Rowing While Pregnant: What You Need to Know

Bri Hand

Whether you’re an avid athlete or someone who is looking to incorporate rowing into your exercise routine, you've likely wondered whether rowing while pregnant is a good idea at least once since you first saw that little blue line.

Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to sit on your couch for nine straight months (as tempting as that may sound!). Rowing can be a great option for a prenatal workout if you keep some basic precautions in mind ahead of time. 

While it’s always important to consult with your doctor or OBGYN before adopting any new workout practices, here’s what you should know ahead of time about working out on a rowing machine while pregnant:  

Is it safe to row while pregnant?

For those wondering whether you can row while pregnant, the answer will likely be all-too familiar to those scouring the internet for pregnancy-related advice: It depends.

Rowing while pregnant for seasoned athletes

If you rowed or did other types of workouts consistently before you became pregnant, it will be easier to maintain or switch up your routine if you decide to incorporate a rowing machine into your exercise regimen

Do note that as your pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity will shift, which can affect both your balance and stability. Additionally, you should always be mindful of your changing energy levels and physical limitations. Even experienced athletes may find themselves needing to hit the brakes further into their pregnancy.

Rowing while pregnant for beginners

On the other hand, if you are more of a beginner looking for additional ways to incorporate exercise into your pregnancy routine, it’s even more important to consult with a healthcare professional beforehand. 

Starting any workout from the ground up will always come with its associated on-ramp of aches and pains that you may not be in the mood for on top of the other malaises that accompany pregnancy. 

The benefits of rowing while pregnant

If you’ve gotten the thumbs-up from your doctor to row while pregnant, great news — this type of workout offers a ton of benefits to expectant mothers. Exercise in general during pregnancy is a great way to boost your overall strength, endurance, and flexibility, which helps you better adapt to the physical changes your body goes through during this time (and even make labor easier and recovery faster!). 

Below, we’ll dive deeper into the unique benefits of rowing while pregnant:

1. Rowing strengthens multiple muscles 

Rowing is a full-body workout that helps strengthen the muscles in your arms, back, and legs, which can assist with carrying the extra weight once your baby belly starts to grow. Focusing on your core muscles is also a great way to combat common pregnancy-related aches and pains, particularly around your back.

Strengthening your main muscle groups with strength training can also help you maintain good posture and alleviate some of the discomfort that comes with carrying a growing baby. 

2. Rowing is a low-impact exercise

As a low-impact cardiovascular exercise rowing increases your heart rate while putting minimal strain on your joints and pelvic floor muscles (and baby!), enabling you to continue working out further into your pregnancy without getting too uncomfortable. 

This type of exercise can also help you enhance your overall stamina and endurance over the course of your pregnancy, which can be beneficial when entering the marathon stage of labor and delivery. 

3. Rowing improves your circulation

Rowing increases blood flow and circulation throughout your body, helping to reduce swelling in your extremities. Improved circulation can also boost your energy levels and help combat pregnancy-related fatigue.

4. Rowing can help with your mental health

As with any type of exercise, rowing regularly can help reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression and promote a positive mental state during pregnancy. And, as counterintuitive as it sounds, working your body can actually decrease pregnancy-related fatigue and insomnia.

How to use a rowing machine while pregnant

One of the main benefits of using a rowing machine while pregnant is that they’re highly adjustable, so you can easily keep workouts in your comfort zone rather than scrapping them entirely. Hey, doing something is better than nothing! 

These adjustments also aren’t one-and-done — you’ll have to continually monitor how your body feels on the rowing machine as your belly grows and adapt accordingly.

To keep your changing body both comfortable and safe, consider incorporating the following modifications into your workout:

  1. Adjust the foot straps: Here’s another fun pregnancy symptom coming your way — swollen feet and ankles! If you’re finding the foot straps on your rower are getting a little tight, be sure to loosen them up to maintain proper form and keep your circulation going.  In addition, you can lower the foot stretcher. This will lower the heels, providing a bit more room for a growing belly and a great way to help maintain a healthy posture. 

  2. Use a cushioned seat: You can better support your pelvic area, alleviate pressure, and reduce discomfort by sitting on a cushion or seat pad on your rower.

  3. Place your rower on a non-slip surface: Investing in safety equipment such as a mat will help you prevent falls and injury, which is particularly important during pregnancy.

  4. Adjust your resistance level: If you’re feeling low on energy or strength, don’t be afraid to lower your resistance to keep yourself comfortable. 

  5. Modify your stroke technique: You may find it increasingly difficult to keep up the same range of motion in your rowing stroke as your pregnancy progresses. To maintain proper form, avoid leaning back too far and try to keep your movements controlled and fluid without any sudden or jerky motions. As your belly grows, you may also choose to keep a longer stroke by splaying your legs at the start of your stroke.

  6. Take breaks, stay cool, and keep hydrated: Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout your workout and taking breaks when needed. It’s also recommended that you work out in a cooler space to avoid overheating, so feel free to crank that air conditioning to regulate your core body temperature and keep yourself comfortable and safe. 

Overall, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’re feeling dizzy or short of breath, take a break or stop entirely. If issues persist, speak with your healthcare provider to determine whether you should keep rowing, cut back, or stop entirely (more on that below!). 

When to stop using a rowing machine while pregnant

As frustrating as it sounds, there may come a time when rowing just isn’t in the cards for you until after your pregnancy. The decision to stop using a rowing machine while pregnant should be made by you and your doctor, but here are some of the reasons that may point to taking a break: 

  • If using your rowing machine is causing pain, discomfort, or any unusual sensations in your abdomen, pelvis, joints, or other areas of the body.

  • If your rowing workout is causing excessive shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or difficulty breathing.

  • If you’re experiencing vaginal bleeding or fluid leakage during or after your rowing workout.

  • If you are at risk for preterm labor or are having multiple babies.

Again, when in doubt, seek medical advice from your doctor to determine the best course of action for continuing to exercise while pregnant.

Example rowing machine workouts to do while pregnant

Depending on your fitness level, here are some examples of some great rowing machine workouts for pregnancy: 

  • Beginner: For those who are new to rowing, we recommend trying six two-minute pieces (6x2’) with one to two minutes of rest between each two-minute piece. 

  • Intermediate: For those who have some experience with a rowing machine, try six four-minute pieces (6X4’) with a one- to two-minute rest between each four-minute piece.

  • Advanced:  For those who are well-versed in rowing, a fun workout may be three 10-minute pieces (3x10’) with a two-minute rest between each 10-minute piece.

Looking for more ways to work out while pregnant? Learn more about Hydrow’s new Prenatal and Postnatal Pilates series from Hydrow Athlete Christine Wang. 

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Hydrow's Content Marketing Manager and enjoys writing, singing, kayaking, and Zumba!