How to Keep Your Rowing Machine Pelvic Floor Friendly

Are you eager to row but not quite sure how safe it is for your pelvic floor?

Rowing machine is a highly effective strength and fitness exercise for women.

Using the correct technique can help you reduce the load on your pelvic floor with rowing machine exercise.

Video duration: 3.5 mins
Suitability: general

Please scroll down below this rowing machine exercise video for more information, guidelines and pelvic floor safe exercise modifications

Benefits of Rowing Machine Exercise for Women

Rowing machine exercises can benefit women by:

  • Strengthening the back (postural), core and leg muscles
  • Improving muscular endurance of major muscle groups
  • Improving cardiovascular fitness
  • Energy burning for weight management exercise
  • Low impact exercise reduces lower limb joint loading

Is Rowing Machine Pelvic Floor Friendly?

Rowing machine exercise is low impact and therefore more suitable than high impact exercise for women with or at risk of pelvic floor dysfunction.

Some women who are at risk of pelvic floor problems can benefits from some simple technique modifications of rowing machine exercise to reduce potential loading on their pelvic floor.

1. Correct Your Rowing Machine Technique

a. Correct Posture

  • Lengthen your spine, lift your chest forwards and relax your shoulders
  • Maintain the inward curve in your lower back

Good posture allows your deep core abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to stay active throughout this exercise.

b. Drive Technique (slide back)

The drive is when you push through your legs to move the carriage or seat backwards.

  • Keep your chest raised during the drive action
  • Keep your resistance manageable during the drive when pushing back through your legs; avoid pushing back forcefully by driving hard through your legs

c. Return Action

  • Keep your chest raised rather than bending forwards form your hips during the return to minimise pressure on your pelvic floor
  • Draw the handles back towards your navel to engage your middle back muscles rather than using your neck and shoulders muscles increasing your risk of neck strain
  • Return to a position where your hips are at approximately right angles before repeating the next drive backwards; avoid starting the drive from a deep knee bent position

2. Managing Your Resistance

a. Fixed Resistance Rowing Machines e.g. magnetic

Set the resistance to a manageable level that avoids strain with the effort of the drive action.

b.Variable Resistance Rowing Machines e.g. water

Keep the speed of the drive slow to moderate since fast speed increases the resistance needed when driving back through your legs.

3. Breathe Out During Effort

Breathe out with the effort of the drive back to help you minimise the load on your pelvic floor.

Key Points for Rowing Machine Exercise

Rowing machine exercise can be used in some pelvic floor safe exercise programs; some women will benefit from modifying traditional rowing machine technique to reduce the potential load on their pelvic floor.

The main points for pelvic floor safe rowing machine exercises:

  1. Maintain the correct seated posture throughout
  2. Keep resistance manageable during the drive
  3. Breathe out during the effort of the drive
  4. Keep upright posture during the return
  5. Choose a variety of low impact fitness exercises to include in your pelvic floor safe exercise program.


Inside Out Book & DVD

with Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist
Michelle Kenway

Learn how to exercise and avoid exercises that overload the pelvic floor causing pelvic floor problems.

Inside Out book and DVD is a complete exercise solution for women seeking to exercise safely and protect their pelvic floor.



We Welcome Your Comments



  1. Thanks so much – I love rowing but was avoiding it as I wasn’t sure if I was going to do further damage. I’m back on it today!! I’m so happy

  2. Michelle, thank you so much for the video on using the rowing machine. I had prolapse surgery a year ago but wasn’t given much guidance by my surgeon on exercise. Thankfully I found your website and have your book/dvd. Until finding your website I didn’t know that physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor issues existed! A recent newsletter from my clinic highlighted new doctors/PTs and one was a physical therapist who specialized in working with women with pelvic floor problems. My doctor referred me to her and I have been working with her for a month. I had been going to the gym with my husband for the past 6 months but felt unsure of the safety of the machines I was using. She is providing me with safe exercises I can do at home plus letting me know what I can safely do at the gym, what to avoid and how to modify when appropriate. I love the rowing machine but had read conflicting information about its safety (for me) but my PT and your video have reassured me that I don’t have to give it up! Your website has been a life saver and I thank you for the great information that you provide!

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says

      Great to hear that you’re moving forward Judy! Thanks so much for your comment
      All the best

  3. I’m glad i can still keep my water rower after my hysterectomy from uterus prolapse, but right before my surgery I bought a good rebounder. I haven’t used it as per my doctor but wonder if there is a safe way for me to use it. Thanks for your site.

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says

      Hi Rebecca
      Rebounder isn’t the most appropriate cardiovascular fitness exercise after prolapse surgery – best to choose low impact options such as treadmill walking and pelvic floor friendly rowing

  4. If you’re using a fixed resistance machine, can you use the rowing with your technique to do the interval exercising you describe with the bikes?

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says

      Hi Catherine, it depends how much resistance is offered by the machine. The resistance needs to be kept manageable throughout your exercises – if its manageable, I don’t see why the interval technique would be an issue provided you don’t strain during the high intensity component. I hope this makes sense …

Pelvic Exercises Physiotherapy


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