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Are Rowing Machines Bad for Your Back? Everything You Need to Know

If you've done the rowing machine, you must also know the common problems resulting from improper form. These errors in practice can result in pain and injury. Read out!

Brandon George
Are Rowing Machines Bad for Your Back? Everything You Need to Know
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We're aware of the phrase "no pain, no gain" before, but when it comes to exercise and your back health, does that apply? If you're like many people who have recently invested in a rowing machine for their home gym – or if you're just curious about its safety – then you might be wondering: are rowing machines bad for your back?

As someone with plenty of experience as a rower, I'm here to tell you why the answer (spoiler alert!) is somewhat gray. 

As someone who has done plenty of indoor rowing in the past few years and had zero back pain issues, I've decided to dive into the research and answer this age-old question. 

In this blog post, I'm pulling together what science has to say about how rowing impacts our spine and sharing tips on staying safe during gym sessions. Let's break down all there is to know about keeping our backs healthy and happy - with one major caveat... good luck trying not to make too many snarky puns along the way!

What Is Rowing Machine Back Pain?

Rowing is an excellent workout for building strength and mobility in the back muscles, but it is essential to use proper form when rowing to avoid injury or discomfort. Those who have experienced pain from the incorrect form describe it as a burning or tugging sensation in a particular area of the back. 

Strengthening the back muscles through rowing can help prevent such issues from arising. However, proper technique must be employed to ensure no further damage occurs.

Lower Back Pain While Rowing

When the discs in the lower back become injured, the person experiences pain that can travel down to the buttocks. This is a common complaint among rowers, who have trained intensely and are now feeling the effects of their hard work. 

At the end of an incredibly strenuous rowing stroke, they may feel discomfort when stretching or even sitting still. In this situation, the muscles in their lower back spasm and prevent them from being able to bend forward far enough to reach their toes fully.

Upper and Middle Back Pain While Rowing

Rowing can cause pain in the upper and middle of one's back if the proper technique is not utilized. This discomfort can extend from the neck down to the ribcage, commonly seen in inexperienced rowers who are unaware of how to use their bodies while performing this physical activity properly. 

When rowing, one must focus on keeping their shoulders squared and head raised, as any deviation from this can cause unnecessary strain and stress on their back muscles and spine.

Common Causes of Back Pain

Here are the common causes of back pain you need to know to fix the problem and adopt the proper technique to eliminate severe pain.

Bad Posture

When someone has a bad posture, it means that their body is contorted in a way that puts stress on their back and restricts blood flow. This strain can cause pain over time, either acute or chronic. 

This is especially true when someone sits improperly for extended periods, leading to tense muscles. Poor posture can lead to decreased range of motion and more severe issues, such as arthritis, if not addressed early on.

No Supporting Muscles

Exercising the muscles that support your spine is essential for preventing back injuries. This includes the core, erector spinae, and latissimus dorsi muscles, as they bear your body's weight and distribute it evenly throughout your spine. 

When these muscle groups are not worked out regularly, there is an increased risk of sustaining a back injury due to unequal force distribution along the spine. 

Muscle Strains or Sprains

The lumbar muscles in your lower back can be torn or stretched like other muscles, resulting in considerable and lingering pain. In addition to strained muscles, sprains of the vertebral ligaments can also cause significant discomfort. 

Wrong Rowing Technique/Improper Rowing Form

When using a rowing machine for exercise, it is essential to ensure proper form and technique to maximize the efficiency of your workout and prevent back pain. Incorrect techniques can lead to incorrectly straining muscles and joints, resulting in problems.

Hunching Back

When rowing, many people make the mistake of slouching their backs. This incorrect form leads to shoulders being raised, the chest dropping, and lower back muscles becoming strained. 

This can cause discomfort and pain for some people. With a hunching technique, it restricts the ability of the body's muscles to work efficiently and can put undue stress on the lower back area creating an uncomfortable sensation. 

Therefore, it is much better to adopt an upright posture when using a rowing machine to prevent discomfort and ensure that your muscles are used optimally.


Rowing machine back pain is a common consequence of overexertion or overtraining. This occurs when one increases their training regime too rapidly and exceeds the amount of exercise they can handle. It is vital to take Intra Workout Supplements to recognize the value of training hard and long.

Unless an individual gradually builds up their physical fitness, they may be at risk of sustaining an injury or causing other health issues. It is essential to take Antioxidant Plus Supplements for better health and recovery from health issues.

What to Do if You Feel Back Pain From Rowing

If you’ve been dealing with back pain, it is essential to stop exercising right away and see if there is any improvement in the symptoms over the next few days. You should not force your back muscles by using machines, as this will only exacerbate the problem in the long run.

Instead, try doing more straightforward exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups, that won't add extra strain on your back. Additionally, stretching regularly—before and after workouts and during recovery—can help relieve your aching muscles. 

Finally, if you want to use a rowing machine, understand that it can be hazardous for your health if done incorrectly; however, with the proper technique and form, you can avoid damaging effects on your body.


1. Can a rowing machine cause a herniated disc?

Certain pre-existing conditions, including a herniated disc, may make someone more prone to injury when using a rowing machine. Because the nature of each individual's injury, age, and physical ability is different, it’s essential to speak with a physician before engaging in any new exercise routine - especially if you have any underlying concerns.

2. Are rowing machines bad for your knees?

Rowing machines provide great fitness benefits, but specific problems can arise if the rowing motion needs to be done correctly. Repetitive movements and poor posture can lead to knee discomfort.

3. Can rowing reduce your back fat?

While rowing does activate the upper and lower parts of your back muscles, it doesn't help you lose "back fat" directly since no targeted areas in exercise can target specific body fat regions. Working out those back muscles could lead to overall fat loss and contribute to a healthy physique.

4. Is a rowing machine good for back muscles?

A rowing machine can be a fantastic way to strengthen your back muscles—but only if you're doing it right! It requires you to use proper form, as poor posture can lead to more harm than good. But if you ensure you have a regular and accurate technique, this equipment is an excellent way to tone up your back, building stamina and strength in one go.


Rowing machines can cause severe back pain, but it doesn't mean it is good exercise. You need to follow proper technique, form, and instructions to reap the maximum benefits of this workout.

It involves lower back pain in the buttocks and upper and middle back pain, which forms in the head and shoulders. The common causes of back pain through rowing machines are bad posture, no supporting muscles, and muscle strain or sprains.

Wrong rowing techniques, including hunching back and overtraining, can worsen the back conditions with severe pain. You should stop the rowing machine workout, switch exercises, and start stretching regularly to avoid back pain. So, start on and relieve yourself with zero back pain.

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Brandon George

Brandon George Wendy is a freelance lifestyle reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. He covers a spectrum of topics — including mental and physical health and wellness. Having over 5 years of experience as a lifestyle reporter covering health & wellness and meditation topics.

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