Rowing BlistersSo you think you’re tough because you don’t wear rowing gloves!?

Well you could be hurting your performance!

The best rowing machine gloves will protect against painful blisters and allow you to train at your best.

Blisters are an inevitable part of rowing and something we all must deal with.

They occur for a number of reasons. Such as being your first time rowing, or you haven’t rowed in a long time, or maybe you increased your workout times.

Regardless of the reason for getting rowing blisters, you must learn how to deal with them.

In this article I will touch on preventing blisters, why some people wear rowing gloves, how to measure your hand, types of rowing gloves, and the best rowing glove in each category.

Many rowers have different opinions on how to deal with blisters and there is an ongoing debate. Some people say to tough it out and let callouses form, others say to wear gloves, and some say your grip is the only problem.

I hope to try to shed some light on these issues to novice rowers. I am no expert on blisters but I have dealt with them in the past using my Concept2 Rower. So I know a little more than the first timer and how to deal with them.

Opinions will also differ between blisters from an indoor rower and blister from sculling. I understand the difference between both and hope that this article will help each rower.

This article will lean slightly towards helping indoor rowers find the best rowing machine gloves to solve their issue.

How to Prevent Blisters

Preventing blisters should be your first line of defense. Many times blisters can be easily avoided if we knew what caused them or how to tell when one is forming.

In my opinion, blisters form due to three reasons:

  1. Improper grip
  2. Moisture and sweat on the handle
  3. Increased training time

Training Time

When you begin rowing, your hands will not be used to gripping the handle or rubbing against an object repeatedly for long periods of time. This sudden change in activity will cause your hands to blister because they did not get the chance to form a callous.

Eventually when your blisters heal, your hands will begin to form callouses and be tough enough to endure rowing. Maybe even as tough as Colin Angus in this picture!

Long Distance Row

The best way to avoid blisters is to slowly increase your rowing time to allow your hands to adjust to the new activity.

However, if you are impatient, then gloves can allow you to row longer without forming painful blisters.

You should row without gloves on shorter rows to allow your hands to form callouses. If you do not want callouses at all, then I recommend always wearing gloves for rowing.

Moisture/ Sweat

Moisture on your hands and handle from sweat can lead to your hands blistering faster. This excess moisture causes additional friction and increases the likelihood of getting a blister.

There are a few things you can do to try to avoid this problem.

First, you can wear wrist bands to catch any sweat that is running down your arms to your hands. My forearms seem to sweat a lot and most of the moisture on my rowing handle comes from my forearm sweat.

Stopping periodically to wipe the sweat away is also a solution, although it can be very annoying.

Second, wrapping a small washcloth around the handle can help. This is great for short rows but on extended rows it can become irritating.

Third, wear gloves. Rowing gloves can negate the excess friction caused by sweating and prevent blisters.

Grip

Having the wrong grip can cause you to have blisters as well as fatigue more quickly. You should not have a very strong grip on the handle, but instead you should grab it loosely or relaxed.

Strong Rowing Grip

However, understand that there is a happy medium between death grip and flimsy grip. If your grip is usually fatigued during a row, then you may be gripping the handle too tight.

Blisters on your palms are also an indicator that you are probably using an improper grip. Blisters should form more on the grips of your fingers in-between the knuckles and the upper palm.

When gripping the handle try to focus on having a relaxed grip. Your fingers should form a hook and this “hook” should pull the handle. Your thumb should also be wrapped around the bottom of the handle and your middle knuckle should be pointing forward at your monitor.

Also look to make sure your wrists are flat. I’ve heard of some rowers using a rubber band and popsicle stick to make sure they are keeping their wrists flat.

Lastly, do not wear any jewelry. Jewelry can cause your grip to be different and your skin to fold over, which will cause blisters.

Why Wear Rowing Gloves?

Many rowers will debate with themselves about why they should wear gloves on a rowing machine.

Some people may feel embarrassed that they aren’t tough enough to row without them or may succumb to the peer pressure of other rowers who say you shouldn’t wear indoor rowing gloves.

The truth is there are a lot of reasons why you should wear rowing machine gloves. Below are the top 7 reasons why to wear them.

