Does Rowing Machine Hurt Knees

In general, rowing is a low-impact cardio activity, an activity that people can do on a rowing machine (or rowing machine)
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The impact of rowing on our body

Rowing is the action of rowing. In general, it is a low-impact cardio activity on the joints that people can do while standing on a boat in a natural environment, or standing still and rowing on a rowing machine (or rowing machine).

This activity affects our entire body  and can therefore also be considered an effective way to increase muscle strength and burn calories.

However, in order to avoid the occurrence of injuries when you are rowing, in addition to treating our rowing technique it is necessary not to overdo it, and it is also necessary to know how to recognize the first signals with which our body warns us that there is something that is not it goes.

The row and the knee muscles

The rowing and the muscles connected to the knee

We have said that rowing increases muscle strength. Also the strength of the muscles surrounding our knees.

During three of the four phases of the row (which we describe in the next paragraph), the quadriceps are extended above the knee. Also, during each phase of the rowing cycle, they flex and contract,

  • both the hamstring muscles, which are a group of muscles that form part of the back of the thigh,
  • both the gastrocnemius which is a muscle located in the back of the leg and which also participates in knee flexion,.

As these muscles are strengthened by the effect of rowing, they are able to support the knee joint more and more effectively: so much so that, thanks to the strengthening of the leg muscles, some people may feel a reduction in their chronic knee pain.

Provided, however, that training with the rowing machine is conducted correctly and in the absence of pain.

Knee injuries

Knee injuries

The knee is a joint where the femur, tibia and patella come into play.

The knee joints are involved in many movements that are important for our mobility. Then, at the knee level, the weight of our body is transmitted to the leg: therefore the joint also has an important static task.

While we carry out our daily activities, or when we play sports or do physical exercises, including of course those with the rowing machine, injuries can occur due to excessive activity or due to overloading work.

To avoid injuries when rowing, especially knee injuries, it is important to move carefully and correctly.

To better understand the topics we are talking about, the following images may be useful.

Knee joint: pictures

Some pictures of the knee joints

As you can see from the images below, the knee joint is quite complex, and several muscles are involved in its  movements .


The various phases and movements of the rowing

The stroke consists of four separate movements, which combine to complete each cycle of the stroke.

  • the entry or attack,  is the maximum compression phase during which the weight of the body is transferred to the pedal board;
  • the passata , is the phase in which the palate is still borne by the legs, while the back and the upper limbs “hold” to transmit the thrust of the lower limbs to the oars (or to the handle of the ergometer);
  • the final , is the moment in which the arms close the palate;
  • the recovery , the phase in which the hands remove the oars from the chest, and the torso flexes and moves forward to find the position of the attack.

When rowing, the main anterior and posterior muscles of the thigh are also worked, as well as those of the leg that affect the knee.

Let’s see now, which are the phases that present the greatest risk of accidents,  what to do and what not to do.

Risks-knees in the entry phase

The greatest risks to the knees are in the attack / entry phase

During the entry or attack phase, the knees are in a flexed position, this is usually the time when you get hurt.

If you bend your knees too much during the entry phase, it can also lead to patellofemoral stress syndrome or iliotibial band syndrome.

The  patellofemoral syndrome involves pain in the patella, while the syndrome of iliotibial band involves pain in the outer part of the knee.


To avoid injuries when rowing, the position of the feet must also be correct

Holding the wrong foot position on the rowing machine could be a cause of injury.

To avoid making incorrect movements, or to avoid slipping, simply tie your feet well to the appropriate support, making sure that the straps tighten (not excessively) the widest part of the foot.

When you finish an exercise

Pay attention to when an exercise is finished, and when the knee is completely stretched

Another occasion for damage could occur when the legs are in their fully extended position.

If the person rowing is tired, they may be tempted to fully extend their knees.

This should never happen because it could also cause injury to the knee or lower back. 

For best results, this person should always keep their knees slightly bent so that the muscles always remain engaged.

The video below demonstrates the correct way to extend the legs.

Eye to the state of the knees

Those who intend to engage in this physical activity must pay attention to the state of their knee

In rowing, many injuries occur due to excessive effort, or due to a lack of elasticity of the user’s body during exercise.

A decisive factor in knowing whether rowing will be useful to us or whether – on the contrary – it will bring us more pain, is often also linked to the condition of the knee of those who intend to dedicate themselves to this activity.

  • In fact, if a knee already has some kind of problem or injury, it is possible that rowing can irritate the joint or exacerbate symptoms.
  • If knee pain occurs for the first time after exercising on the apparatus, it would be good to consider the existence of any possible problems regarding strength and flexibility, both in the knees and in the hips. In this case, the person affected by the pain may need to do additional exercises with free weights to create strength and flexibility in these joints.
Warming up the muscles

It is always good to warm up the muscles, even before starting to row


To avoid the possibility of injury, everyone should always warm up before (even) starting to row.

