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The Power of the Rowing Machine: A Total-Body Workout


Can a rowing machine provide a full-body workout for individuals looking to improve fitness?

The Power of the Rowing Machine: A Total-Body Workout
A group of people exercise in the gym using a rowing machine together. A side view of a sportswoman exercising on a rowing machine in a CrossFit center. A muscular girl and a sporty man are working out on a training simulator at a CrossFit gym.

Rowing Machine

Today, rowing machines are widely recognized as effective fitness tools. They can be found in gyms, fitness centers, physical therapy, and sports rehabilitation clinics. Rowing is low-impact, allowing control of movement and pace, and is recommended for active recovery. It’s sometimes recommended as an exercise for individuals with early stages of osteoarthritis.


The benefits include:

  • Rowing is a total-body workout that strengthens major muscle groups in the arms, legs, and core and increases cardiovascular endurance.
  • The upper and lower body are used on every stroke.
  • Strengthens and tones the muscles.
  • Rowing burns significant calories without placing added stress on the joints.
  • Improves endurance and heart and lung health.

Cardiovascular Fitness

Rowing is a rare exercise that involves power and endurance. It is an aerobic exercise that increases the body’s heart rate and oxygen, improving cardiovascular fitness. (Hansen RK, et al. 2023) Through continuous, rhythmic movement, which increases oxygen utilization, rowing enhances the heart and lungs’ ability to supply oxygen to the body and works on muscular endurance.

Full-Body Workout

A rowing workout is a comprehensive full-body workout that simultaneously works multiple body areas and muscle groups, specifically the arms, back, core, and legs. The motion moves major muscle groups through the full range of motion, promoting flexibility and muscle tone improvements that are great for individuals with trouble with weight-bearing exercises like running. Rowing can also improve physiological markers, depending on the intensity of the workout and the heart rate zone maintained.


Rowing is a low-impact exercise, making it easier on joints and suitable for individuals with joint concerns or those looking for a joint-friendly workout. The workout engages the largest muscles in a low-impact way with no pounding on the joints or excessive rotation.

Burns Calories

Rowing can be an efficient way to burn calories. Its cardiovascular and resistance training combination makes it an effective tool for weight management and weight loss. Alternating between higher and lower intensities can enhance calorie burning during and after the exercise session from excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), also known as the afterburn effect. (Sindorf, M. A. G. et al., 2021)

Improves Posture

Maintaining a healthy posture offers numerous benefits, such as improving breathing ability, aiding in digestion, and preventing injuries. (Kim D, 2015) Rowing can be an effective workout that enhances postural strength and awareness and reduces back pain risks. Proper spine activation is necessary for efficient rowing, which also helps to pull the shoulders back. The hip flexors help to lengthen during the drive phase while the shoulders open. Proper rowing technique involves:

  • Dorsiflexion of the foot.
  • Stretching of the Achilles tendon.
  • Engaging the tibialis.

Getting Started

Rowing is not too difficult to get started. Following techniques shared by experts will help improve the experience and reduce the risk of injury.

Maintaining Upright Posture

  • The back should be straight throughout the movement.
  • Brace the core muscles to keep the back from rounding while bending at the knees and hips during the movement.
  • This keeps the body aligned, prevents injuries, and makes the exercise more effective.

Maintain Stroke Sequences

There are four parts to the sequence:

  1. The catch – is when you sit at the front of the machine with your knees bent and arms reaching out to hold the handle.
  2. The drive – is the next step, which involves pushing into the platform with your heels and driving through your legs while engaging your legs, glutes, and core. During the drive, you want to lean back slightly as you push with your legs while pulling the handle to the bottom of the rib cage.
  3. The finish – lean back a little more while pulling the handle to the lower chest level.
  4. The recovery – extend your arms forward while bending the hips to bring the torso forward, using your legs to pull back to the starting position.

Adjust Resistance Accordingly

Most rowing machines have adjustable resistance settings. Beginners should start with a lower resistance level to focus on proper technique and gradually increase as they become more comfortable so that the resistance provides a challenge without compromising form. On a rowing machine, the individual should feel like they are gliding efficiently over water with strong, powerful strokes repeated for however many reps depending on the workout.


Aerobic workouts require proper breathing. It is recommended to inhale during the recovery phase as you slide the seat forward and exhale during the drive phase when pushing through the legs. Breathing in sync with the rowing motion keeps the oxygen flow going, so the body maintains energy and smooth strokes.

Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic

As with any fitness program, individuals should consult a healthcare professional or fitness expert, especially if pre-existing health conditions or concerns exist. At Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic, we focus on what works for you and strive to better the body through researched methods and total wellness programs. We focus on treating patients’ injuries and chronic pain syndromes to create personalized care plans that improve ability through flexibility, mobility, and agility programs personalized to the individual. Using an integrated approach, our goal is to relieve pain naturally by restoring health and function to the body through Functional Medicine, Acupuncture, Electro-Acupuncture, and Sports Medicine protocols. If other treatment is needed, Dr. Jimenez has teamed up with the top surgeons, clinical specialists, medical researchers, and premier rehabilitation providers to provide the most effective treatments available.

Core Exercises and Back Pain


Hansen, R. K., Samani, A., Laessoe, U., Handberg, A., Mellergaard, M., Figlewski, K., Thijssen, D. H. J., Gliemann, L., & Larsen, R. G. (2023). Rowing exercise increases cardiorespiratory fitness and brachial artery diameter but not traditional cardiometabolic risk factors in spinal cord-injured humans. European journal of applied physiology, 123(6), 1241–1255. doi.org/10.1007/s00421-023-05146-y

Sindorf, M. A. G., Germano, M. D., Dias, W. G., Batista, D. R., Braz, T. V., Moreno, M. A., & Lopes, C. R. (2021). Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption and Substrate Oxidation Following High-Intensity Interval Training: Effects of Recovery Manipulation. International journal of exercise science, 14(2), 1151–1165.

Kim, D., Cho, M., Park, Y., & Yang, Y. (2015). Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain. Journal of physical therapy science, 27(6), 1791–1794. doi.org/10.1589/jpts.27.1791

Post Disclaimer

Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "The Power of the Rowing Machine: A Total-Body Workout" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

Blog Information & Scope Discussions

Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from various disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and directly or indirectly support our clinical scope of practice.*

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We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez, DC, or contact us at 915-850-0900.

We are here to help you and your family.


Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed as a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) in Texas & New Mexico*
Texas DC License # TX5807, New Mexico DC License # NM-DC2182

Licensed as a Registered Nurse (RN*) in Florida
Florida License RN License # RN9617241 (Control No. 3558029)
License Compact Status: Multi-State License: Authorized to Practice in 40 States*
Presently Matriculated: ICHS: MSN* FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner Program)

Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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