Top 7 Reasons to Wear Rowing Gloves
  1. Prevent blisters from forming A lot of people don’t want blisters to form when they first start rowing or when they increase their workout time. This is perfectly OK.
  2. Prevent callouses from forming Many rowers just don’t want callouses because of the look, feel, their occupation, or whatever the reason. You will hear many rowers say that you need callouses to protect your hands from blisters. Well if you don’t want either you can wear gloves for rowing.
  3. Blisters are preventing you from rowing– If you have blisters and they are in the process of healing, then you need to protect them while rowing. Wearing gloves can allow you to heal these blisters properly without causing more damage. Just remember to keep your rowing gloves clean to avoid any infections!!
  4. Ability to row longer– Many rowers who first start out or have taken a break from rowing need gloves to be able to row for long periods of time. If you don’t want to wait for your hands to form callouses then indoor rowing gloves may be for you.
  5. Sweaty palms If sweat is causing your hands to slip on the handle and cause excess friction, then you may want to try a pair of gloves for rowing.
  6. Slowly form callouses– If you want callouses but don’t want to “slowly” row into them, then you can selectively use a pair of gloves. Just wear gloves on long rows to prevent blisters and don’t wear gloves on shorter rows to form callouses.
  7. Rowing handle is too big– Sometimes the handle on rowing machines is just too big for the rower. This causes them to have an awkward grip that can lead to blisters. Having a proper rowing machine glove can fix this problem.

So as you can see there are a lot of reasons to wear rowing machine gloves!

How to Measure Your Hand

Measuring your hand properly for gloves is the most important step!

If your gloves do not fit properly then they can actually cause you to form blisters. The extra material on big gloves can fold and cause excess friction against one area of your hand.

Below are the steps to measuring your hand properly for gloves:

Rowing Glove Size

  1. Take your hand, palm facing up, and outstretch your fingers.
  2. Measure the widest part of your palm.
    • Some gloves will ask for the circumference of your hand. If so, measure the full circle around your hand. You can use a piece of string and then hold it up to a tape measure.
  3. Try to gauge how thick your hands are compared to the average person.
  4. If you are on the border of 2 sizes but you feel you have thick hands then pick the larger size.
  5. Always try to check the manufacturer website for sizing instructions. Not all companies use the same measurements.

Here is a great video to help understand how to measure your hand for a glove.

Types of Rowing Gloves

There are a lot of different styles of gloves on the market and you can even use gloves that are made for different sports like mountain biking or kayaking.

I break the different styles into three groups. Each have their own pros and cons but all will help prevent blisters. It is really just what type of style you are comfortable with.

Gloves

Best Rowing Glove

Pads 

Best Rowing Pads

Grips

Best Rowing Grips

Gloves

Your basic run of the mill workout gloves designed to be more rowing specific. These gloves are great for all types of workouts.

They should be no more than 3/4 finger and should be made of breathable material. You do not want thick, leather gloves that are going to make your hands sweat.

Pads

Rowing pads are an interesting concept that I really like for indoor rowers. They are easy to put on, allow your hand to breath, and protect only the part of the hand that needs protecting.

The only downfall is that they are not as fitted and can move around a little. Plus, they are thicker than gloves.

Grips

Rowing grips are sort of a hybrid between gloves and pads. They are very minimal and only protect the part of your hand that gets blisters.

They are nice because they allow your hand to breathe but you can also do other workouts while wearing them.

The cons are that they do not protect the entire hand. If you tend to get blisters on your palms or upper finger then the grips may be the wrong choice.

Best Rowing Machine Gloves

Gloves

Best Rowing Gloves

NRS Boater Gloves

  • Half fingered
  • Men’s and Women’s
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Fast drying

Pads

Best Rowing Pad

Gym Paws
  • Durable leather
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • One size fits all
  • NOTE- Some reviews are left because seller offers a free pair with positive review.

Grips

Best Rowing Grips

Neo Grip Glove

  • Lightweight
  • Good mobility
  • Allows airflow
  • Durable
  • Minimalist design

Hybrid

Best Rowing Machine Gloves

Sculling and Rowing Gloves

  • Made by rowers for rowers
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Good mobility
  • Field tested

These are my top 4 pairs of rowing machine gloves. There are a ton of gloves out there that all have their own little differences. Feel free to use this article as a guideline for what type of glove you may like and find the glove that best fits your needs.

As always, please leave any questions in the comment section below!

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