What to Wear when Using a Rowing Machine

By Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

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HomeRowing Machines – Rowing Clothing

These days, it’s not just good enough to be working out, we also want to look good while doing it! Okay, that was a bit of a joke, but as we can see with luxury athleisure wear from companies like Nike and Lululemon, workout clothes are getting more expensive. While style is a part of feeling good while you work out, functionality and comfort are much more important! Rowing is an intense workout so expect to be quite sweaty by the time you are finished. Let’s take a look at the best things to wear when you are working out on indoor rowing machines!

What to Wear on Top

Sometimes simple is best when it comes to clothes, and using your rowing machine should be no different. You should try to wear a breathable shirt or top that has short or no sleeves at all. Long sleeves can be cumbersome, especially since you use your hands and arms so much to row. I know that when I am rowing, the last thing I want is sleeves to be sliding up and down my arms as it could ruin my rhythm. I also avoid hoodies or sweatshirts as I personally get too hot while rowing, although I understand some wear extra layers to burn more calories.

What to Wear on the Bottom

With the same reasoning as your top, I suggest sticking with shorts, capris, or tights on the bottom. Baggy pants can be annoying to work out in and can even get caught in the seat rail as you slide back and forth. Shorts are great as they are cool, breathable, and won’t get caught as your legs bend as you row. Capris and tights are also acceptable as both comfortable and functional options that will keep your legs cool. If the seat of your rowing machine is not comfortable, you can either put a rowing seat cushion or wear a single layered padded shorts that are often used for cycling.

What to Wear for Shoes

Shoes are an important one for rowing machines as your feet are planted for most of the workout. You will want comfortable shoes that have a good tread on the bottom so you can grip the foot rests as you row. Wear good quality athletic shoes that can handle the force that is put on your feet and withstand the intensity of a strong rowing workout. Avoid wearing sandals or even going barefoot as you will risk injury to yourself and potentially others as well. Sandals can slip off your feet as you row, and for the most part do not have a good grip on the bottoms to stay on the rowing machine.

What to Use for Accessories

Some people like to wear gloves while they row as the handle can be uncomfortable and hard to hang on to. Personally, I have never worn gloves on a rowing machine. The added risk of the rowing handle slipping out of your hands during a workout is an important reason why I haven’t used them. Most handles for rowing machines are comfortable and ergonomically designed, so there should be no complaints about the handles being difficult to hold.

As for things like headphones or earphones to listen to music, I suggested getting in ear headphones, as the larger headphones can easily fall off in the midst of a workout. Wearing fitness watches or heart rate monitors are fine as long as they are securely fastened to your wrist or arm. Rowing exercises can get quite intense, so if your watch is loosely fastened to your wrist it can be distracting and dangerous.

Obviously things like hats or sunglasses don’t need to be worn while on a rowing machine, unless you do wear a hat to workout and hold back your hair. When working out on any fitness equipment, I definitely recommend tying back your hair with sweatbands. It helps to keep hair and sweat away from your eyes.

If you want to make rowing a frequent indoor exercise, it is also not a bad idea to buy a set of compression knee braces. The really help reduce the impact on the knee and relive the pain.

In terms of rowing accessories, I would highly recommend using a floor mat under rowing machine. Not only it helps to keep your rower in a better shape but also minimise the noise and protect your floor from scratch and stain of sweat.


Using an indoor rowing machine is no different from any other way of working out, and in fact, it may be more intense and less forgiving to clothes. I would highly suggest, and prefer myself, to wear short sleeves on top and short pants on the bottom. Magnetic rowers, Air rowers, and Water Rowing machines have a ton of moving parts, so you never know when loose clothing can get caught somewhere. Athletic shoes are important for rowing as they provide a nice grip on the foot pedals to avoid slipping during a workout. Wearing gloves can also be a good option for rowers, but honestly the rowing handles are comfortable and easy to hold so gloves really don’t need to be an option. Looking good is great, but wearing the right type of clothing will both help you in staying cool and not overheating, as well as lowering the risk of getting caught and ripping as you workout.

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