Rowing machines are gaining popularity today as a new way to shred kilos. However, they mostly target the body as a whole instead of specific muscles. But do they help widen your shoulders?

Rowing will not help you develop broad shoulders. They function more like treadmills because rowing is actually a cardiovascular workout as opposed to muscle building.

Does Rowing Make Me Bulky?

There are many ways that rowing helps with your health but bulking up is not one of them. This is because rowing engages several muscle groups primarily the legs, the arms, and the core. More than anything however, rowing makes your heart beat faster, work up a good sweat, and generally burn body fat.

As a result, your body will lose fat and develop muscles in proportion with the rest of your body. This is unlike exercises that specifically broaden the shoulders such as the overhead press or barbell front raise.

Since any improvement in your muscles is proportional, it might take some time before the development becomes obvious to yourself. However, you can be sure that others around you will notice the slightly firmer and more noticeable muscles.

How Rowing Improves Your Body

As mentioned, if your goal is to broaden those shoulders and have an upper body like Captain America, rowing should not be your first choice. However, that doesn’t mean that you should skip rowing altogether. Even the best professional bodybuilders make time for cardio in their training, and rowing is a great way to do that!

Other than helping with weight loss, however, what other things can rowing do for you? Here are just some benefits of this exercise:

1. It Targets the Whole Body

We’ve mentioned this before but rowing demands the whole body to move and really builds up heat for a good burn. From the movement alone, it looks like it’s just your arms and legs doing all the work but the truth is that around 85% of your body is feeling the exercise.

This means that most of your upper and lower body are engaged in the workout. For comparison, running and biking engage less of the body – mainly just the lower portion. This means that you’re actually getting more of a workout with rowing than on a treadmill or a stationary bike.

2. It Helps the Core Muscles

Rowing helps improve core strength and improve your balance. This isn’t really surprising because rowing feels a lot like doing crunches. You can feel your core tightening with each rowing motion as you pull the cord towards your body.

At the same time, you have to tighten your glutes, hold that position, release, and then do it all over again. While rowing may not give you abs, it helps lay down the groundwork for one because a strong core lets you have more endurance for ab exercises.

3. High Intensity, Low Impact

Do you often experience joint pain after your workouts? Or maybe you’ve injured yourself on the treadmill? This happens because as the speed increases on the treadmill, the impact on your body also increases.

You can feel your knees or ankles buckle a little as you do your best to keep up with the movement of the treadmill. Pushing your body to meet the high intensity can easily lead to injuries which can delay your progress.

It’s a good thing this is not a problem with rowing. The joints remain at a relaxed position during the exercise – even with added weights! This ensures that you’re not putting unnecessary strain on your body while still getting your daily workout. However, the real benefit of this low-impact exercise is on those that are considered as morbidly obese.

Because of their excess weight, walking or jogging can actually be more harmful to their joints. Rowing doesn’t pose this problem and can help overweight people shed weight without causing more damage. Of course, keep in mind that the low-impact benefit is only possible if your posture is correct.

4. It Can Correct Posture

Speaking of posture – you can actually row your way into an improved stance. This is because the exercise compels you to maintain an upright position as you pull the weights towards you. This is not the kind of exercise that you can pull off with a slouched back as the motion forces you to widen and straighten your shoulders and tuck your lower back in.

To make the most out of the exercise, you should also learn to isolate your legs and really feel the drive as it moves from your legs to your glutes. Done correctly and repeatedly, you’ll find that even when not rowing, your shoulders naturally fall into place and your spine stays straight while standing or sitting.

5. It Doesn’t Make Sore Muscles Worse

A unique feature of rowing is that it’s a concentric exercise as opposed to an eccentric exercise. What’s the difference? Concentric exercises activate the muscles by shortening them. This is done through the pulling motion in a rowing machine. Eccentric movements are the opposite – they activate the muscles by lengthening it – just like squatting.

Injury during eccentric movements is very common because there’s a strong possibility of extending the muscles beyond what’s comfortable. However, this issue isn’t really present in concentric movements. If you’re already sore after a high-intensity workout, performing eccentric movements can make the pain worse but using concentric movements won’t produce this problem

6. Results Are Faster

Rowing really challenges the body and makes you perform something you’re not used to doing. There are very few real-world activities that engage the same movement as rowing does – which means that it feels completely brand new to your body. As a result, you’re going to see quicker results with the workout, primarily when it comes to weight loss.

Since the workout is so new, it can also take some time before you hit a plateau. Every session will feel different for your body so that you can continue burning fat – even if you’re just doing 15- or 30-minute sessions at a time.

7. You Can Change It As Needed

But what if your body has completely adjusted to the workout? Does that mean you need to switch to a different exercise machine? Not necessarily – rowing machines are very flexible nowadays. Just like treadmills, you can make adjustments in their intensity and resistance by simply adding to the weights of the machine for some low-intensity steady-state training or LISS.

Of course, you can also choose to go the other way for some HIIT. Studies have shown that HIIT workouts burn the most fat compared to any other routine today.

Combined with the fact that rowing engages 85% of your body, you can already tell that this will give you a more thorough workout than say, running or biking. If you’re also limited on time, rowing lets you make the most out of your 15 minutes in one session so that you still have time to do other things.

8. You Can’t Ride The Momentum

Have you ever ridden an exercise bike and taken a break for a few seconds while the pedals continue to spin? Have you ever felt like running on a treadmill is easier than running on the ground?

In both cases of using exercise equipment, the momentum is working in your favour. For example, the treadmill actually helps slide your feet across the tread so that you’re not pushing as much. This might sound like a good thing, but this momentum actually decreases the effectiveness of your workout. Essentially, the machine is taking some of the work from you.

Rowing is more basic when measuring the intensity of your workout. This is because there’s no momentum to speak of. If you stop moving, the rowing machine stops, too. This removes any opportunity for you to slack off or let the machine take some of the work. This makes your workouts more natural and as close to the real thing as possible.


To wrap it up, rowing won’t give you Captain America shoulders but it will give you pretty much everything else in terms of strength and stamina. By itself, rowing is already a satisfactory full-body routine that can help you go from strength to strength. Combined with others workouts, however, it’s a formidable tool in achieving a fit and healthy body.

1. Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?

Yes. Rowing is a cardiovascular workout that helps proportionally reduce fat in the entire body. You’ll find that as you perform the exercise more often, you’ll start to reduce fat in different body parts – including your belly.

2. Is 30 minutes on the rowing machine enough to see results?

Yes. Remember though that there are different factors to consider when measuring your improvement. As your body gets used to the exercise, you will find fewer changes in your physique. Once you hit a plateau, it’s best to switch up the intensity or add some variations to your exercise.