Are Rowing Machines Bad for Your Back?

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The rise of technology has brought us remarkable and undeniable progress. What we once did manually can now be automated with artificial intelligence.

However, as we progress with this automated lifestyle, getting in shape becomes increasingly difficult. Our once-straight backs now curl grotesquely to accommodate our desktop necessities.

Fortunately, gyms can correct your poor posture and get your body moving. Most gyms nowadays have fitness equipment designed to target specific muscle groups.

One such piece of equipment is the rowing machine. With the risk of injury that comes with exercise, the question remains: are rowing machines bad for your back?

What Causes Your Back Pain?

Back pains are typically caused by several reasons outside exercise. They may also affect all persons regardless of age but are usually more common the older a person gets.

Below are some of the reasons why you suffer from back pain:

1. Lack of Enough Muscle Support

Your back is more likely to suffer a painful injury if you don’t work out the muscles that support your spine. These muscles include the erector spinae and core.

You’ll also suffer back pain if your latissimus dorsi muscles do not transfer your body weight properly and evenly onto your spine.

2. Pulling a Tendon or Muscle 

A hurting back can also be caused by straining or spraining a muscle or tendon.

This happens when you sit or stand in improper posture for long periods.

It can also result from incorrectly lifting boxes or other large objects, working out with an improper technique, or just sleeping in an uncomfortable position.

You may also feel moderate back muscle spasms or tightness from a pulled muscle or ligament.

3. Having Bulging or Herniated Discs

Your spine’s discs are essentially “spongy cushions” that act as the vertebrae’s shock absorbers.

Thinning disks are more prone to inflammation and cause your backbones to rub together.

Herniated discs happen when the soft tissue in the discs between your joints comes out of place, usually due to wear and tear.

Because the nerves in your lower back and hip are compressed, herniated discs can hurt there.

Bulging discs, on the other hand, “bulge” or protrude, although not as significantly as with a herniated disc.

Usually, this doesn’t cause any symptoms, but you’ll feel discomfort if it presses against a nerve root.

Both disc conditions are age-related joint concerns, as they become more prone to inflammation the older you get.

4. Excessive Stress

Even though it may be difficult to imagine, mental or emotional stress could be the cause of your back pain.

In reality, a long list of physical symptoms linked to stress and anxiety has been established, including headaches, stomach pains, and insomnia.

Stress is your body’s response to specific, typically unpleasant, experiences or ideas.

Although you may not be aware of it, your body undergoes physical and chemical changes when you are stressed or nervous. It does so in an effort to keep you safe.

Adrenaline and cortisone are released when this happens, and your muscles often contract uncontrollably. This frequently affects the neck, shoulders, and lower back.

Lower back pain, specifically, might result from a persistent strain in these locations.

are rowing machines bad for your back

Are Rowing Machines Bad for Your Back?

Generally, exercising with rowing machines is not only good for your back. It can even alleviate the back pain that you’re feeling before exercise.

A rowing workout can benefit back pain from poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle, and perhaps even minor sprains and strains.

As stated earlier, one common cause of back pain is your back’s lack of muscle for enough support. Rowing machines can help you develop your muscles in these areas.

Exercising, in general, has been proven to relieve stress, which means that back pains caused by stress should also be alleviated.

Know Your Weaknesses

However, you should ensure that your back condition is fit enough to perform even at the lowest resistance setting.

Understand that a rowing workout cannot cure diseases brought by aging or other medical conditions.

Indeed, it can even cause more pain if you’re not prudent enough to have it checked with a doctor first.

Still, rowing machine workouts might be an excellent addition to your recovery plan should your doctor approve.

Practice Caution

To be on the safer side, you should only try to use a rowing machine if you know how to do it correctly.

Take some precautions if you feel pain building up on your back.

You should also try to keep your spine in proper posture throughout the workout to prevent it from bearing the weight.

Train With Pros

If you’re still unsure if you’re doing the proper form or not, try to find a personal trainer or watch video tutorials from reliable experts.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that it’s normal to feel muscle pains when you’re only starting your exercise routine. 

This frequently happens if you haven’t perfected your exercise program’s forms and techniques.

