Rowing machines put the burn on your thighs, biceps and butt without the need to set foot in the water. If you use the machine improperly, however, you may be in for a little more burn than you bargained for. Some safety guidelines apply universally, but you should always consult the machine's instruction manual or consult your gym's staff for safety instructions specific to each rowing machine.
Respect the Machine
Before you sit down for your first rowing machine workout, bear in mind that if you don't use the equipment as intended, you can damage yourself or the machine. Make sure the machine is securely weighted, placed on a level and stable surface -- preferably resting on carpet -- before you hop on, otherwise you'll find a not-so-stationary stationary machine. Keep the machine in the locked position when flywheels and monorails are attached, and never use attachments that aren't endorsed by the machine's manufacturer.
Much of your safety on the rowing machine boils down to proper use, as bad form leads to an increased potential for injury and soreness. Always strap your feet securely and keep your back straight, not arched, as overextending your back can give you a slipped disk. Likewise, simply come upright on the backstroke rather than leaning too far back, which might cause back strain. Point your toes straight ahead to prevent ligament strain. Never twist or turn the rowing handle, and always keep both hands on their respective handles. Focus on a deliberate, controlled motion throughout your exercise.
Warm-Up and Cool-Down
A healthy warm-up prepares your muscles for exercise and encourages a full range of motion, cutting back on your chances of injury. Perform a five- to 10-minute workout warm-up that dynamically stretches your quads, hams and calves, such as a quick jog or some easy rowing on the machine. Cool down with another five to 10 minutes of light rowing and static lower-body stretches to easy your body back into its normal operating state. Start small with short, light rowing sessions and gradually increase your intensity and volume over the following weeks.
If you're prone to sweating on the machine, chalk up your hands or invest in a pair of gloves – these tricks will help you avoid the dangerous temptation to go one-handed as you wipe away sweat. Wear comfy, form-fitting clothes and make sure you clear a space around the machine before you exercise. Follow any manufacturer-provided instructions for maintenance, and always lock the machine's frame before moving it. If you have kids or know that tykes will come near your machine, make it clear that the machine is not a toy and that it is off-limits.
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.