Prevent Knee Pain on a Rowing Machine: 10 Things to Do


Knee pain is a common concern for many individuals, especially those who are physically active or engage in regular exercise, or experience chronic paid due to conditions like arthritis. One type of exercise equipment that often comes to mind for its impact on knee health is the rowing machine. While rowing machines provide an excellent full-body workout, improper use or poor technique can lead to knee pain and discomfort. In this blog post, we will explore effective ways to prevent knee pain when using a rowing machine, ensuring you can enjoy a pain-free and effective workout.

Understand How a Rowing Machine Works

Before we delve into preventing knee pain, let’s take a moment to understand how a rowing machine works. Rowing machines, also known as ergometers or rowers, simulate the motion of rowing a boat. This low-impact exercise engages various muscle groups, including the legs, arms, back, and core. The primary components of a rowing machine are:

  • Seat: This is where you sit while using the rower
  • Footrests: These adjustable footrests secure your feet in place during the rowing motion.
  • Handlebar: You grip the handlebar to pull the rower’s cord.
  • Resistance Mechanism: Rowing machines come with various resistance mechanisms such as air, water, magnetic, or hydraulic.
  • Now, let’s explore how you can prevent knee pain while using a rowing machine.
  1. Proper Foot Placement

    One of the most critical factors in preventing knee pain on a rowing machine is ensuring proper foot placement. Follow these steps:

    • Adjust the footrests so that the straps secure your feet snugly.
    • Position your feet flat on the footrests, ensuring your toes point slightly upward.
    • Keep your knees aligned with your feet throughout the rowing motion to prevent unnecessary stress on your knee joints.
  2. Warm-Up Before Rowing

    Warming up is crucial before engaging in any exercise, including rowing. Spend 5-10 minutes performing light cardiovascular exercises like jumping jacks or brisk walking to increase blood flow to your muscles and joints. This helps prepare your knees for the workout and reduces the risk of injury.

  3. Maintain Proper Rowing Technique

    Correct rowing technique is vital for preventing knee pain. Here’s how to maintain proper form:

    • Sit upright with your back straight, engaging your core muscles.
    • Bend your knees slightly, keeping your shins vertical, and avoid overextending them.
    • Push through your legs while pulling the handlebar towards your lower ribs.
    • Extend your legs fully and lean back slightly, ensuring you engage your glutes and back muscles.
    • Reverse the motion by bending your knees and returning to the starting position.
  4. Adjust Resistance Carefully

    Rowing machines offer various resistance settings. Start with a lower resistance level, especially if you are new to rowing or experiencing knee pain. As your strength and endurance improve, gradually increase the resistance to avoid placing excessive strain on your knees.

  5. Listen to Your Body

    Pay close attention to your body while rowing. If you experience any discomfort or pain in your knees, stop immediately and assess your form. Ignoring pain can lead to more severe injuries.

  6. Stretch After Your Workout

    After your rowing session, perform gentle stretching exercises to help alleviate muscle tension and prevent stiffness in your knees. Focus on stretching your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.

  7. Consistent Rowing Routine

    Consistency is key to preventing knee pain. Incorporate rowing into your regular exercise routine, but don’t overdo it. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts to allow your knees to adapt to the stress.

  8. Cross-Train

    To reduce the risk of overuse injuries, include other forms of exercise in your fitness regimen. Cross-training with activities like swimming, cycling, or yoga can help balance muscle strength and reduce the strain on your knees.

  9. Proper Footwear

    Wear appropriate athletic shoes with good arch support and cushioning while using the rowing machine. This will help distribute the pressure evenly and protect your knees.

  10. Consult a Professional

    If you continue to experience knee pain despite following these preventive measures, consult a healthcare professional or physical therapist. They can assess your condition, provide personalized guidance, and recommend exercises or treatments to address any underlying issues.


Rowing machines offer an effective full-body workout, but knee pain can be a deterrent if not managed properly. By following these tips on foot placement, warm-up, technique, resistance adjustment, and overall knee care, you can enjoy the benefits of rowing without the fear of knee discomfort or injury. Remember that prevention is key, and listening to your body is crucial. With the right approach and attention to detail, you can maintain healthy knees and make rowing a pain-free part of your fitness routine.