Strength Training for Rowing: What You Need To Know

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When it comes to exercise, rowing is one of the best forms out there. Rowing is regarded as one of the best exercises because it’s an intense cardio workout that also builds muscle.

In fact, rowing is the number one cardio exercise when it comes to muscle engagement. It really does engage virtually all of your muscles from top to bottom. That said, this does also mean that rowing is quite difficult.

If all of your muscles are being worked, then those muscles are going to all get tired. To prevent your muscles from getting tired after a few minutes of rowing, making sure that they are big and strong is key.

Of course, to grow muscle size, strength, and endurance, you need to do strength training. This is what we are here to do today, to talk about the best kinds of strength training for rowing.

We will cover the various muscles that are worked through rowing. We then want to talk about some of the best strength training for rowing to get those important rowing muscles in shape.

Which Muscles Does Rowing Work?

Before we can talk about various strength training exercises for rowing, we first need to know which muscles rowing involves. After all, if you want to improve in terms of rowing, you need to train the right muscles.

There are three main parts to rowing, or three main movements. There is the catch, the drive, and the finish.

The catch is when you are positioned at the front with your knees bent, when you first start pulling. This will engage a variety of muscles. This includes your deltoids, triceps, traps, abdominal muscles, hamstrings, lower back, and calves.

The second motion is the drive. This is when you pull with all of your might. This motion engages a very wide variety of muscles from top to bottom.

This includes your pecs, deltoids, traps, latissimus dorsi, upper back, biceps, and forearms. Then it also works your abdominal muscles. Moreover, this motion also works your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.

The last motion is the finish, which is when you use your core to stabilize yourself as you finish off the pulling motion.

This motion engages your abdominal muscles, the glutes and quads, your biceps and forearms, and your traps, delts, and lats. As you can see, rowing does really engage virtually all of your muscles.

Strength Training for Rowing – The Best Exercises

The fact of the matter is that there are many exercises you can do to build muscle for rowing. Right now, we want to cover the very best of these. Let’s help you build muscle and become a rowing machine.

1. Various Types of Weighted Rowing Exercises

If you want to do strength training for the rowing machine, then there’s nothing better than rowing with weight. Now, there are of course many different types of rowing exercises that can be done with weights.

The point here is that you want to increase the strength of your upper and lower back, your shoulders, your lats, and your traps.

All sorts of weighted rowing exercises will accomplish this. Take a quick look below for the best types of weighted row for this purpose. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive.

  • The rack row is a type of bent-over row that you use with a power rack. It features a limited range of motion and allows you to focus on muscle tension and pulling strength.
  • The seal row sees you lifting face down on a bench. You can use a barbell, trap bar, or dumbbells for this. Here, you lay face down and use only your back to lift the weights.
  • The inverted row also sees you laying face up under a barbell. Instead of rowing the bar to you, you lift yourself up to the bar.
  • The standing bent-over dumbbell row is a great way to train the upper back, shoulders, lower back, and more.
  • The prone dumbbell row is another great variation. This sees you laying on a bench with an incline of 45 degrees, facing down. You can also adjust your grip on the dumbbells to target specific areas.

2. Shoulder Flies

The shoulder fly is another excellent exercise that will help train your rowing muscles. The shoulder fly trains the rear deltoids or the back of the shoulders, the middle-upper back, and more.

Strong shoulders that can keep pulling for long periods are vital for your success as a rower. In terms of shoulder flies, as a beginner, you can just use a weight machine. As you increase your strength, try your hand at doing free weight shoulder flies with dumbbells.

Strength Training for Rowing

3. Lat Pulldowns

Rowing does also involve your lats to a large extent. Therefore, one of the best exercises you can do for this is the lat pulldown. We recommend starting with a basic lat pulldown weight machine.

You can also use cable machines. As your strength improves, you can then start doing some reverse grips pullups. These will train your lats, shoulders, and biceps, all of which are needed for rowing.

4. Various Core Exercises

You definitely need a strong core, lower back, and good abdominal muscles for prolonged periods of rowing. Here are some of the best core and ab exercises you can do for rowing.

  • Plank variations
  • Side planks
  • Push ups
  • Crunches (and crunch variations)
  • Russian twist
  • Turkish getup
  • Renegade row
  • Knee tucks
  • Bear crawls
  • Roll ups
  • Leg lifts
  • Bridge
  • Back extension

5. Various Leg Exercises

Yes, rowing does also use your legs to a large degree. This means that you want to do exercises to target your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Here are some great leg exercises for rowing.

  • Standing or seated calf raises
  • Elevated calf raises
  • Jump rope
  • Fire hydrant
  • Single leg step ups
  • Squats and squat variations
  • Glute bridge
  • Leg press
  • Leg extensions
  • Lunges and lunge variations
  • Side steps
  • Weighted walk

6. Bicep Exercises

You do also use your biceps when rowing, so doing a variety of curls will go a long way. There are many curl variations to try, including regular curl, seated curl, preacher curl, pinwheel curl, hammer curls, and more.

Strength Training for Rowing – Final Thoughts

There you have it folks, all of the best strength training exercises for rowing that you could possibly do.

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