The warm-up exercises should also include exercises to prepare, the movements, the muscles, the ligaments and the joints.

rowing techniques

Even the “right” rowing techniques help to avoid injuries. Proper rowing technique requires the rower to sit upright, with the shins in an upright position.

It is a common habit to try to speed up this phase. However,

  • if the movement is performed too hastily, excessive compression of the legs may occur;
  • this fact could lead to an excessive stretching of the tendons, with the muscles making extraordinary efforts to return to normal from this too extended position;
  • when this happens, there may be tension in the muscles surrounding the knees;
  • Compression of the patella is also possible.

What to do if you experience knee pain

In the attack phase, when the knees are fully bent, some may experience pain if there is already an injury.

If the person rowing has knee pain, they must stop rowing immediately.

In fact, a pain can indicate that some injury is occurring. Continuing to try to overcome the pain is not recommended as it could make the injury worse.

A non-muscle related knee injury could be particularly problematic as the injury could involve the tendons or cartilage, which could require prolonged treatment that could even involve surgery.

It is advisable to apply ice on the injured part.

An injury involving the ligaments surrounding the knee could lead to significant pain, swelling, and an inability to support weight.

In this case, rest will be needed to heal. The doctor may also decide to prescribe a brace to support the joint.


What are the best knee exercises and which are not?

It doesn’t matter if you are 20, 40 or 60, knee exercises are very important. There are many people who suffer from knee problems, as a result of injuries or due to the typical degeneration associated with age. It may seem like a simple joint, but the knee, according to traumatologists, is one of the most complex.

The knees have the task of supporting the weight of the whole body when we are standing  and allow us to flex and extend the legs. This is why it is important to carry out knee exercises that suit the circumstances.

They are a fascinating and complex set of bones, muscles, ligaments and fibrocartilaginous discs that, at the slightest problem, stroke or inflammation, cause immediate pain, limiting much of our daily activity.

What can we do? Can we go dancing or will we have to take a sedative first to be able to do what we would like? We answer these questions in the following article.


Physical activities suitable for people suffering from knee pain

Sports medicine experts tell us that knee problems are usually associated with our lifestyle habits, various diseases such as arthritis or osteoporosis, a sedentary lifestyle, and sometimes even sex.

For example, women often suffer from classic bone loss, which is why joints such as the knees are particularly affected over time.

The knees are “precision machines” that feel the weight of the years and which must be taken care of every day. How? By following adequate nutrition and moderate exercise, take care of their movements, without forcing them.


Which sports are most beneficial for a person suffering from knee pain?

  • Swimming, especially the back one.
  • The  elliptical bike(always in moderation. It is also important to emphasize that cycling is not indicated in this case, even if the sports doctors say that you could also practice this activity, as long as the saddle is raised enough, so as to do not overload and knees).
  • Is it good to go for a run or walk if your knees hurt? In these cases, specialists tell us: “you don’t have to run to stay in shape. It’s best to be in good shape before you decide to go for a run or take a long walk.
  • That is to say, if your knees hurt, do not make unnecessary efforts, with which you will further accentuate the pain, injury or problem you have in your knees.
  • If you are one of those people used to going out for walking every day, don’t get too tired and don’t walk too fast.
  • You should always maintain a smooth ride and walk in unobstructed terrain so that you can rest your feet correctly and align your knees and hips.
  • It is best to avoid walking in the countryside, in parks or in urban places where the sidewalk has unevenness or obstacles that can make it difficult for the knees to balance. It is always best to walk on a treadmill, at low speed, to feel safer.

Simple knee exercises to do at home

You must think of your knees as springs, joints that need harmonic, delicate and precise movements, without making sudden efforts.

If you are not careful, those springs will lose control and pain will appear. To strengthen your knees, you can practice some simple exercises that will help you continue to have adequate mobility. Do you want to know what they are? Take note!

1. Squat against the wall


  • Get back to the wall and place a ball right in the “hole” of your back.
  • Put your hands behind your neck
  • Get on your toes and stay in this position for 10 seconds. Rest for a moment and repeat the exercise 5 more times.
  • Now, in the same position, with your back against the wall, bend over until your legs form a 90º angle. Next, go up. Repeat the exercise 5 times. Simple!


2. Lunges forward


  • These knee exercises are very simple. You will need to stand and then spread one leg out to lunge forward. When you bend the leg forward, you will have to bend the knee, accompanying it with the pelvis, so that the movement is light and harmonious and does not cause you pain.
  • Then change the leg and repeat the exercise 5 times.

3. Lift a weight

  • In sporting goods stores you will find different weights that you can tie around your ankles. The purpose? Making your knee joints stronger, as well as more flexible.
  • For this, all you have to do is sit on a chair, stop the weight on one ankle and lift it little by little. Do this for 5 minutes and then switch legs.

It would be good to dedicate between 40 minutes and an hour each day to these simple knee exercises that you can easily do at home.

The important thing is to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, because this causes the knees to lose their flexibility and the joints become increasingly weak.


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