Are Rowing Machines Bad for Your Back? (Know the Truth)

Shayla Whitter

Rowing has long been recognized as a low-impact workout that provides an excellent full-body workout. However, like with any other workout, overtraining or poor practice can cause harm. Back discomfort, along with knee pain, is one of the most prevalent ailments among rowers.

Even healthy persons have had lumbar discomfort after using rowing machines, but it doesn’t mean that the rowing machine is the cause of your back pain.

Some doctors even recommend a rowing machine to alleviate chronic back pains and train the muscles to better support your spine.

So, are rowing machines bad for your back? Why’s there are so many people complaining about back pains while using a rowing machine 

This article will lead you through the reasons for rowing machine back discomfort, as well as how to avoid and treat it so that you may be a happier rower!

What is Rowing Machine Back Pain?

Because rowing uses your back muscles to their full capacity, it helps increase both your back’s strength and flexibility, which in turn helps avoid back discomfort. This is true.

But what is also true is that you need to perform with the appropriate form to avoid causing damage to yourself, including discomfort in the back.

The majority of persons who have experienced this type of pain have described it as either a burning or tugging feeling in a specific region of their back.

Lower back pain while rowing

Even the best rowers often say their lower back hurts. Training hard was the most important thing that led to this result. When the discs in the lower back are hurt, the pain can sometimes go all the way down to the buttocks.

At the end of a rowing stroke, you can feel pain when you stretch your legs or even when you’re sitting still.

When this happens, the rower’s back goes into spasm, and they can’t bend forward quite far enough to touch their toes.

Upper and middle back pain while rowing

Upper and middle back pain is most common in new rowers, especially those who don’t know how to row properly. When you row, your upper and middle back can get hurt if your shoulders are rounded and your head is tilted forward. It can happen anywhere from the base of your neck to the bottom of your rib cage.

Common Causes of Rowing Back Pain

As explained above, rowing machines don’t cause back pain, it is self- back pain due to the following reasons:

Bad Posture 

When you hunch forward or twist your spine for a long time, you put stress on your back and cut off the blood flow to it. These two factors can cause either short-term or long-term pain. Most of the time, sitting in the wrong way causes muscles to be constantly strained.

No Supporting Muscles

If you don’t exercise the muscles that support your spine, like the core and erector spine, or muscles like the latissimus dorsi, which keep the weight from going straight onto the spine, your back is more likely to get hurt, whether or not you work out.

Muscle Strains or Sprains 

Your lumbar muscles can be torn or stretched just like any other muscle in your body. When a muscle is pulled in the right place, it can cause a lot of back pain that lasts for a long time. In the same way, sprains of the ligaments in your spine can also hurt. Strains and sprains can happen at once or slowly over time. Usually caused by an inadequate form

Other Conditions  

Back pain can be made worse by things like being overweight or having arthritis. Many people don’t know that mental stress can hurt your back health, but it can.

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Wrong rowing technique/Improper rowing form

Be careful not to make some of the most common mistakes on a rowing machine. These mistakes can lead to bad rowing form and back pain during or after your workouts.

Hunching back

On the rowing machine, many people row in the wrong way. Most of the time, back pain from a rowing machine is caused by hunching your back. It makes the shoulders go up, the chest goes down, and the lower back sag.

When you round your back, you don’t give your muscles the space they need. You’re not making the most of what those muscles can do. Also, you are putting stress on your back, which will lead to pain in your lower back.

How to fix:

Focus on engaging your core so that you are in a strong, supported position. By tightening your abs, you can stand up straight and keep your spine in a neutral position.

Don’t arch your back or hunch your shoulders. So, you can pull your shoulders back and down.

Leaning back extremely

To get the length you want in the stroke, you might be tempted to pull the handle to the face. This causes your upper body to lean back very far at the end of the drive phase and the finishing phase, this is another mistake that most rowers make.

Extreme layback is a weak position, but that’s too bad. It doesn’t make your stroke longer or stronger. As the power is lost and you aren’t able to make a good stroke. Worse, it puts a lot of stress on your hip and low back. Day by day, you’ll hurt yourself and feel pain in your low back and buttocks.

How to fix:

Get long in the front, keeping the knees just under the arms, the hamstrings loaded, and the back tight. Engage your core to finish strong and comfortably.

Or, think of each part of your body as a hand on a clock.

The best time for rowers to have happy hour is between 11 and 1. It’s a metaphor for how your back moves when you’re rowing. At the catch, it’s at 1 o’clock, and at the finish, or full extension, it’s at 11 o’clock.


Most rowing machine back pain is caused by too much use or too much training. It can happen if you suddenly increase your training level or if you change how often you row.

If you start an exercise program that is too hard for you, you could get hurt or have serious health problems.

How to fix:

Don’t push yourself too hard when you’re just getting started. Even when you get better and used to it, don’t train too much. For back pain or injury prevention, it’s important to keep the intensity, number, and length of your rowing workouts in check.

Make sure to stop rowing when you’re too tired to keep proper form. This will help you make rowing a habit.


Here’s the answer to the most awaited question: Are rowing machines bad for your back? They are not!

Rowing can make your back muscles stronger, but it can also hurt your back if you don’t keep a good posture or do too much of it. To fix this, you should adjust your rowing machine to fit your body, sit with your hips slightly tilted forward, and try not to hunch your shoulders.

Also, you should always choose fitness equipment based on your goals and any health problems you already have, which is what we always say in our articles.

So, how do you choose a rowing machine for back pain that works?

Your boat has to:

Be very flexible so you can find the best position for your body and needs.

Make sure the seat and handlebars are comfortable so that you don’t have to strain your body in any way.

Have both low resistance and high resistance.

These levels should be easy to change, with smooth steps that don’t force you to choose between a very easy workout and one that is too hard for you and never put too much stress on your body.

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