Does A Rowing Machine Work Your Abs? (Benefits For Core)

Just about everyone you've come across has longed for better looking abs at some point in their life. Unfortunately, abs are some of the hardest muscles to develop, which is why so many people are left longing for them.  

We all know about sit-ups and crunches and that to have abs, and that you need to eat a good diet, but what are some excellent home gym machines that work the abdomen muscles? 

If you've ever seen one in use or used one yourself, you know that a rowing machine provides an excellent full-body workout. From pushing off explosively with your legs and then pulling the handle toward your chest, you get an incredible workout for both your upper and lower body.  

But what about your abs? Does a rowing machine work your abs? We'll find out in the article below. 

A rowing machine is definitely good for building ab muscles. Rowers constantly engage your core with every stroke, and they provide you with a full-body, fat-burning workout. Many people don't see their abs because of a layer of fat on top of them, so fat-burning exercises are essential for a nice 6-pack. 

People also think their core is just the 6-pack, but it is much more than that. Your core wraps around your entire body and stabilizes your entire waist. So the motion you repeat over and over on the rowing machine strengthens your entire core, not just your abs. 

When you're sliding forward, at the end of each stroke, you work your abs like a sit-up, your lower back is engaged as you push back out. 

man flexing his abs and upper body

Benefits Of Ab Workouts Using A Rower  

Rowing Machines Help Burn Fat On The Entire Body 

Many people mistakenly believe that rowing machines only work the arms. However, rowers actually use 86% of your muscles, including your entire core. That means you will be burning fat and calories throughout your entire body while rowing, including that pesky belly fat that hides your abs. 

Improves Your Performance In Sports  

Sports typically require balance, stability, and core strength. Abdominal workouts on a rowing machine will provide you with core strength that will help you establish the balance and stability you need. 

Reduces Lower Back Pain

Weak abdominal muscles contribute to increased lower back pain. In addition, if your lower back muscles aren't strengthened, they become rigid in the joint areas and may lead to chronic lower back pain. 

Rowers target these back muscles and the spine, making them more flexible and less rigid, thus reducing lower back pain. 

Improves Posture & Stability  

Ab workouts on rowing machines strengthen the muscles around the spine and improve posture as the body's weight is correctly distributed. They will also enhance harmony between the muscles in the body that play significant roles in balance, posture, and stability. 

Improves Ability To Bear Weight  

Abdominal exercises that you perform on a rower will allow you to lift heavier weights. Someone with a strong, stable core can lift heavier weights without causing damage to the spine.  

Low Impact Exercise

Unlike treadmills and other cardio machines, rowing machines burn calories without putting additional stress on your joints. This is because you control the movement and pace, and you aren't pounding at your joints the entire time. Rowing machines are even recommended for people with early stages of osteoarthritis. 

man using a rowing machine

How Do I Get Abs With A Rower? (Tips To Engage Your Core)

To get sculpted abs with your rower, four critical steps have to be performed correctly. The steps are as follows: 

  1. 1
    Catch - Flex your abs and tighten your stomach as you lean forward when you're in the starting position. 
  2. 2
    Drive - When you push back on the foot pedal with your legs and pull the handle toward the upper part of your stomach, you should feel your core tighten as you slide into an upright position. 
  3. 3
    Finish - Lean your hips back slightly here. Your core should be keeping your upper body stable and keep you from leaning back too far. 
  4. 4
    Recovery - Use your abs to return to the catch position, leaning slightly forward. 

To get even more core toning power from these movements, sit back a bit when your legs are fully extended until you feel your abs shake. To work both sides of your midsection even more, pretend you're actually on a boat holding a paddle.

Alternate pulling it to the left and to the right between regular strokes to target your obliques and further strengthen your core with rowing. 

The rowing motion described in the four steps alone will help build core strength. Adding these core-specific strength-training moves will increase the toning power even further. 

man using a concept 2 rowing machine

Different Ab Exercises Using A Rowing Machine  

Rowing machines can deliver excellent ab workouts on their own. However, there are additional exercises you can perform with your rower without actually rowing. Here are a few: 

Ab Rollout  

To perform an ab rollout with your rower, start in plank position. Then carefully place your feet on the seat of the rower. You should now be in a full plank position with your feet on the seat of the rower. Now slowly pull your knees to your chest, and then return to the plank position and repeat. 

Mountain Climbers 

To do a mountain climber, get back in the plank position. Check your form; your hands should be shoulder-width apart, your back flat, your abs engaged, and your head in alignment. 

Now starting from the plank position, slowly lift your right foot off the seat and pull your right knee in towards your right armpit. Repeat on the left side. That's 1 rep.  

Obliques Using The Rower Seat 

To work your obliques, put both hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, and then stack your feet on top of each other on the rowing machine seat. Use your obliques to pull the seat close to your upper body. Release slowly and return to the starting position. 

Pike Push Up 

To do a pike push-up, place your feet on the rower and go into a push-up position. Keep your legs straight and bring the seat of the rower towards your midsection in a piking position. 

Also check out our guide to alternative exercises without using a rower.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What muscles get toned from rowing? 

Rowing machines work several muscles in the entire body. The main muscles it will strengthen are your hamstrings and quadriceps, glutes, the core muscles of your back and torso, biceps, triceps, and shoulders. 

How long should you workout on a rowing machine for your abs? 

A workout on your rowing machine that lasts around 20 minutes can give you a full-body burn that leaves you feeling good and helps sculpt your abs. 

Will using a rowing machine give me six-pack abs? 

Paired with a healthy diet and other healthy lifestyle choices, a rower will give you that coveted six-pack. It will also strengthen your upper back, pecs, arms, abs, obliques, quads, calves, and glutes. 


Rowing machines will provide you with an excellent full-body workout. Rowing machines will work everything from your shoulders all the way down to your calves. That includes those pesky ab muscles.

So if you're looking for an excellent machine that will help you get those six-pack abs, a rowing machine is just what you need. 

Last Updated on January 13, 2023

Paul J

Paul J

Paul J is is an ex-professional footballer who has seen a gym or two and is an expert at knowing what is required for home gym setups. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually going for a run in the park or out for coffee.