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It’s your friend Kathleen again with some great news for those of you who suffer from knee pain or knee problems.
Before I begin, I want to say that I am not a doctor, nurse, or physical therapist. This article should not be considered medical advice but rather a friendly advice based on my personal experiences and some medical facts that I have researched.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to the subject at hand. Or should I say, at knee?
Oh, bad knees, isn’t that just about everyone over the age of 40? So the question many people want to know:
Can using a rowing machine be bad for your knees? The answer is No, rowing by itself is not bad for your knees. It is a low-impact exercise that strengthens the muscles supporting your knee joint, in effect preventing knee injuries caused by weak leg muscles.
Gone are the days when you could kneel and get up without help from a table or counter! I remember one day kneeling on the floor to get a cat toy from underneath the refrigerator and my left knee was killing me! I had to hang on to the fridge door handle to pull myself up!
If that sounds familiar to you and you want fix that problem, then you should start rowing.
No, I’m not kidding. There are many, many benefits to rowing, and in today’s article, I’m going to tell you how a rowing machine can not only get you in the best shape of your life, but how it can actually help make your knees stronger and hurt less.
Are you ready to get off your butt and get back into the game? Let’s talk about rowing and knee pain.
Table of Contents
Is Rowing Good If You Have Bad Knees?
Rowing is a low-impact form of exercise and, as such, rarely causes people to experience knee pain. Besides that, the rowing stroke uses 86 percent of the muscles in the body, including the quads and hamstrings that are attached to the knee.
When these muscles are strong, they offer strong support for the knee joint and help prevent knee pain. However, if you have chronic knee pain because of an injury or health issue, it is possible that using a rowing machine may irritate a knee injury and cause you more pain.
Our knees are complex pieces of equipment that allow us to do a great many things, like running, walking, bending over, sitting, kneeling, and a lot more. So, it’s not surprising that we wear out our knees and damage them over the years.
For me, my downfall was getting kicked in the knee by a colt, but even if you never step near a horse, you might find that your knees just can’t do what they used to when you were 20.
My recommendation is that if rowing causes knee pain and you are using the proper rowing technique, you need to stop rowing immediately and see a medical professional.
Is Using a Rowing Machine Good for Arthritic Knees?
Generally speaking, yes it is!
This is really good news because as anyone who has arthritis in the knee joints can tell you, almost everything hurts like the dickens! Finding a non-weight-bearing form of exercise that still works the upper and lower body but doesn’t hurt your knees is not an easy task!
If this sounds like you, it’s time you tried a rowing machine.
Did you know that a study out of Canada found that people with arthritis in the knees who engaged in regular exercise did not worsen their arthritis but instead actually had less pain?
This is because low-impact exercises that help strengthen the muscles surrounding and supporting the knee joint will reduce pressure on the knees and reduce knee pain, even the pain of arthritis.
Will Rowing Help Me Lose Weight and Reduce Knee Pain?
You better believe it!
Rowing is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise that you can do. Indoor rowing using the proper form will help you lose weight quickly if you dedicate yourself to getting in at least 20 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Your body weight puts pressure on the knee joint, so losing weight will relieve some of the pressure and reduce most types of knee pain.
You will find that you can lose weight, reach your fitness goals, and have less chronic knee pain when you use a rowing machine regularly.
How Do You Row Without Hurting Your Knees?
There is a nasty little problem called patellofemoral pain syndrome or PFPS (aka patellofemoral stress syndrome) that happens behind or around the kneecap. This pain can travel so that you feel it on your thigh or shin. It sometimes causes a clicking sound or sensation in the knee joint when you row.
Another fairly common knee pain is called iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS). The iliotibial band (ITB) glides over the outside of the knee whenever you bend the joint. This friction can lead to inflammation and localized pain at the outside of your hip or knee.
So how do you row without experiencing these types of pain?
You can avoid both of the above by stretching before you row and after you have finished. Also, if you’re new to rowing, make sure that you’re practicing proper rowing technique.
You can take a class at your local gym to learn how to do the strokes properly, or you can watch some of the online videos explaining how you properly perform the rowing strokes.
Remember that when you row, you want to prevent hyperextension of the knee on the drive stroke. Don’t lock your knees or even keep them in an overstretched position for very long.
If you practice proper technique and you remember to stretch both before and after your rowing workout, you shouldn’t have a problem with knee pain.
Does Rowing Put Pressure on the Knees?
No, it doesn’t. Rowing has low impact on the joints, making it the perfect exercise for anyone who has knee pain!
