Fitness / Strength Training

How to Strengthen Your Core With Rowing

Rowing is great for strengthening your arms and legs, but that’s not all. Try this plan to tone up your core in no time.

Even if you’ve never rowed a single stroke, it’s pretty apparent from the motion—pushing off explosively with your legs and then pulling the handle toward your chest—that it’s an incredible workout for both your upper and lower body. It’s no wonder that this low-impact cardio machine has exploded in popularity in recent years. But even better: Rowing is an intense workout for your core, too.

“You really don’t even have to concentrate on engaging your core on the rower. Your abs are automatically engaged,” says Garrett Roberts, owner and instructor of GoRow, an indoor-rowing studio in Hoboken, New Jersey. Learn how to strengthen your core with rowing the Roberts’ go-to workout.

Looking to strengthen your core? Check out the strength training workouts on Aaptiv.

Work your complete core.

Roberts is quick to point out that it’s not all about your abdominals. “Everyone thinks your core is just your front, but it wraps around your entire body and stabilizes your entire waist,” he says. The motion you repeat over and over on the rowing machine strengthens that whole center section of your body.

“The end of each stroke, when you’re sliding forward, works your abs like a sit-up and as you push back out, that engages your lower back,” he explains. Part of the reason it’s so effective is that you’re sitting on a small, not particularly steady seat, so your abs and lower-back muscles fire up to help keep you stable as you glide back and forth. Just the basic motion can strengthen your core with rowing.

Get the most toning power.

To get even more core-toning power from the movement, Roberts suggests leaning back a bit when your legs are fully extended until you feel your abs quiver. And, to work the sides of your midsection, pretend that you’re holding onto a canoe paddle, suggests Roberts. You can alternate pulling it to the left and then to the right in between regular strokes to target your obliques and further strengthen your core with rowing.

As mentioned before, the rowing motion itself will help build core strength, but adding in a few core-specific strength-training moves will increase the toning power even further.

Aaptiv strength classes have visual workouts that show you how to practice proper form for each exercise, so you can focus on building your muscles without worry.

This plan, designed by Roberts, combines intervals on the rower to rev your heart rate with bodyweight moves that focus on your core. Try it to burn major calories and target your entire midsection. Do each interval in order, then repeat the whole sequence two to four times.

The Workout

Rowing Interval 1

Rowing Interval 2

Rowing Interval 3

Strength Interval 1: Push-up to Side Plank

Strength Interval 2: Jack Knife

Incorporate these moves into your workouts to help strengthen your core with rowing. Changing up your standard motion will also add some diversity into your routine.

Along with strength training, Aaptiv offers classes in running, indoor cycling, stair climbing, and more. Check out all your options here.

Fitness Strength Training


Welcome to the guidebook to your healthiest life. Aaptiv delivers the highest quality fitness and health information from personal trainers and industry experts. Subscribe now for a weekly dose of inspiration and education.

I would like to receive weekly fitness articles and inspiration from Aaptiv Magazine.

Please click the checkbox to subscribe.