What Muscles Do Rows Work?

What Muscles Do Rows Work?


January 23, 2022

If you want to bulk up and increase strength, then rows are just perfect for you!

There are different types of rows, and they work different muscles of the body. Whether you are looking to develop significant metabolism, effective calorie-burning, and sturdy shoulders, rows can help you achieve these and more.

But what muscles do rows work exactly?

Rows work the pectoralis, gastrocnemius, deltoids, and upper back muscles. They also train the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and quadriceps, among others.

Read on to learn how to use rows to work the different muscle groups in your body.

What Are Rows?

Rows are types of exercises designed to work on the mid and upper back, shoulders, and arms. They help build muscles and provide stability.

Muscles Worked While Rowing

Rows engage and work different sets of muscles depending on the variation. Here are some of the variations and the muscles involved.

#1 Pendlay Rows

8 Back Workouts With Barbell

This row is excellent for developing posture and increasing static and concentric strength. This exercise works the following muscles:

#2 Upright Barbell Rows

What Muscles Do Rows Work?

The upright row is a good workout for developing upper back and shoulder strength. This row targets:

  • Deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Biceps
  • Brachioradialis

#3 Bent-Over Rows

What Muscles Do Rows Work?

The bent-over row works on several muscles in the back, and it is good for strengthening posterior chain muscles.

This exercise works on the following muscles;

  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius
  • Posterior deltoids
  • Core
  • Rear deltoids
  • Biceps/Forearms
  • Spinae erector
  • Hamstrings/Glutes

#4 Renegade Rows

What Muscles Do Rows Work?

The renegade row exercise also strengthens the upper body, shoulders, and arms. This exercise targets the following muscle:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Obliques
  • Anterior deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Serratus
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Rhomboids
  • Forearms

#5 Seated Rows

What Muscles Do Rows Work?

The seated row is known for activating and developing several muscles in the back. So, what muscles do rows work when it comes to this variation?

  • Lats
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius
  • Biceps brachii
  • Pectoralis major
  • Sternal head
  • Erector spinae
  • Teres minor

#6 Inverted Rows

What Muscles Do Rows Work?

This row is also known as the bodyweight row. It is a muscle-activating exercise for the upper body.

It works the following muscles:

  • Rhomboids
  • Lats
  • Trapezius
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres minor
  • Biceps
  • Posterior deltoids
  • Erector spinae

How Efficient Is Rowing For Muscle Gain?

What Muscles Do Rows Work?

Rows are one of the best low-impact workouts, and they offer some astounding results.

What muscles do rows work and how efficient are the exercises? Here’s a simple way to answer these questions.

Rowing works approximately twice as many muscles as some other common exercises such as jogging and cycling. A single rowing stroke engages your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core, arms, and back muscles.

As for how efficient the exercises are, a rowing machine can help you gain muscle quite easily and pretty fast, too!

Rowing provides fantastic cardiovascular exercise, working on muscles and increasing total strength. Spending time on the rower will help you raise your metabolism, which will help you burn fat efficiently throughout the body.

While rowing, you exercise the muscles in your tummy, thighs, and buttocks and burn fat on your body. The exercises are delicate on the joints and do not put as much strain on you like running or jogging.

Rowing is also effective in developing the muscles in the shoulders and arms. This adds definition to the arms and upper body. After rowing, your muscles will be flexible and powerful.

Bodybuilders can burn up to 15 calories rowing for just one minute! And most people lose weight after a few sessions of rowing.

In a nutshell, rowing targets the major muscle groups.

Best Row Variations

Best Row Variations

Here are some of the best row variations you might want to incorporate into your exercise regimen.

Pendlay Row

The Pendlay row is named after Glenn Pendlay, a famous strength coach. This row is an explosive back workout. It develops the muscle in the upper body and improves posture.

How to do Pendlay Row

  1. Each rep should start with the barbell on the ground. Grab the bar in front of you with a moderately pronated grip. With your lower back arched and legs half bent, your torso should be parallel to the ground.
  2. Begin by protracting your shoulders and slightly flexing your thoracic spine. The spine stays in a neutral position.
  3. Bring the weight to your abdomen. As you complete the shoulder blade retracting action, concentrate on pressing your shoulders back. There should be no activity in the hips or knees.
  4. You can drop the bar on the group between reps.

