What to Wear When Using a Rowing Machine

The first rule of rowing is to dress the part! We may have made that rule up, but that does not discount the importance of wearing the right clothing for an indoor rowing session. What you wear is one of the primary determinants of the effectiveness and outcome of your rowing workouts. So if you’d like to know how to outfit yourself properly for this amazing exercise, then tag along!

Athletic Shirts and Tops


Your priority when it comes to selecting shirts and tops for indoor rowing should be comfort. You want to ensure that your shirt or top is breathable. Sleeveless or short-sleeved shirts are your best bet. Long-sleeved tops tend to get in the way, considering you use your hands and arms to navigate the rowing machine.

It is quite uncomfortable not to mention frustrating to keep rolling your sleeves while battling to maintain focus. Also, hooded or sweatshirts are a no-no, except you want to drown in a pool of your sweat. On this note, choose moisture-wicking, semi-fitted or fitted shirts and tops that promise not to weigh you down as you row. If your shirt or top is hanging down, tuck them in.

No Chuffing Sport Shorts

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Since you’d be seated for most of the rowing exercise, it only makes sense to choose comfortable and anti-chafe shorts. The best rowing apparel for the lower part of your body are shorts, capris, and leggings. The good news is, there are rowing-centered shorts supplied by Concept 2. These shorts feature extra cushioning around the nether region to guard against chafing. While some athletes are known to wear bike shorts, it is not ideal as the padding does not suffice for your sensitive body parts. On the other hand, fitness-approved shorts, capris, and leggings are the ultimate choice.

You may want to wear long baggy shorts for their famed comfort, but don’t be surprised if they get entangled with the rollers, bringing your rowing session to an abrupt and unwanted end. So avoid those by all means. Shorts made of breathable materials like spandex and lycra are also good enough, but they may be too tight for comfort. In light of this, stick to semi-fitted shorts that aren’t overly long or stretchy.

Rowing Exercise Shoes

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The next important rowing gear on our list is shoes! You absolutely cannot do without a pair of good shoes when rowing indoors. Given that your shoe’s design influences your performance, flexibility and strength – you can’t wear just about any shoes for rowing. Most running shoes are equipped with ample cushioning, wide toe boxes, and thick soles that demand precise settings for rowing, making them unfit for the activity. Cross-training and weight-lifting shoes on the other hand cause a noticeable shift between heel height and the forefoot. As such, the user’s toes are further pushed into the shoes resulting in an awkward and uncomfortable foot angle.

Some users opt to row barefooted or in socks to maximize connectivity to the footplate, but this is far from practical and hygienic. Since all these options don’t fit the bill, elite rowers favor flat-bottomed shoes coated with a thin rubber layer on the bottom and a simple upper. Generally, shoes with a good tread on the bottom (that offer a strong grip on the footrests) are most preferred. Also, it is best not to wear sandals as those can easily slip off your feet while rowing.

Exercise Undergarments


Like shorts, you should opt for undergarments that are comfortable and breathable. Avoid products that have bulky seams in the seating area, as those can cause chafing and discomfort. Instead, select products with smooth seams to avoid pain and irritation.

Sports bra might be ideal for other sports but it may be unfit for rowing (never mind that it is a low-impact activity). Thus choose products with low to medium support, as they don’t maximize physical exertion. Some athletes choose to forfeit underwear altogether to maximize comfort. Ultimately, you should do or wear what works best for you!

Miscellaneous Apparel

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Socks − rowing socks may be optional apparel but they are highly recommended. When rowing, your heel may become exposed as you execute the catch position of a stroke. Some users complain that this action causes their feet to rub uncomfortably against the heel of their shoes. So if you are one of these people, you will find wearing socks very helpful. They also prevent chafing.

Gloves − generally, wearing gloves for indoor rowing is a matter of personal preference. This is especially true if your machine features durable handles with a secure grip. And if you are wondering if there are specific gloves designed for rowing, then we are afraid not. However elite rowers who are accustomed to wearing gloves recommend weight-lifting gloves. And as far as the matter of the hands is concerned, you should steer clear of jewelry, be it the simple or ostentatious types. Why? They are distracting and may minimize your grip efficiency. As a bonus tip, ensure to pull back your hair so they don’t
get into your eyes as you row back and forth!

