How to use a rowing machine for exercises that AREN'T actually rowing

These innovative rowing machine exercises can tone your abs and biceps in brand new ways

Rowing machine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best rowing machine will help you lose weight with intense cardio workouts while building up lots of muscle in your arms, back and core thanks to the continuous pulling motion. It's a great exercise for absolutely anyone, from beginners to advanced fitness enthusiasts, but it's not the only exercise you can do on your new rowing machine. 

YouTubers and bodybuilders Anabolic Aliens posted a video on their channel highlighting five unconventional exercises you can do on the rowing machine. Check it out below:

Watch these unconventional rowing machine exercises below:

As you can see in the video above, the Anabolic Aliens guys have figured out a unique way to perform moves such as reverse crunches, ab rollouts, Y lifts, bicep curls and overhead extensions. These are all fantastic muscle-building moves for your abdominals and upper body.  

Why do these rowing machine exercises?

The reverse crunch and ab rollouts are fantastic core-training exercises. The reverse crunch here uses the rowing machine's sliding seat in the same manner as you might see on a pilates machine. Traditional crunches can cause pressure on your back and spine if performed on a hard floor, so the ability to do them without risking those issues is a great, and unexpected, advantage of the rowing machine. 

Ab wheel

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Likewise, the ab rollout usually needs one of the best ab rollers to perform effectively, but by using the sliding seat function, you can train your "rectus abdominis" muscles, the trunk of your body that will help you function effectively in almost all forms of life, developing core strength to make you move more effectively and give you a wicked six pack in the process.

The Y lift, which improves your shoulder mobility, the bicep curl, which bolsters your biceps and grip strength, and the overhead extension, which trains your triceps, all benefit from the cable's increasing resistance as its pulled. 

Just like a resistance band, releasing these lifts slowly and under control allows you to gain muscle during the lowering or "eccentric" phase of the exercise as well as the initial pulling motion. If you don't have loads of equipment at home, these exercises are a great way to get more bang for your buck out of a rowing machine. 

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. 

Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.