Rowing Crazy


“We Don’t Just Talk About Rowing
We Actually Row!”

“We Don’t Just Talk About Rowing – We Actually Row!”

Is Rowing Good for Arthritis & Painful Joints?

Is Rowing Good for Painful Joints and Arthritis

Hi friends, it’s your favorite blogger Petra. Today, I want to talk about something that nearly everyone on earth will suffer from—painful joints, bad knees, and/or arthritis—and answer the big question.

Yes, rowing relieves the suffering of people with arthritis and painful joints. Rowing is a full-body exercise that engages 86% of the muscles in the body. It strengthens the muscles surrounding a painful joint, provides stronger support, takes pressure off the joints, and thus helps reduce the pain.

If you aren’t in the “arthritis” boat now, chances are that you will be soon. Of course, it’s not always that grim—you can be one of the few lucky people who won’t. Still, there must be someone you know, maybe a friend or a loved one, who suffers from some type of joint pain or arthritis or even low back pain, so keep reading.

Arthritic pain is a true Catch-22 scenario. You need to exercise and move those painful joints to reduce the pain, but how can you do that when it hurts so darn much??

In this article, I’m going to tell you some of the best ways to reduce joint pain, knee pain, low back pain, and arthritis pain.

Before I begin, let me tell you right upfront that I am not a doctor, nurse, or chiropractor. This should not be considered professional medical advice, but rather sharing of information and advice between friends.

If you’re experiencing severe pain or under the care of a medical professional, please consult with your doctor before starting any exercise routine or making any changes to your diet.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started!

Can You Use a Rowing Machine If You Have Arthritis?

images showing various parts of the body where joint pain can occur

The answer here is yes, you can!

One of the tricks to relieving any joint pain is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints.

For example, if you have arthritis symptoms in your knees (and anyone over 50 probably knows what I’m talking about), then you need to strengthen the quads and the hamstrings.

The problem is that the usual cardio exercise machines, such as stair climbers and treadmills, cause so much joint stress that you can’t even do the warm-up exercises, let alone work out for 30 minutes or more!

Want to know how to solve this puzzle? Use a rowing machine!

An indoor rowing machine is a virtually zero-impact exercise. You do the majority of your exercises while sitting down! I think getting up and down from the seat is the worst part of the exercise, but after that, it’s easy-sailing, or rowing, if you will!

Joints worked out while using a rowing machine

The quads (which are the large thigh muscles in the front of the legs) and the hamstrings (the large muscles on the back of the thighs) support the knee joint itself.

These two muscles need to be of equal strength to take pressure off of the knee joints. Rowing gives these two muscles an equal workout when you maintain proper form.

Yes, for some people, knee flexion may result in more pain before you get a chance to strengthen those thigh muscles. Ask your doctor if wearing a knee brace might be a suitable temporary way to relieve pain while you strengthen those leg muscles.

The same is true with nearly all the other joints you have. The arms get a terrific workout, which means that the muscles supporting the elbows and the wrists will also become stronger, reducing the pain in these joints.

Tips for Reducing Joint Pain as You Row

Tips for Reducing Joint Pain as You Row -

One suggestion is to wear knee braces or wrist braces, but there are other methods that might help you work towards becoming pain-free as you use your rowing machine.

  1. Push off from your heels, not your toes, in the catch position. This puts less stress on your knee joints.
  2. Be certain that you are doing the strokes with proper form. If it hurts your back to hinge back and forth between the 11 o’clock and the 2’oclock position, try keeping your back as straight as possible until your core and back muscles become stronger.
  3. Alternate between rowing and using another low-impact exercise machine, such as an elliptical. You might try one of the recumbent elliptical machines that are available.
  4. Be sure to warm up and cool down after each exercise routine
  5. Make stretching your new friend! You might want to practice yoga twice a week to keep your joints as flexible as possible. When muscles and connective tissue are well-stretched, it reduces the amount of tension placed on the joint. That’s why I love my Hydrow – it has yoga, Pilates, and warm-up exercises included in the workouts.
  6. While most rowing machines have ergonomic handles, you might find it much easier to put a foam pool noodle over the handle or wear a pair of gloves. Thicker, softer handles are always easier to grab than thin ones!

Remember that if you still experience pain so severe that you stop rowing, you should consult with your doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor to determine what the problem could be.

Watch below experienced erg rower Max Secunda:


Can I Still Row If I Have Rheumatoid Arthritis?

closeup of a hand with rheumatoid arthritis

Exercise is one of the best things you can do when you have rheumatoid arthritis. Speak to your rheumatologist about rowing or an exercise plan that works best for you or check with The Arthritis Foundation regarding their ASHC courses (Arthritis Self-Help Course).

Rowing is the perfect exercise because you get a great cardio workout and one of the best low-impact exercises around.

If weight loss is your goal, you’ll need lots of cardio, and since rowing works all the major muscle groups, especially your heart, you should lose weight in no time, assuming you combine that with a healthy diet, of course!

Speak with your doctor or physical therapist to see if rowing will work well for you!

Can You Use a Rowing Machine If You Have Arthritis in Your Hands?

You bet you can!

It doesn’t matter if you have arthritis in your spine, knees, neck, or hands. You may need to make a few adjustments, but you can absolutely use a rowing machine safely.

side view of Max Secunda using a Hydrow rower

To pick the best machine for arthritis, choose a machine with the following:

  • A single handle attachment, rather than separate handles (many hydraulic machines use two handles) Adding a piece of foam rubber or a pool noodle can help you maintain a good grip.
  • Water rowers or magnetic rowers are often best since they operate more smoothly than hydraulic or dual-action rowers. Consider the magnetic Hydrow rower or the Ergattta water rower.
  • If you have problems sitting on a rower, the Hydrow Wave seat is a full 16 inches off the floor, which should make it easier to sit down and get back up. You may also want to check out the Concept 2 RowErg, which has to seat height options.

Both Hydrow and Ergatta have beginners’ programs and videos to help you keep the proper form.

This video by our expert rower & qualified Physiotherapist Laura Tanley will help explain the proper rowing strokes during each step. Check out the pick drills too!

Always warm up and start off slowly, using the least amount of resistance. You should keep your core muscles tight and not worry about speed for several weeks.

It is far better to go slowly while holding the proper form than go as fast as possible with poor form.

Most backaches and other joint pains when rowing are the result of poor form. Use a mirror and check your form every few minutes to ensure that you are doing the strokes properly.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, someone with arthritis should start engaging in a physical activity that won’t cause more pain, and rowing is right on top of that list.

Rowing is perhaps one of the most perfect exercises ever created. You will use a full range of motion, work both the upper and lower body at the same time, develop strong muscles, exercise your cardiovascular system, and make the muscles supporting those joints stronger than you ever thought possible.

If you’re interested in owning an indoor rowing machine for your home gym but don’t know where to start, you might find this article helpful.

Keep rowing to a healthy, pain-free, and happy life, my friends!