The Upright Barbell Row

The upright barbell row is a simple yet efficient workout for shoulder development. It is a complex workout that will significantly improve your shoulder and trapezius muscle strength.

How to do Upright Rows

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Use an overhand hold to grab the barbell, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Exhale you raise the bar to your chin. When you’re at the top of the movement, make sure your elbows are higher than your wrists and shoulders.
  4. Lower the barbell back to the starting position. This is one rep.
  5. Repeat for the number of reps required.

Tip: This exercise should be performed between 8 and 12 reps, with 2 to 3 sets every workout for an optimal session.

Bent-Over Row

The bent-over row is a very effective back workout that can increase muscle growth and improve strength.

Proper form is critical to the effectiveness of this exercise. Performing the bent-over row with poor form increases your risk of injury.

How to do a Bent-Over Row

  1. Position a barbell or a set of dumbbells in front of you.
  2. While standing with your feet about hip-width apart, bend at the waist and grip a pair of dumbbells or a barbell with both hands.
  3. Maintaining a 90-degree angle in your back, steadily bringing the weight towards your body, and driving your elbows toward the ceiling.
  4. When you reach the top of the movement, pause for a moment.
  5. Slowly lower the weight back down, allowing your arms to lengthen.

Tip: It is important to note that the free weights should not contact the ground but rather hover above it.

Renegade Rows

The Renegade row is one of the most straightforward and time-efficient techniques to develop a rock-hard midsection. It is also a great workout to improve core stability, and back and biceps strength.

Also, the exercise engages your obliques harder than the bulk of spine-bending oblique movements commonly recommended in most ab plans.

How to do Renegade Rows

  1. Get into a press-up position while holding two light or moderate weight kettlebells or dumbbells.
  2. Start with arms locked out, approx shoulder width, and palms facing each other. Sink your toes into the floor at the hip to shoulder distance.
  3. Brace your body and raise one of the kettlebells or dumbbells, while using your other arm to support yourself. Any swinging or use of pure momentum should be avoided.

Seated Rows

Seated rows are another variation that helps enhance the posture and develop the shoulders. This exercise is done on a weighted handled row machine.

How to do Seated Rows

  1. Sit on a bench at a low pulley station with your knees bent and grabbing the handles. Keep your back straight and feet on a metal block.
  2. Pull the handle back until it reaches your abdomen, and then gently return to the starting position while maintaining a straight back.
  3. Concentrate on drawing back with your arms for a more efficient exercise.
  4. Repeat 8-12 times, depending on your fitness level and goals.

Inverted Rows

This fantastic workout is excellent for a wide range of people since it is less difficult than a pull-up yet needs the attention and power of both beginner and experienced exercisers.

How to do Inverted Rows

  1. With your feet on the ground, lie on a bench and take an overhand hold on the bar, keeping your hands approximately shoulder-width apart (you can switch grips later).
  2. Make sure your body is straight.
  3. Tug your upper body up to the bar while maintaining proper form. The bar should make contact with your sternum.
  4. Pause for a moment and slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.


No doubt, rows are highly effective and work several muscles at the same time.

Doing any of the row variations can help you develop stronger muscles in a considerably short time.

And because they are low-impact workouts, they are excellent for exercising without fear of spraining a muscle or damaging a joint.

Now that we have successfully answered the question “What muscles do rows work?” it is time to hit the gym and do a couple of different variations!



Justin Rodriguez has spent most of his adult life inspiring people to take their fitness more seriously. He is not new to the business of providing practical solutions for those looking to set and smash their fitness goals. From sharing professional tips and tricks to recommending awesome products, Justin Rodriguez helps just about anyone who wants to get the best out of their workout routines.Having gathered a lot of experience both in and outside the gym, Justin Rodriguez uses DSW Fitness as a medium to show you exactly how to get that great-looking body with toned muscles you’ve always wanted.