Can You Lose Belly Fat By Only Using A Rowing Machine? Abs?

Many people will look down at some point during the year and really aren’t happy with what they’re seeing, me included. You want to get rid of some of that belly fat but want to make sure you get the right tool to do it. Is a rowing machine a good tool to shrink your belly? Let’s find out.

An indoor rowing machine is a great tool for lowering your bodyfat percentage and therefore reduce the size of your belly. A rowing machine is good because it provides low impact exercise that has low injury risk while also using a lot of muscle mass which can burn a lot of calories and therefore fat.

Why is a rowing machine a good way to do it and how does it help with belly fat specifically? Find out below.

Does rowing on a machine help you lose belly fat?

Rowing on an indoor rowing machine is a good way to reduce the size of your belly.

Belly fat is fat. It’s not any different than fat in other places on your body except that it’s even less welcome. However, the way to get rid of belly fat is the same as the way to lose body fat in other places. You can’t choose to reduce the amount of fat only in certain places, it just doesn’t work that way.

A rowing machine is a good tool to lower your body fat and therefore lose belly fat. To actually lose a significant amount of belly fat, you’ll have to stick to your workout routine for a while but this is the same as any other type of exercise. It’s just that belly fat is the last place where it goes away.

If you get your diet in order and combine this with exercising regularly on a rowing machine, you will see the belly shrinking over time.

An indoor rower is a good way to lose belly fat for a few reasons;

  • Low impact: Rowing is sustainable because it’s low impact exercise which makes injury risk lower and means you can stick to a workout program more easily.
  • Large amount of muscle used: Rowing uses a large part of all the muscles in your body, including muscles in the upper body many people don’t often train. More muscle mass used means the potential to burn more calories. Also, building some muscle means your base metabolic rate goes up, making weight loss easier.
  • Burns a good amount of calories: While rowing doesn’t burn the absolute most calories per minute, it’s pretty high up the list. Combined with the sustainability, in the long run rowing will help you lose weight in an efficient and safe way.
  • Can reduce the size of your belly in other ways: Training your core is another important part of making your belly look smaller. The core can be trained while rowing.
  • Compact: An indoor rower is long and takes up quite a bit of space. However, most models can fold up quite compact for storage making them great for home gyms.

Suggested: Rowing machine user weight limits

Another benefit is that rowing tends to build a bit more muscle than most other types of cardio. Extra muscle mass means you burn extra calories all the time because muscles need more energy to be maintained than fat (or nothing). That means you’re burning more calories all the time without even doing anything. You raise your base metabolic rate. This helps you to lose weight.

Base metabolic rate is how many kcal you burn without doing anything. Having more muscle means your body needs more calories to maintain that muscle. So if you have more muscle and eat the same, you’re already burning more calories.

Does Rowing Tone Your Body?

All of that combined means that rowing is an effective way of losing body fat and as a result of that, belly fat. The extra muscle will also make you look better and has some other great benefits for your body.

9 Awesome Benefits Rowing Has For Your Body

How long to use a rowing machine to lose belly fat?

Knowing all of this, how does rowing get rid of belly fat? There is no magic silver bullet. To get rid of belly fat you have to burn more calories than you take in. This will make you lose fat across your body including the belly. There are two parts to this; Burn more calories and/or take in fewer.

Rowing on an indoor rowing for 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week with medium intensity is enough to start seeing results in a few weeks as long as your diet is in order. Rowing up to an hour is good to see faster results.

For a bit more in depth on reducing the size of your belly, look at the bottom of this article where I’ll go a little more in depth.

Rowing on a machine is a great way to increase the amount of calories you use. Moderate rowing uses about 200 to 300 kcal per 30 minutes. Of course if you row at a higher intensity or use a HIIT program that number goes up.

Let’s say you row for 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week. At a medium intensity that’s sustainable but if you’re having recovery issues, 5 days a week will work. 30 minutes equals about 300 calories burned. 6×300= 1800 kcal.

1 kg/2.2 lbs. of fat contains about 7700 kcal. This means if you’re eating exactly the amount of calories you need to maintain weight without doing exercise, by adding the rowing you’ll lose one kilo every 4.2 weeks. Of course this is amplified if you take in a little fewer calories.

Removing 300 kcal from your diet on top of rowing isn’t too difficult and doubles the rate of fat loss. It’s easier for most people to eat less than to exercise more.

It’s possible to lose belly fat by rowing and it’s a good way to do it because it’s effective and sustainable. However, it’s still necessary to take care of your diet and energy intake. Rowing isn’t magic. All the laws of thermodynamics still apply but there are a few things that do give it an edge for belly fat loss.

Suggested: How much does a good rower cost?

Fat loss basics

You might already know but it’s good to have an understanding of fat loss in general to understand how rowing helps. The basics of fat loss stay the same whether you’re rowing or doing something else.

While there are many complicating factors and nuances to lowering your body fat percentage, the most important foundation is the energy balance. If you take in fewer calories than you use, you’ll lose weight. Your body still has to use calories to function so it  takes those calories from fat which means you burn it and it gets smaller.

There are two parts to that equation;

  • Energy intake (diet)
  • Energy expenditure (base metabolic rate, daily activities and exercise)

The diet part is actually much more important in the beginning than the exercise part. There are famous sayings like; “You can’t out train a bad diet” and “Abs are made in the kitchen”. It’s much easier to eat 500 Calories than it is to do exercise that burns the same amount.  If you overeat by only a couple of hundred calories a day, you’ll have to spend 30 minutes on the rower to reach a balance.

Next time you eat a snack, check out how many kcal there are in there. Now remember that 30 minutes of medium intensity rowing burns 300 kcal. Is the snack worth spending more time on the rower?

