How To Build A Stronger Core For Rowing

As an intensely physical sport, rowing demands strength, endurance, coordination, and balance. At the heart of these requirements lies one crucial factor: a strong core. A robust core enhances your rowing performance, helps maintain proper form, and protects against injuries. But how do you build a stronger core specifically for rowing?

This guide will delve into effective core strengthening exercises, provide tips on maintaining correct form during training, and advise on nutrition to support muscle growth and recovery. Whether you’re a novice rower or a seasoned athlete, this guide will help you power up your core and take your rowing prowess to the next level. Let’s dive in!

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Core Abdominal Muscles Explained

In your core abdominal muscles, there are four main muscle groups. These four groups function to cover and protect your vital organs. They include:

  • Transversus Abdominis – This is the muscle layer closest to your organs. Its main function is to stabilise the body, keeping it upright and maintaining a certain amount of pressure in your abdomen.
  • Rectus Abdominis – This layer of muscle hangs between your ribs and your pubic bone, in front of your pelvis. When this muscle contracts it creates the ‘6 pack’ look. The main function of the Rectus Abdominis is to move the body in the area between the hips and ribs.
  • External Oblique Muscles – These muscles flank the rectus abdominis. The external obliques help to further support the upper torso and allow the body to twist. When one side contracts it pushes the body round the other way. So if the left-hand obliques contract, you will be turning to the right.
  • Internal Oblique Muscles – The internal oblique muscles go on the outside of the rectus abdominis. They are located just inside the hip bone. Now their function is the opposite of the external obliques. So if you are twisting to the right, you will need the internal obliques to contract on the right-hand side.

Your core is the strong trunk that connects your upper body and lower body together as one. By exercising and challenging your core muscles you will allow them to strengthen and gain size. A strong, solid core will help to build a foundation for any type of movement that you want to complete.


Every movement we make involves the movement of the core muscles in some way. The abdominal muscles and our back muscles work together to stabilise the spine as we run, walk, bend over, jump, lean and more. You will find your core muscles hiding inside your abdominal muscles and back muscles attached to your pelvis and spine. The list of core muscles usually includes the pelvic floor muscles, the oblique muscles and the transversus abdominis.

When we want to move our trunk we also have to use our multifidus muscle. This muscle can be found deep inside our back. It runs along our spine to help promote stability and protect against injuries. To work all of these muscles correctly and promote healthy strong muscles, you should always speak to a professional.

Exercises to strengthen your Abdominals and Core

These exercises can be completed in one single workout, that can be done 3 or 4 times per week. The abdominal muscles are very resilient and can be worked

The Crunch

  • Lie on your back with your hips and shoulder blades flat on the floor. Some people like to cross their arms across their chest or onto their opposite shoulders if that is comfortable. Bring your knees up so that they are pointing into the air. You can chose to have your feet in the air or have them formyl on the ground.
  • Personally, I like to use my hands during the exercise. You can try what works for you. If you want to try my way, place your hands on top of your thighs.
  • You will begin the movement by contracting your abdominal muscles. This should bring your shoulder blades off the floor. I like to slide my hands on my thighs up to my knees. This gives you something to aim for each rep.
  • Keep the movement smooth and slow. Each rep should be controlled and any movement should only come about from the abs.
  • Perform this movement for as many reps as you can and then rest.
  • I would aim to do this for 3 sets, when your muscles are more used to the activity you can do it for longer.
woman doing sit ups
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Segmental Rotation

  • This sounds complicated. Do not worry, it is not. Lay flat on your back like you did for the crunch.
  • Bring your knees up so that they are at 90 degrees from your flat torso. Pointing into the air.
  • You will then slowly lower your knees to one side at a time, touching them on the floor or as close to the floor as you can get.
  • During the rotation, you need to make sure that your shoulder blades stay flat on the ground. This will ensure that your abdominal muscles are being stretched and worked in the required areas.


  • To set yourself up for this exercise you will need to be on all fours with your back flat and hands and knees on the floor.
  • In this exercise, you will raise one arm at a time out in front of you. When you are raising your one arm, the opposite leg will also be raise.
  • This will mean that opposing legs and arms will be raised and straight at one time.
  • If this is too tricky you can start by using one arm or one leg at a time. This activity will help to promote stability for your core muscles as it needs to stabilise themselves.


  • The abdominal muscles help to stabilise the trunk and spine, they also allow movement and keep your organs in the right place by keeping an appropriate pressure.
  • The deeper abdominal muscles, along with muscles in your lower back, can be identified as your core muscles.
  • The core muscles in the body help protect your organs and maintain posture during movement. The inner core muscles are less likely to become injured than the outer abdominal muscles.
  • Abdominal muscle injuries can be stopped by regular stretching and proper warming up before any activities. Using the correct form when exercising is also a sure way to ensure you do not overwork or over-stretch your core muscles.

In conclusion, building a stronger core for rowing involves a combination of targeted exercises, proper form, and a balanced diet. Incorporating planks, Russian twists, leg raises, and other core-strengthening exercises into your routine can significantly improve your rowing performance. Remember, consistency is key in achieving and maintaining a strong core.

It’s also crucial to pay attention to your body alignment during these workouts to avoid injury and ensure maximum benefit. Pair your training with a nutrient-dense diet that supports muscle growth and recovery. Building a stronger core won’t happen overnight, but with dedication and discipline, you will see improvement in your rowing strength, endurance, and overall performance.