Rowing machine is reputed as low-impact exercise equipment for a total body workout. Yet, that doesn’t mean it’s pain-free. One of the common pains is rowing machine butt pain.
Are you one of those who experience rowing machine butt pain? Or are you planning to buy a rowing machine but put off by such pain?
In this article, I will walk you through the reasons behind rowing machine butt pain and several ways to avoid that.
Table of contents
- What causes rowing machine butt pain?
- How to avoid butt pain
- Reviews of best rowing machines with comfortable seats
- How to make the seat more comfortable?
What causes rowing machine butt pain?
1. Pressure on butt during rowing workout
While rowing, a person’s butt bears most of the weight and they must pivot back and forth over their tailbone, butt, and sitting bones. They must also use their glutes (butt muscles) as a primary muscle for powering through their rowing leg drive.
The mere fact that your butt is experiencing so much pressure and work can result in rowing machine butt pain.
Besides that, there are also other factors that result in butt pain. Let’s dig into it.
2. Seat design
Most seats are made to fit an average size so if you are smaller or even bigger, chances are that rowing workout won’t be comfortable. Even a minor misfit of seat will give you butt pain.
Such seats cause pressure on your butt area that will manifest after 15 minutes of rowing. This pressure will hurt your sitting bones and restrict blood circulation.
If your tailbone feels uncomfortable and your butt is going numb while rowing, the thickness of padding could be the underlying cause.
3. Wrong assembly of the seat
This may sound a little embarrassing but it actually does happen.
The back part should be the one with the indentation. The hollow part is meant for your tailbone so that it can release pressure from there.
4. Improper form
Rowing machine butt pain, which is also known as “rower’s bum”, can result from improper form.
Those who have just started out rowing have not yet understood proper form and thus do not concentrate their weight in the center of their seat.
Beginners have a tendency to incline too much in front or backwards and other times too much to the left or right. Many people may not know that they unintentionally put more stress on the left or right side depending on which they use most.
Plus, weak abdominal muscles cause some rowers to overcompensate in the gluteal muscle and lower back in general, which can also lead to butt pain.
5. Muscle soreness/Inexperience
When you begin to row for the first time, your muscles are exposed to a type of workout they are not used to and many times these muscles may have not been exercised in a long time.
You are bound to be sore in the back and the butt in the first weeks as your body gets used to this new type of workout.
It’s just something almost every new rowers will encounter.
Any sudden changes in the type of boat rowed, rowing technique, the training level or an abrupt increase in the frequency of training can contribute to the occurrence of butt pain.
How to avoid rowing machine butt pain
The occurrence of butt pain raises a question of how to avoid that.
If you don’t have a rowing machine right now, then the following reviews of best rowing machines with comfortable seats are what you need. You can choose the rowing machine with comfortable seat to solve the problem at its root.
If you do have one, and you feel butt pain during rowing workout, then the following tips to make the seat more comfortable are helpful to you.
Reviews of best rowing machines with ergonomic seat
When you consider buying a rowing machine, it is more than necessary to pay attention to the seat design.
Following are some comfortable rowing machines.
WaterRower natural rowing machine
The molded seat has an ergonomic design and comes with extra padding to provide superior comfort while rowing.
A few users commented that this seat was the most comfortable they’ve experienced. So smooth in fact that many users don’t realize how hard they have been working out until they get off the machine!
To know more about WaterRower natural rowing machines, read best water rowing machines for meditative exercise in 2021.
The LifeCore R100 has a ton of great comfort features that allows people to row for hours (seriously, people have rowed marathons on this machine).
The machine’s seat is fairly large, approx. 16″ (40.6 cm) wide, featuring a contoured, ergonomic surface. It’s built on a heavy-duty PVC frame. It glides on a set of 4 wheels which integrate industrial quality ball bearings for a prolonged lifespan and smooth operation.
To know more about this rowing machines, check out the article of the best dual resistance rowing machines in 2021.
Topiom rowing machine
Topiom rowing machines features a contoured, ergonomic seat, which provides comfortable rowing experience.
How to make the seat more comfortable?
To get comfortable on your rowing machines, there are several ways depending on the causes mentioned before: seat design, improper form, muscle soreness and wrong assembly of the seat.
a) Assembly instructions/videos for correct assembly
As you can see in the picture, the side with a cut-out for your tailbone should always be in the back.
To avoid wrong assembly of seat, it’s advised to follow assembly instructions or videos.
b) Seat cushion/padding
To get comfortable rowing, adding a seat cushion will obviously give your butt a little support and keep it off the hard seat.
There are a few factors to keep in mind when adding a cushion to your rowing machine.
Rowing machine seat cushions can come in different thicknesses from very thin all the way up to 3.0” thick.
Too much cushion or too firm a cushion can actually do more harm than good. A thick, firm cushion can actually add more pressure underneath your thighs and prevent proper circulation.
A well-designed rowing machine seat cushion made from high-quality memory foam will prevent this from happening.
When buying a thick rowing machine seat pad, you have to make sure it is made from high-quality foam material.
