumbbell bent-over rows are an excellent muscle-building exercise for your back and also a great alternative to a rowing machine.
It works the same muscles to reap the same health and fitness benefits. Bent over rows target the shoulders, upper arms, chest, core, and back muscles.
To perform dumbbell bent-over row, follow the steps below:
GGP Training Tip - You can also stabilize yourself using a weight bench and perform this exercise iso-laterally to fix any muscle imbalances.
Read Also - Barbell Row Vs Dumbbell Row
4. Dumbbell Thruster
The dumbbell thruster workout is a compound exercise that uses the overhead press and front squat. It's a great dumbbell alternative to rowing. Its progressive nature is great for beginner athletes, as it is easy to learn the movement pattern.
But it has enough difficulty for advanced lifters to present a challenge.
Dumbbell thrusters use the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core muscles, shoulders, triceps, and back muscles.
To perform dumbbell thrusters:
GGP Training Tip - This exercise build explosive power in the legs and glutes. Make sure you explode up through your heels to maximize results.
See Also - Best Single Dumbbell Exercises
5. Resistance Band Deadlift
A resistance band is a must-have as part of your gym equipment. They are compact, easy to store, and offer a great variety of exercises for a full-body workout. As its name suggests, a resistance band deadlift is similar to a weighted deadlift. This exercise is a great alternative workout when you don't have access to typical gym machines. This exercise is great for the glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors.
To perform resistance band deadlifts, follow the steps below:
GGP Training Tip - It's best to go with high reps for this resistance band movement. It allows your muscles to start firing immediately and can help you with other compound lifts.
Further Reading - Best Deadlift Alternative Exercises
6. Barbell Upright Row
Barbell upright row is a training exercise that works the upper back, middle back, core, and biceps. With the same movements of a rowing machine except standing, it works the upper back with its upright row movement and the middle back with its push-pull movement.
To perform barbell upright rows, follow the steps below:
GGP Training Tip - Don't go too heavy on this movement. While it may feel like you can lift a ton of weight, most of the time, you will sacrifice form to do so.
7. Kettlebell High Pull
Another exercise that uses the versatile kettlebell is a high pull. A kettlebell high pull is a full-body exercise, which helps in developing strength, endurance, power, and explosiveness.
The weight choices of a kettlebell allow you to modify the intensity of your workout. You can change the weight by choosing the one that best suits your fitness level. The following muscles are targeted: adductors, shoulders, quadriceps, glutes, traps, and hamstrings.
To perform kettlebell high pulls:
GGP Training Tip - Make sure you squeeze at the top to make sure you activate your deltoid muscles before lowering the kettlebell.
Read Also - Kettlebells Vs Barbells
8. Seated Cable Row
A seated cable row is the most similar alternative exercise without a rowing machine. This exercise may be performed using a cable machine. It mimics the motions of rowing and the core and back muscles that you need to perform the exercise. The seated cable row is great for targeting the forearms, biceps, lats, traps, and upper back muscles.
To perform seated cable rows:
GGP Training Tip - Keep in mind, the seated cable row can be performed using many different attachments to engage different parts of your back. Try a few out to see which one works best for you!
Benefits Of Rowing Machine & Alternative Workouts
How To Build Your Own Rowing Machine (DIY Homemade Rower)
If you are on a budget or have space constraints at home, it is possible to replicate and create your rowing machine for less than $100 using simple materials you may already have lying about.
Having a rowing machine at home can take up a lot of valuable space. With a DIY row machine, you can easily pack it up and reassemble it easily when it’s time to work out.
For anyone looking to get a light workout or improve their form, a DIY rowing machine is the best tool for the job. It's excellent for beginners to learn the basics of rowing and use an affordable model to get a feel for the motion, all while using a device that takes up little space in a home.
However, this DIY rowing machine is not for experienced rowers due to its weight limitations.
How To Assemble
Common Rowing Machine Questions
What are the main muscles rowing works?
A rowing machine offers users a full-body workout, engaging muscles simultaneously in your lower body, core, and upper body. In your lower body, your quadriceps and glutes are activated when your legs push off the footpad. The row motion engages your deltoids and lats in your upper body and abdominal muscles in your core.
Further Reading - Rowing Machine Muscles Worked
How much does it cost to make your own rowing machine?
If you have a small budget to create your gym equipment, a rowing machine would be a good choice. The motion of rowing is easily replicable using very basic materials that can be sourced easily and affordably. The cost of making your rowing machine can vary between $80-$120, depending on what you already have and the quality of material you want to get.
Also see - Rowing machines under $500
Is running better than rowing for cardio?
Rowing and running are both fantastic exercises for building cardio. While running burns a little more calories than rowing, it is a high-impact sport that may not be suitable for everyone. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, rowing will be a better option.
Read Also - Rowing Vs Running
Is rowing on water better than using a rowing machine?
The motion of rowing is similar whether on water or using a machine, both achieving a full-body workout. Getting out into nature and rowing on a body of water is great but not accessible to most due to location, affordability, or storage.
A rowing machine is the ultimate full-body workout, delivering a complete cardiovascular workout with minimal joint impact.
If you don't have access to or can't afford this fancy exercise equipment, you don't need to worry — there are plenty of alternative exercises without a rowing machine that can be performed to target the same muscle groups and improve your cardiovascular health.
Last Updated on May 18, 2023