A Few Accessories for Indoor Rowing

Accessories are not exactly part of the rowing ensemble, but we can’t disregard their relevance. They are every bit as important as the clothing you wear. That said; let’s take a look at some must-have indoor rowing accessories.

Water Bottle


Hydration is a key part of a rowing crossfit workout and cardio workout and should be taken with utmost importance. That being the case, you should buy a water bottle to store water and other nutritious liquids. Opt for a clean and durable bottle.



To keep yourself entertained and motivated, you might want to purchase wireless headphones. You can listen to your favorite playlist, an inspiring podcast, or read a gripping audiobook as you row. You also don’t want to disturb your neighbors or living companions with the noise of the sounds you are listening to, so a headphone is necessary.

USB Memory Stick

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Most state-of-the-art rowing machines come with monitors equipped with a USB port. You can attach your USB flash drive stick to the port where it records relevant workout data. The memory stick may also record other data including music files and the like.

Non-slip Rowing Mat

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Though most rowing machines are reasonably sized, they are quite heavy. And typical of heavy equipment, they may leave scratches and stains on the floor. This is where a rowing mats come in. They protect your floor against the machine’s impact and associated components like sweat and oil. A good example is the indoor rower floor mat by Concept 2.

Rowing Seat Cushion

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You can’t change the rowing machine seats easily but alternatively, you can add a rowing machine seat cushion to helps maximize comfort. The seats of some rowing machines are not the most comfortable, causing your butt to become sore and uncomfortable. If your rowing machine has an uncomfortable seat, there are alternative seats available in the market like the Skwoosh gel rowing seat pad.

Smart Heart Rate Sensor


A Bluetooth compatible heart rate sensor is an essential rowing accessory. You can keep track of your heart rate and pulse readings for an effective workout. There are many models of heart rate sensors available in the market that you can buy. Some come in form of wristwatches that you can secure to your wrists and others are sold as chest straps that you can wear over your chest.

The Bottom Line

Making the most of your rowing workout entails paying maximum attention to your ensemble. The dress they say maketh the man, but in this case, the ensemble maketh the “rower”. To ensure a secure grip, wear comfortable, slip-resistant shoes with good treads on the bottom. Opt for breathable and comfortable tops and shirts, avoid hooded or sweatshirts by all means.

Ensure maximum sitting comfortability by wearing semi-form-fitting shorts made out of reliable materials. Don’t be tempted to wear baggy shorts or overly loose trousers as they can get caught in the slides beneath the moving seats. You can choose to wear undergarments, socks, and gloves to enhance comfort. Your rowing ensemble should be equal parts comfortable and practical!

What should You Wear for Rowing?

Generally, the best rowing apparel is soft, stretchy, breathable, comfortable, and relatively form-fitting. Standard rowing clothing includes shorts, shirts, tops, and good-quality flat-bottomed shoes.

Do You Need Gloves to Row?

You don’t necessarily need gloves for rowing indoors, but if you feel more comfortable wearing one, then it is not a crime. Otherwise, it is a matter of personal choice.

Should You Wear a Sports Bra for Rowing?

Sports bras might be a tad restrictive because of their maximum support. Bras with low to medium supports are best preferred.

Can You Row with Jewelry?

No, it is not advised to row while wearing distractive and obstructive jewelry such as rings and dangling chains.

Padded Rowing Shorts or Not?

Padded shorts are great and all that, but too much padding can be uncomfortable. Ideal rowing shorts like those designed by Concept 2 provide just enough cushioning where needed.

Sayed Hamed Hosseiny
Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

Hi, my name is Sayed Hamed Hosseiny. I am a professional health and fitness trainer with nearly 20 years of experience using ellipticals, rowing machines, and spin bikes. I also have my own EU-based Rock Fitness Pro fitness brand where I design, import and sell exercise equipment such as rowing machines and spin bikes. I and writers on my team also often receive fitness equipment to review and evaluate their functionalities and performance from tens of different exercise machines manufacturers. Fitness equipment tips, guides, reviews, and comparisons on this website are my opinion (and opinions of my fitness expert colleagues) based on tens of criteria. I never accept payment to write reviews of products or say positive things about fitness equipment products. If brands are interested to have me review their rowers, ellipticals, or spin bikes, they can get in touch with me via email provided on the contact page and send a sample of their product.