Does Rowing Work The Glutes? (Here’s Why Not)

February 16, 2023

I consider rowing one of the most demanding cardio machines in the gym. It works almost every muscle in your body, forcing your lungs to scream for oxygen after only a minute. But what about the posterior muscles? Does rowing work the glutes?

Rowing doesn’t work the glutes to any significant degree. You’re seated in hip flexion with little hip extension, which is the glutes primary function.

But this isn’t the only reason you should hop off the rower on the quest for a booty to fill your jeans. And what should you do instead?

Does Rowing Work The Glutes?

Being seated in hip flexion with little hip extension means the glutes have minimal involvement when rowing.

Couple with the fact the contribution from the glutes when exercising increases as load increases, and when targeting the glutes with strength exercise, you typically want to push through your heels. Rowing achieves neither [1].

For example, a 33% increase in glute contribution when squatting 90% 1RM vs. 50% 1RM is seen with the same increase when deadlifting 80% 1RM vs. 10% 1RM [2][3]. Therefore, we can infer rowing does not work the glutes to any significant degree because there is minimal loading.

Further, when targeting the glutes with exercise, you get a better mind-muscle connection when pushing through your heels. For example, when hip thrusting or lunging, driving with the heels instead of the toes makes it easier to feel the glutes working.

You can’t do this on the rower as you extend on your toes to finish the stroke.

Will Rowing Build Glutes?

Will Rowing Build Glutes

Rowing will not build the glutes due to the reasons listed above. It makes an excellent no-impact cardio modality, working more muscles than cycling or running. That’s why rowing is considered harder than pedaling the bike.

To get a bigger butt, you must lift heavy weights through a full range of motion. The emphasis here is heavy. Since the major glute muscle isn’t activated as strongly with lightly loaded exercise, you can ignore the random booty workouts you see on social media.

Heavy deep squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, glute bridges, lunges, and Romanian deadlifts will get you the upper glute shelf.

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Is Rowing As Good As Squats For Glutes?

Is Rowing As Good As Squats For Glutes

Rowing is not as good as squats for building the glutes. Squats are superior in all aspects, with more degrees of hip extension and heavier loading. If you’re wondering which squat you should use, the answer is whichever is most comfortable for you to sit deep.

If you’re proficient in all types of squats, then the low bar back squat is superior for glute involvement due to the increased forward lean taxing the glutes more than upright high bar squats [4].

How Do You Use A Rowing Machine For Glutes?

There is one exercise you can use the rowing machine for that will target your posterior. It’s not the best glute exercise, but if you’re hell-bent on using the rowing machine, it’s better than rowing. It’s the supine hamstring bridge and curl. Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on the floor with your heels on the seat. You’ll need to be close to the machine with your legs bent to be able to extend your legs when bridging.
  • With bent legs, elevate your hips. Maintain this position as you move the seat away from you, extending your legs. Pull the seat toward your butt once near extended.


Don’t use the rowing machine to work your glutes. There isn’t enough load or hip extension to challenge them. Instead, lift heavy weights through hip flexion and extension to build a perky butt.


1. Beardsley, C., & Contreras, B. (2014). The increasing role of the hip extensor musculature with heavier compound lower-body movements and more explosive sport actions. Strength & Conditioning Journal36(2), 49-55.

2. Bryanton, M. A., Kennedy, M. D., Carey, J. P., & Chiu, L. Z. (2012). Effect of squat depth and barbell load on relative muscular effort in squatting. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research26(10), 2820-2828.

3. Swinton, P. A., Stewart, A., Agouris, I., Keogh, J. W., & Lloyd, R. (2011). A biomechanical analysis of straight and hexagonal barbell deadlifts using submaximal loads. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research25(7), 2000-2009.

4. Murawa, M., Fryzowicz, A., Kabacinski, J., Jurga, J., Gorwa, J., Galli, M., & Zago, M. (2020). Muscle activation varies between high-bar and low-bar back squat. PeerJ8, e9256.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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