Take a Break

Don’t hesitate to stop and take a break when you begin to experience pain when rowing – never push yourself to keep going.

You can try again next time if you’ve built enough muscle mass and confidence.

Alternatively, you can tune your rowing exercise intensity to fit your current strength better.

What Causes Your Pain During Rowing?

Aside from muscle pains brought by your initial rowing workouts, below are the other causes of pain during rowing. You can prevent them with proper practice or medical consultation.

1. Excessive Training

Pain due to excessive training happens when you exert more effort and for longer than your fitness level currently permits.

Excessive training can tear your muscles leading to increased pain than usual.

Muscle tear naturally promotes muscle growth, such as in the case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). However, it’s unnecessary and should be avoided if you want.

Pain from excessive training may also come from sciatica or the inflammation of your sciatic nerves due to too much pressure.

Sciatic pain can feel like a burning, shocking, or stabbing sensation from the site of injury.

Your spinal discs can also deteriorate faster if you don’t match your fitness routine’s intensity with your fitness level, causing herniated or bulging disks.

To prevent these, try starting with lower resistance levels. You can increase your machine’s resistance level or try a faster rowing cadence every 7–10 days.

If you feel pain even after days of rest, switch back to a more straightforward exercise and check if you’re following a balanced training regime.

2. Improper Form or Technique

Using an improper form or technique when doing any exercise is arguably the most common cause of workout-related injury.

A common rowing machine mistake is bending your back when pulling. This puts your lumbar spines under additional and unnecessary stress.

To correct this, tighten your core muscles to release the strain on your lower back instead of crunching forward.

Remember that a rowing workout is a core stabilization exercise meant to increase your core strength.

Another common form mistake is stooping too far back to maximize your stroke.

Try tilting more toward the front rather than too far back when you start your rowing motion. This gives you more range of motion as a result.

Beginners also tend to set their resistance levels too high. Try talking to your gym instructor to teach you how to make all the necessary modifications to the rowing machine according to your body shape before beginning your activity.

You should also ensure that any gadgets you use while rowing, such as a tablet or smartphone, are set to the proper height.

3. Undiagnosed Medical Condition or Injury

If your back pain seems to intensify or linger for long periods after rowing workouts, try consulting your doctor for advice.

It’s always better to be sure that you have no underlying or undiagnosed medical conditions before trying out or proceeding with new exercises.

Generally, doctors rarely dissuade their patients from trying any exercise of some sort, even after recovery.

This advice is usually only reserved for those with severe or advanced conditions that will prevent them from exercising altogether.

Other Tips to Prevent Back Pains After Exercise

As with any form of workout, overall physical health is a priority. Doing things right ensures that you stay healthy and prevent any injuries.

Consider the following tips:

Stretch Before Working Out.

Many back pain problems arise when we quickly apply pressure to the spine without warming up.

Try doing some basic stretches before beginning any exercise or activities that require muscle strength to accomplish.

Before beginning any exercise, a five to 10-minute low-intensity cardio workout can increase blood flow and prevent damage or long-term back problems.

For instance, start with jumping jacks or high knees.

Find Out Which Moves Are Painful.

Chances are you’ll get to feel pain only when doing certain moves or exercises. While it’s still not advisable to proceed with the entire routine, you’ll be wise to note which particular actions trigger the pain.

You should also avoid non-exercise actions that produce similar pain to the one you felt until it has subsided or you’ve consulted a doctor.

Don’t Ignore the Pain.

It’s advisable and logical not to continue doing anything that hurts, especially if it shouldn’t. Doing so may lead to more tissue damage and heighten already-existing damage.

We understand why you might be tempted to just soldier through the pain, thinking it’s no big deal.

However, remember that it’s always better to err on the side of caution, especially when it concerns your physical well-being.

Back Pains and Rowing Machines

So, are rowing machines bad for your back? Well, it really depends on your current medical condition, but predominantly, it’s actually good for you.

More importantly, in this fast-paced world where losing sight of what’s essential is easy, you should always find time to value personal health.

A proper and consistent workout on a rowing machine can save you from health problems in the long run.

If you don’t have any pertinent medical conditions, there’s really nothing stopping you from exercising with it.

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