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November 26, 2022

How to Build a Rower’s Body & Physique The Right Way

Written by Jordyn Snyder

If you’re considering getting into rowing or are a fitness lover and just want to simply learn the how’s and why’s of training to build the rower’s body you’ve come to the right place.

If we’re comparing with olympian rower, Steven Redgrave, who is considered to be one of the greatest rowers of all time, winning gold medals at five successive editions of the Olympic Games, the rower’s body might seem unattainable. However, for the male and female rowers body type isn’t that far away.

That Leads Us Here: What Is The Ideal Rower’s Body?

Two men rowing to get the most of their rower body

If you look at back-to-back photos of Olympian rowers, what really makes the optimal rowing body type is the strong upper body and lean body mass. The rower’s body tends to have a larger muscle mass as rowing utilizes every major muscle group, meaning a strong rowing stroke requires good leg muscles, a broad back, wide hips, rock-solid core muscles, and toned arm muscles. Rowers normally have a lean body mass but are incredibly powerful. Their backs and biceps are very well-developed to help optimize performance as well.

The strongest part of a rower’s body is said to be the back, which is exercised non-stop during rowing motions. And none of these muscles are for show! Whether rowing on a machine or a body of water, as a rower it is essential to have and use every single muscle. And they might not have the smallest waist or largest abs at first glance, but they’ll for sure have the most powerful core out of anyone in the room. Rowing is considered to be one of the most physically demanding endurance sports in the world and elite rowers have the most outstanding aerobic and anaerobic qualities out of most other athletes in the competitive field. 

For professional athletic performance, the average and best height for male rowers is 1.90m and 1.95m (6’3″-6’5″), and female rowers are at 1.80m and 185m (5’11”-6’1″). These champion rowers’ arm span averages typically at 189 (5.8) cm.

Our Top Pick
Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge
Based on our testing, this is the best rower for beginners. For less than 500$, this silent water rower will last you for years. It also comes with a 12-year warranty.

If you’re curious to know more about the Olympian anatomy of an elite rower you’ll want to watch the video below.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Rower’s Body?

Once you begin your journey of rowing consistently, you’ll start to see visible changes in a minimum of 3-4 weeks. However, rowing is a great cardiovascular exercise that strengthens your body, and missing workout sessions or not training on a regular basis can slow your progress. Diet can also slow or speed up your physical changes, so keep in mind that the time frame changes for everyone.

Now How To Actually Get A Rower’s Body:

Now that you know what the ideal rower body type is, let’s go further by diving into the different body segments that are pivotal in getting that amazing rower body.

Weight Training

If you don’t have access to a rower machine or a boat then discovering the best weight training exercises that you can do at home or the gym is the best place to start. We even recommend starting with weight training to help build those necessary muscle groups before getting on the water to prevent injury.

Our top weighted exercises include:

Core Training

Hanging leg raises and plank shoulder taps are some of our favorite core strength exercises. Even if you’re not solely focusing on doing core exercises during your workout sessions, keeping your abdominal muscles engaged during other exercises can be extremely beneficial to your over health and fitness.

Training The Glutes

Glutes are often paired in with leg day workouts, but we like to focus on them as separate entities. To reach the maximum potential it’s best to focus on exercises like the wide back squat and wall sits that target your gluteal muscles directly.

Training The Legs

It is very important to train your legs if you’re considering rowing or using a rowing machine and some of those exercises include lunges and sprinting. We also have an article on The Best Movements For Stronger Legs without doing bodyweight squats that we highly recommend reading.

Back Muscle Training

As we said before, the back is one of the most important key muscle groups when it comes to rowing. Focus on those key back muscles by weight training with heavier weights at smaller counts. Our go-to’s for the lower back is a back extension, hitting the lats with the pull-up, and the traps with reverse dumbbell flys.

A Clean Diet

The number one thing to remember when working on building a rower’s body is a clean diet will help you see the most difference. Avoid things like calorie-dense, fried, fatty food items that work against your cardiovascular health. Instead focus on healthy fats and lean proteins like non-friend chicken, fatty salmon, eggs, and lean beef. Carbs are also a great option if you’re needing to overload on energy, but make sure they’re carbs like vegetables, rice, or potatoes, not fried shrimp or a loaf of bread.

Enhance Stamina And Endurance

Your endurance capacity will also be tested when doing rowing activities. Therefore doing things like a 12-minute mile pace, staying in your target heart rate range during cardio exercises, and exercising regularly (not on for a week and off the next) is proven to build your stamina and endurance capacity so you can hit all of those rower endurance requirements. Using a rowing machine for longer periods of time and creating a standard rowing workout can also help build endurance.

Learn How To Row Properly

Having rowing experience would help, but if you have none or aren’t a heavier rower yet learn how to choose the right type and level and the proper technique and terminology on an indoor rowing machine. There are even options like joining a rowing club if you really want to get that ideal rowing body type. And according to Harvard Medical School, 30 full minutes of properly rowing burns way more calories than a long jog or a game of football… if that’s not a reason alone to give machine rowing, we don’t know what is!

But Is Indoor Rowing Really Just As Effective?

There is no doubt that there has been an increase in rowing-inspired gyms like Row House and Total Row that are popping up all over the U.S. and Canada. A huge misconception is that because the workout is done sitting down that it’s an easy ride, but that is the farthest thing from the truth. As it was mentioned before, rowing is one of the most intense sports out there, but if you’re not a collegiate rower and you don’t go rowing on a body of water, then is it really as effective doing it recreationally on an indoor rower?

To put it simply: yes, however, let’s go further into it.

Also a full body workout

The rowing machine—or the rowing ergometer or “erg” as it’s called by most professional rowers—helps you get a full-body workout inside without the need for a ton of equipment. You can be on one machine and work nearly every muscle group necessary to achieve the ideal rower’s body.

The indoor rower also increases demand on the heart contributing to the body’s need to circulate more blood for a stronger and more efficient heart just as it does if you were on the water.

Target the same muscles

Not to mention the indoor rower targets the same muscles needed for rowing in a boat (the back, arms, glutes, shoulders to the quadriceps, and abdominal muscles). Meaning it replicates the movement pattern as if you were actually rowing in a boat on a body of water.

Training can be done anytime

Using an indoor rower has an upside compared to rowing outdoors in a boat that many people look over, which is indoor rowing can be done at all times of the year and in any weather. It might not seem that important, but if you’re on the journey of building endurance and on a strict training regimen, then having to wait for a storm to pass or you don’t want to freeze on the water then indoor rowing will become your next best friend.

Stimulation is great

And lastly, indoor rowing is typically just as challenging and dynamic a workout as it is outdoors. It’ll help create a baseline of endurance and strength and simulates rowing in a way to help you track your power output, and your stroke rate (how many strokes you take per minute, and your estimated distances), which can be harder to track when on the water.

How Your Body Changes And What To Expect

By even just eating cleaner and completing simple exercises like planks and squats on your journey to the optimal rowing body type, you’ll notice a difference. However, with the demands of rowing and using a rowing machine, you’ll gain so many things like body awareness, better efficiency, and a metabolism that will remain elevated even post-workout. You’ll be eventually able to move harder rowing workouts and achieve better results both physically in appearance, but also in heart health and blood flow.

Our Top Pick
Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge
Based on our testing, this is the best rower for beginners. For less than 500$, this silent water rower will last you for years. It also comes with a 12-year warranty.
About Jordyn Snyder