So it’s important to also get your diet right besides exercising. If you don’t, it will be very difficult to get the results you want.

Of course exercise really does help in raising the energy expenditure but you’ll make it much easier for yourself if you get your diet in check besides exercising. The best exercise is the one you keep doing. Consistency in diet and exercise is key to getting good results.

Don’t reward yourself with food after a workout. Yes energy intake is necessary but don’t eat more or something unhealthy because you’re thinking you already did everything you need to do for your health that day. Plan your meals ahead so you feel less tempted to grab something you shouldn’t.

Maybe you’re not interested in losing weight but just in losing belly fat. If so make sure to read the next segment because it’s all connected.

What’s the best type of rowing machine?

Belly size

The basics of belly fat loss are the same as other fat loss. It’s just that for most people, belly fat is the last place where the fat actually starts to go away. Especially for men the belly is a place where fat is stored and is hard to get rid of.

You can’t reduce fat in a certain location. What you can do is lower your overall body fat percentage. It’s mainly up to your genetics where you lose fat first and last. Some people have an easier time getting rid of extra pounds on the belly than others.

It’s mostly about overall body fat percentage. Lower your body fat percentage and you’ll lose belly fat as well. How much depends on your genetics and also hormone balance. Some people will lose almost all the fat anywhere else on their body before starting to reduce belly fat while for other people it’s more even. It isn’t fair but you’ll have to play the hand you’re dealt.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else about the overall size of your belly though. While the fat on top of your abs is a huge factor in how big it looks, it isn’t the only one. The other factors are core strength and bloating.

However, to see visible abs, it’s just necessary to have a low overall body fat percentage. Men need to have a body fat percentage roughly below 15% to start seeing abs while women start to show abs at around 20% body fat. Notice I’m writing ‘starting to’. Many people will need to go lower than that to have great looking abs. 

Core strength

If you’ve got a really weak core, and especially Transversus Abdominus muscle, you can make your tummy appear smaller by training this. The Transversus Abdominus is a muscle that lies under the muscles that create the 6-pack look. It’s the muscle you use when trying to pull your belly button towards your spine. Strengthening this muscle can pull your belly in without consciously doing this.

Rowing does improve core strength and endurance if you keep good form. It can be helpful to train separately though. Here’s a good place to start. With rowing you’re not specifically targeting the Transversus Abdominus specifically. This is the muscle under your 6 pack that helps keep everything tight and pulls in your belly.

On a rower you can focus more on this muscle by really breathing out with your belly. When you breathe out, focus on pulling your belly button towards your spine to push as much air out as possible. This will activate the right muscle.


Another issue that makes your stomach look bigger is bloating. Many people are intolerant to certain foods without even knowing it. This can cause bloating which makes you feel worse than you could and gives your stomach a distended look. It can be worth it to experiment with eliminating different foods from your diet to see if you can improve this problem.

There are lots of resources on bloating and diet. You can start here on WebMD

Can rowing on a machine get you abs?

Ok, you can reduce the size of your belly on a rowing machine, but can you get visible abs? Visible abs are something that many want but few achieve. Is a rowing machine the magic bullet you need to finally get there?

To get visible abs you need two things;

  • A low enough body fat percentage
  • Abdominal muscles that are big enough

Rowing is great at burning calories which helps you to lower body fat. However, without a good diet, it’s unlikely you’ll get your body fat percentage low enough to actually get to the point where you can easily see a 6-pack. Combining an improved diet with regular medium to high intensity rowing workouts is going to get you there though.

The second part is that the ab muscles that create the 6-pack have to be big enough to actually see. While a rower does target the core to some degree, it’s not very effective for the muscle you want to see grow (the Rectus Abdominis). A rower targets more of the deeper ab musculature. Those muscles are very important for a smaller looking belly but they don’t create the coveted ‘blocks’.

So to get to your 6-pack, you’ll have to do some other exercises besides rowing that specifically target the Rectus Abdominis. The following movements are good to start off with;

  • Hanging leg raises
  • Leg raises
  • Crunches

Basically any movement that brings your chest to your legs or legs to your chest will use this muscle.

An indoor rower can certainly help you get visible abs although it’s not the magic tool you might want. Rowing is good for burning calories and therefore lowering bodyfat percentage. However, you’ll still have to have a good diet and do separate ab exercises to grow the muscles.

Related questions

How often can you row a week? You can row every day as long as you can recover enough. That depends on your diet, sleep and other activities during the day. Of course it also depends on how hard you work out. However to see significant results you don’t have to row every day. 3-6days a week is enough to see results if the intensity is high enough.

How long should you row on a rowing machine? It depends on how high the intensity of your rowing workout is and your fitness level. To improve your fitness level, you have to push yourself a little. Try to shoot for at least 30 minutes on low to medium intensity or 15 minutes on high intensity. Up to 60 minutes is fine. If you can still keep going after 60 minutes, try increasing the intensity of your workout a little so it stays time efficient.

Favorite Cardio Machine Accessories

Check out these accessories that improve a home cardio workout:

  • Equipment mat: All cardio equipment should be put on an equipment mat. The Rubber-Cal mat (Amazon) is an affordable yet very high quality choice.
  • Tablet holder: Cardio can be boring. With this tablet holder (Amazon) you can follow along with on-demand workouts or just watch a movie on any cardio machine.
  • Heart rate monitor: Monitoring your heart rate is very important while doing cardio. The Polar H10 (Amazon) connects to almost anything you can imagine and is very accurate.

To find which cardio machines I recommend for home gyms, click here.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to I've been going to the gym for about 15 years and am now looking to build my own. In the process I've learned many things I'd like to share with you.

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