Indoor Rowing Guide: Benefits of Using an ERG Pad

Indoor rowing is a fantastic exercise option for people of all ages and athletic abilities. Rowers use ergometers, or rowing machines, year-round as a training method, particularly in the winter when on-water rowing is not possible. Outside the sport of rowing, indoor rowing studios exist across the country, providing fun, low-impact workouts along with motivational instruction. Cross-fit gyms also frequently incorporate the rowing machine into their workouts. Why? The erg builds strength and endurance, gets the heart rate pumping, and burns calories. It’s efficient but also low-impact. Very few other workouts pack as much punch into a session.

Of course, getting started can be tricky. Before you can enjoy your time on the erg, you need to get yourself comfortable, and that’s no easy feat. Rowing machines are rough on the posterior, especially if you have a bony butt. The rowing motion can also feel awkward for beginners, and that’s normal! Finding your ideal rowing form takes a bit of tinkering. If you are short-waisted or short in stature over all, the geometry of rowing for you will be different than it will be for someone who is tall or has a longer torso.

A rowing seat pad can help with many of these issues. Rowing Pad specifically developed our ErgPads to provide comfort, increase flexibility, and improve a rower’s form by adjusting their height in the seat. While other options on the market are made of gel, silicone, neoprene, or memory foam, our pads are made from a unique, durable high-performance foam that provides support and comfort. Our construction provides a variety of density levels from firm to extra soft, and each pad is available with non-slip technology for ultimate grip in the seat.

Competitive rowers at all levels—Olympic, collegiate, masters, junior, club—swear by our pads, for more than one reason. Read on to learn the key benefits of using an erg seat pad.

Benefit #1: Range of Motion

Finding proper alignment on the erg is an ongoing process—as your body gains or loses strength and flexibility, your ideal rowing geometry changes. Range of motion on the erg involves your seat-to-heel compression and effective body angle—both key to achieving proper body position at the front end (entry).

We often think of flexibility as something we naturally possess in our youth but lose as we age. But youth does not always equal greater flexibility. In fact, many high school and collegiate rowers struggle with flexibility—something to do with those fast and furious growth spurts!

When Rowing Pad first developed our pads, we worked closely with coaches at some of the sport’s top rowing programs to ensure our pads do what coaches and athletes need them to: cushion those bony rears, protect the back from impact (see below), and help rowers find their ideal stroke form by adjusting the height of their hips as they sit on the machine.

A few millimeters can make a huge difference on the erg. A rowing machine seat cushion adjusts your height in the seat. This can help increase your range of motion so you can overcome tightness in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back and row a longer, more complete stroke. A more complete stroke is a more powerful, effective stroke.

Benefit #2: Back Pain Relief

Have you ever thought about what happens to back muscles when rowing on water? In the boat, there is a constant up and down motion happening. This is due to the buoyancy of the boat in the water and the changing of your body weight (up and down the slide) and speed of the hull. It provides an opportunity for your back muscles to load and unload throughout the stroke.

Now let’s think about the rowing machine. A favorite friend of Rowing Pad and master of all things rowing, the late, legendary coach Larry Gluckman, used to explain it like this, and we’ve never done better: “On the erg there is no buoyancy.” There is only hard, firm floor. The spine has no opportunity to unload. “But by rowing with a pad and pivoting on your sitz bones,” he would say, “there can be a bit of unloading, particularly if the athlete swings the body from body angle position to layback.” 

Rowing Pad uses high-density polymer foam for our pads. Our ErgPad collection creates a thick barrier to absorb a lot of the pressure generated by the erg. This, in turn, provides some relief for your back.

Benefit #3: Comfort

Most people first discover Rowing Pad because they are looking for this critical butt pad benefit—comfort! With pads available in 5, 10, 20, and even 30MM thicknesses and choices of dual-density firmness (firm on one side, softer on the other) and twin soft layers, we definitely deliver. 

Here we believe that if you are not comfortable on your rowing machine…eventually, you will not use it. Simple as that. No two rowers are exactly alike, which means what feels comfortable to one person might not be to the next. Concept2, Water Rower, NordicTrack, RP3 Dynamic, Hydrow—no matter the brand you use, the bottom line is that the seat was not designed specifically for your body.

A rowing pad can help change that. Adding a layer of cushy material between your sitz bones and the hard machine seat goes a long way in alleviating pressure.

Not sure where to get started? Try our 20MM Soft ErgPad for ultimate cushion in the seat. With two layers of our soft-density foam, it is one of our top-selling pads and a favorite among indoor rowing enthusiasts. Once you feel more comfortable, you will also feel more positive about each workout and, ultimately, able to row for longer set pieces.

Looking to order multiple pads for your gym, club, or indoor rowing studio? Reach out for a quote—we offer free logo engraving and personalization on all bulk orders, plus you save on shipping!