Row Your Way To Rock Hard Abs

Man training to have hard rock abs

Rowers possess some of the most athletic and lean physiques in the sporting world, including rock hard abs. The question is, can you get their envious abs without hitting the river at 6 am? In this post, we are going to explain how to take inspiration from their gruelling training regime and put in some serious core work on a home rowing machine. First, we will examine the benefits of rowing and which muscles it conditions, then we will give you some tips on rowing form and add some additional exercises that you can do to maximise your results.

How does rowing benefit your abs?

Rowing is often thought of as an upper-body sport, but the entire body is engaged throughout each stroke. Today, we are going to concentrate on the core muscles that are worked when a rower is in motion. Every stroke begins with a rower pushing back against the footrests of the rowing machine with the lower body, then using the core muscles to hinge their body backwards. During this hinging moment, the abdominal muscles are fully fired up and put under the resistance of the machine. They also become responsible for stabilisation and actively slow down the motion of the initial pushback. Finally, as the rower draws back towards the starting position by leaning forward, the core muscles are engaged once again.

30 minutes on a rowing machine requires this motion to be repeated again and again, building the endurance of your core muscles. This is what makes rowing such a killer ab exercise. To ensure that you are getting the full benefits of rowing, it is important to constantly check that your core muscles are engaged. If they are not, it means that they are not being worked.

Note that rowing is primarily an endurance exercise. While increasing the resistance level on the machine will add a flavour of strength training to the session, it is capped in its ability to grow bulky strength muscle. For that, you will need to undertake some strength sessions – more on that later.

How else does rowing benefit your abs?

How else does rowing benefit your abs

Rowing is a conditioning exercise, meaning you will not become the Hulk by using this machine. So, why do rowers usually have six-packs? Are they all doing strength training on the side? Potentially, yes. But there is another key ingredient that goes into having shredded abs – a low body fat percentage.

Rowing is a cardio exercise, one that burns plenty of calories. As we know, calories in the body are stored as fat, so the more you row the more fat you will burn. This will help to reveal your abdominal muscles because mid-section fat lies like a cushion over this area, obscuring the view.

Unfortunately, there is no way to spot-reduce fat. Your gender, age, and even your genetics will determine where your body chooses to store it, but we can guarantee that if you melt through enough fat then you will eventually see your stomach shrink and your abs emerge.

Supplementary strength training

As we mentioned before, if you want to grow your abdominal muscles to make them stand out more, then you should undertake some supplementary strength training exercises. We are going to concentrate on those that incorporate weights or other equipment into the move.

Weighted plank – get into the plank position and have someone place a large circular weight, the kind you would attach to a barbell, flat on your back. Hold for 30-45 seconds, and repeat. Do not move out of the plank position while the weight is on your back, have your training buddy remove it otherwise you risk injury

Russian twists – while holding a dumbbell, perform Russian twists

Medicine ball slam – are you having one of those days? Let off your anger and frustration with medicine ball slams. The satisfaction of driving a medicine ball down to the ground and pretending like it is your boss’s head (just us?) is only surpassed by the core workout that this move provides.

Weighted crunches – forget about endless sit-ups, maximise the benefits of a set of crunches by holding a dumbbell or circular weight to your chest. Can you manage 15 crunches? Increase your weight and get back to us.

Sit up machine – more comfortable to use than performing weighted crunches, a sit-up machine offers a smoother experience that delivers the same benefits
Low-to-high dumbbell chop – how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck held a dumbbell? If you are unsure of how to perform a chop, YouTube has plenty of instructional videos

Renegade row – an oldie but a goodie, this exercise will also work your traps and your lats

Anything else?

Abs are not an easy part of the body to train – maybe that is why we all want a six-pack – but if you regularly row and supplement with strength training and, of course, watch your diet to ensure that you are not undoing all your hard work, you should see some results.

Tom Armstrong

Hey! I've been training in all kinds of places, with all kinds of equipment for the best part of 30 years. I love training with my weights at home and writing about new products and training methods online. Well, with a name like Armstrong, I would have to be into training, right?