This will ensure the cushion will compress to the correct height and not alter your rowing position and form.
It will also ensure the cushion does not cause unnecessary pressure on your hamstrings during a workout and decrease blood flow.
A rowing seat pad can come in many different shapes with different molds, contours, and cutouts.
When choosing a seat cushion, think about the shape of your rowing seat and where you feel pain while rowing. A good rowing seat pad will fit nicely on your seat and alleviate pressure where you are feeling pain.
Make sure your seat is on properly with a cut-out in the back for your tailbone. The rowing seat pad should also have a cut-out for the tailbone as well.
This ensures there is no pressure on your tail bone when leaning back and pivoting forward.
On the market, there are seat cushions of different sizes ranging from very small cushions to those are wide.
If you feel your seat is too small you may want a larger sized seat cushion. If you feel the size is ok but just want a little extra padding, you will want to make sure you don’t get a cushion that is too big and gets in the way.
Probably one of the most important categories is material.
It seems most cushions are either made from gel, foam, or some type of rubber (silicone, sorbothane).
The different materials all have their pros and cons, with all of them functioning almost the same.
Just keep an eye out for the type of material your cushion is made from. You may want a material that floats to help insulate your butt from the cold seat.
You also don’t want any material that will absorb sweat and may want something that can easily be washed.
Following are some top picks of rowing machine seat cushions on the market.
2K fit seat cushion with memory foam
If you are a long rowing workout fan, this cushion is good for you.
This seat cushion was designed and tested by DIVISION 1 COLLEGE ROWERS to enhance comfort during long rowing sessions.
Hornet Watersports Rowing Machine Seat Cushion
This black cushion seat cover is specially designed for use with the Concept 2 rowing machine.
It measures exactly at 11.5” x 9” and has a thickness of 1/2”.
On initial inspection it seems that this cushion was too thin. However, after using it, it makes a huge difference.
It’s just the right amount of cushion without being too cumbersome.
The cushion has a core of PU foam that provides comfort without being too soft and sacrificing performance.
Its bottom side is covered in an advanced anti-slip material to maximize stability and ensure it will stay in place, no matter how hard you row.
Here is a video about reviewing seat cushions. Check it out and see if that’s what you need.
c) Indoor rowing technique guide
Adjusting your position slightly during your workout can alleviate pressure on any one area. Foot position is relative to height and specifically shin length. The longer your shin, the lower your feet need to be.
If you are limited by either your flexibility or rotundness, then you should have your feet on the lower side, relative to your height.
If your stomach size is the limiting factor, then resist the urge to bounce your butt off your ankles and instead work to stretch through your knees when trying for stroke length.
But, avoid setting footplates too low. If that happens, the backs of your thighs may rest harder against the front edge of the seat, which may cut off circulation to the seat area.
As for footstraps, you should let them cross the ball of your foot.
You can also check out our indoor rowing technique article to get proper form and alleviate butt pain.
d) Slight adjustment of rowing form
If you are going through butt pain, try tilt your hips left to right slightly during your recovery.
That adjustment is called, by Training Tall, as butt shimmmy.
This video clearly shows what butt shimmy is.
e) Diversify workout
Another good way to relieve butt pain is to diversify your workout or do interval training. The essence is add non-seated exercises to your daily exercise routine, such as simulated boating on the dry land, brisk walking, swimming, jogging, tennis, basketball, some forms of yoga, etc.
f) Give it time for inexperience
If you are experiencing rowers bum during the first week of rowing, you have to give it more time to let your body gets used to the movement.
Your butt should get used to sitting for longer periods of time and begin to develop strength in those areas.
With time, as your butt becomes tougher and your muscles become stronger, you should begin to experience less and less butt pain.
g) Cool down for rowers
One of the most important things a rower can do is stretch and warm up properly before workout.
Getting a good stretch will help loosen all your muscles and allow for better circulation. Being more flexible will also allow you to maintain proper positioning while rowing.
A good warm-up should vary based on your planned workout duration.
At minimum, you should do a 5 minute warmup row to get your blood flowing.
For longer duration rows, it’s advised get off the rower and stretch every 30 minutes. Just getting up, shaking out your muscles, and stretching your butt, can help you continue rowing for another 20-minute session.
Rolling on a hard ball or foam roller is extremely helpful for releasing tension in your muscles. It is a great way to cure any butt or lower back pain.
This video of Dark Horse Rowing sharing ways of stretchting might be helpful. Check it out.
Yoga is also a good way for rowers to cool down. According to coach John, here are six best yoga for rowers, including Bridge Pose (This will help build strength in the glutes and hamstrings whilst stretching the hip flexors, abs, and chest) and Cross-legged twist (This will stretch the hips and chest and improve rotation of the spine.) This article is a professional guide of benefits and form of yoga.
h) Rowing shorts
Try different rowing shorts. Shorts vary in styles and weight; some rowing shorts have padding, chamois, or double layers for extra comfort.
You can also check the all-in-one video to learn ways to avoid rowing machine butt pain.