Rowing is done while sitting down, so there’s practically no weight involved and no pressure or impact on any of the joints in the body.
That’s what makes rowing machines the perfect piece of exercise equipment. You get a low-impact workout that puts zero pressure on the joints. So even those who have suffered an injury can still row and get a full-body workout that improves the cardiovascular system.
Related Post: Are Treadmills Bad for Your Knees
Can People with Permanent Injuries Benefit from Rowing Machines?
The great thing about rowing is that you can still get some great cardiovascular exercise, whether you’ve got a permanent knee injury or other types of leg injuries that have prevented you from doing most types of lower body exercises. Even if you are missing a leg or a portion of your leg, you can continue to improve the health of your heart and lungs and strengthen all other parts of your body just by rowing.
I remember seeing a person who couldn’t bend one knee due to an injury use a rowing machine. How did he do that? He put his foot on a skateboard and just let that one leg slide back and forth as the other leg did all the work.
I mean it when I say that rowing machines are the absolute best exercise on the planet! No matter what your injury is, I’m betting you can use a rowing machine.
Let me emphasize again that if you start experiencing some intense knee pain, please stop rowing immediately and seek the advice of a doctor or physical therapist. Pain is a sign that something is wrong, and you need to address this issue.
What Cardio Is Best for Bad Knees?
There are actually several fitness machines that can help you stay in shape when you have bad knees.
Of course, as I’ve mentioned throughout this article, rowing is, in my opinion, your best option, but you can also try some of the following if you don’t have access to a rowing machine:
- Walking- Plain old fashioned walking is good if it doesn’t make your knee hurt.
- Swimming or Water Aerobics- This is especially helpful if the water is warm!
- Stationary Bikes- If these don’t hurt your knees, then this is another option.
- Ellipticals-Some ellipticals cause knee pain, but others, especially recumbent ellipticals like the Teeter FreeStep, can help keep you in shape. For something really different, check out the Teeter Power10, which is an elliptical rowing machine!
The best type of cardio exercise is the one that you love and that you know you won’t get bored doing. No cardio machine, not even a rowing machine, will improve your cardiovascular system or your muscles if don’t use it!
See the Teeter FreeStep LT3 in Motion – Watch Our Video:
What’s the Best Way to Protect Your Knees when You Work Out?
While you can’t stop Father Time from messing with your knees, you can take steps to make them last longer and live pain-free.
- First, maintain a healthy weight. Easier said than done, right? Consider this- for every 10 pounds you lose, you remove 40 pounds of stress off your knees. Eat a healthy diet at least 80 percent of the time and get in a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise 5-6 days per week.
- Keep the muscles surrounding and attached to the knees strong. Strong leg and glute muscles will support the knee and can prevent knee pain.
- Vary your routine. By switching up your exercise routine, you can protect your knee joints and make it easier to lose weight. Try HIIT rowing workouts mixed with strength training or walking.
- Take up yoga or Pilates. Both of these stretching exercises can help prevent knee pain, back pain, and keep you more flexible as you age.
- Start slow. Don’t start any exercise program and think that you can do 60 minutes from the get-go. You might be able to, but your knees will pay the price. Take your time and work yourself up to 30 or 60 minutes. Trust me on this one, this is how some of the most serious injuries happen.
I love that the Hydrow rowing machine also has yoga and Pilates workouts right there on the monitor. I can just grab a mat and do some stretching either before or after my workouts. On my off days, I love to do a bit of yoga in the morning. It makes me feel good all day!
Injuries happen and you can’t change that, but you can take steps to help prevent injuries and keep your knee joints healthy for decades.
The Final Takeaway
The TL:DR version here is: Rowing is great for anyone with bad knees. Rowing machine workouts can help prevent knee injuries, but you must use the proper rowing technique. Almost anyone can use a rowing machine, even people with serious yet permanent injuries or even those with only one leg.
To help keep your knees healthy and prevent possible knee injuries, you should lose weight and mix up your routine.
Your good friend Kathleen will not steer you wrong! Why not go to your local gym and try out one of the rowing machines. Ask someone to show you the proper form and see how this amazing, low-impact cardio machine can help you lose weight and look good naked, as well as make knee pain a thing in the past.
Stay healthy and happy, my friends, because life is too damn short for anything else!
Written by Kathleen Langdon – TheHealthPot.com Founder
Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES)
Kathleen, a mother of two, struggled with ongoing weight and health issues. She created this website after she turned her life around. She built Thehealthpot.com to help inspire and motivate others with their fitness goals. Read more about Kathleen here.