Exercise is an essential element to living a full, long, healthy life. Anyone who cares about their future and wellbeing should adopt healthy habits of regular exercise.
It’s even more popular in 2021 and onwards, with physical exercise playing a huge part in maintaining stable mental health (during the lockdown of 2020!).
Rowing machines are a great way to get exercise because they offer full-body workouts. Rowing machines tone every muscle in your body, including your heart, offer rapid calorie burn and weight loss, yet are so low impact (hard on your body) that just about anyone can use them safely and effectively.
The only problem that comes with buying rowing machines is choosing the right one. The process of buying a rower is challenging because you must choose from a range of different brands, features, and price ranges.
However, the most important factor to consider with a rower is the resistance type. The resistance type on your rower ultimately determines the cost and quality of the machine. Choosing the right resistance for you also helps narrow down your choices when buying a machine, making the process less of a problem.
Our rowing machine buying guide has everything you need to know to make sure you buy the best rowing machine for you.
Benefits of Using a Rowing Machine
One of the great things about using the best rowing machine is that they offer so many health benefits. These benefits include;
Full Body Workout
Rowing machines are the only indoor equipment that offers a complete full-body workout. Unlike other exercises, rowing uses your upper and lower body together to achieve a full stroke. Rowing works many muscles in your body, giving you the best results possible from a single machine.
Combine Strength and Cardio
Rowing machines work both your muscular and cardiovascular systems at the same time. Rowing, even on a machine at home, gets your heart pumping and offers all of the benefits that come with that. These machines offer some resistance and need force to use, which increases muscle conditioning and overall strength.
Little to No Impact
Indoor rowing in a home gym is one of the least impactful weight-bearing exercises there is. Rowing uses smooth movements that barely impact joints at all. Rowing is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels because there is minimal risk of injury. Many people turn to row machines for rehabilitation after an injury. The exercise is ideal for people who have bad hips, backs, and knees. Rowing machines also offer a perfect exercise for older people who want to get a good workout without any risk.
Rowing machines are built for endurance training. Rowers stimulate and strengthen your heart and lungs, increasing your fitness levels and pushing you to the next point in your fitness journey. Use this exercise equipment to switch up your workout so you don’t get bored. Steady-state rowing is useful for HIIT workouts and improving aerobic and anaerobic endurance.
Work Major Muscle Groups
Rowing machines work all the major muscles at the same time, leaving you with a toned well-balanced body. Regular exercise with a rowing machine strengthens your arms, back, and shoulders, along with your hamstrings and glutes. These machines even tone your core and abs.
The only part that’s neglected is your chest, but you can purchase a wider row grip, which can actually work the pecs.
Rowing machines are effective for weight loss as they work your entire body. Rowing burns up to 1,000 calories per hour, making it one of the most efficient exercises to lose weight.
Peace and Quiet
Home use rowing machines offer some benefits of their own, such as extra peace and quiet. You don’t need to head to the local lake or beach to have an excellent rowing experience. Indoor rowing machines are convenient, reliable, and ready to go all throughout the year.
If you’re looking for home gym equipment but don’t have much room, then rowing machines could be the ideal solution. Rowing machines are comparatively lightweight and don’t take up much space. Rowing machines are an excellent choice for people with poor access to their home or not much space in their home.
Types of Rowing Machine
The first step consumers take when buying indoor rowing machines is to consider the types of resistance. Let’s look at these resistance mechanisms to help you choose the best.
Air Rowing Machines
Air rowing machines were one of the first available on the market and remain one of the most popular choices. These rowers entered the market in the 1980s and are considered among the best choices for rowing machines.
These machines working by forcing you to work against an opposing resistant force. Air rowers provide resistance using air flowing through internal flywheels. The flywheel is connected to the handle with a chain. You pull on the handle and spin the wheel. The flywheel spins faster and faster as you row faster, generating more resistance for a tougher workout.
The most advanced air rowing machines have additional dampeners to better control the resistance level for a smoother experience.
Most professionals and rowing enthusiasts swear by air resistance machines because they offer the most realistic rowing experiences. Some machines combine air resistance with magnetic resistance for the ultimate experience.
Water Rowing Machines
These water rowing machines generate resistance with water and paddles. Many indoor users prefer the quieter and smoother action of water rowers compared to air ones. The machines use water paddles as a flywheel. The paddles spin in water to create resistance when users pull on the handle. The resistance gradually increases the more you increase speed. As well as offering a smoother experience, water rowers generate constantly generate resistance during a stroke. You’ll never run into a flat spot where the resistance disappears.
Another standout feature of water resistance machines is that they generally come with elegant designs that stand out. Water-resistance rowing may not be the preferred choice of every professional, but these machines are still great for home use as they don’t take much maintenance and are quiet and more stylish than other choices.
Magnetic rowers are among the most popular options for indoor use. The reason these machines are so popular is that their magnetic resistance mechanism generates almost no noise. At least, when compared to other rowing machines. These machines also tend to take up less space than other rowing machines and are better suited for small spaces.
Magnetic rowing machines generate resistance using an electromagnetic brake system that alters the distance between magnets and a flywheel. Users can digitally alter the resistance level of the machine with a console or mechanical slider. If you want a rowing machine that offers smooth action with minimal noise, then this could be the best rowing choice you can find.
Hydraulic Rowing Machine
Hydraulic rowing machines are another popular choice. These machines stand out for being generally cheaper, smaller, and quieter than their flywheel counterparts. Hydraulic machines generate resistance by using pistons connected to the handles on the machine.
One problem with these machines is that they don’t offer the same smooth flowing action of flywheel models. With that said, they still enable you to change the resistance using levels and clamps.
While hydraulic rowers still provide an excellent workout, the drop in smoothness might not be worth it. These rowers are recommended for people on a budget who want an effective at-home exercise machine.
How much should you expect to pay for a Rowing Machine?
Now we’ve looked at the different types of rowing machine, the next step of buying a rowing machine is determining your budget. How much you are willing to spend will have a big impact on what machine you can get – and what features you can expect it to have.
Cheap Rowing Machines
Rowing machines can be surprisingly cheap if you know where to look. You can get a home-brand rowing machine for under £100. Make sure you look at the reviews before purchasing a cheap rowing machine to ensure the quality is worth it.
Cheap machines are a good fit for people on a budget and beginner rowers looking to dip their toes in the metaphorical water.
Mid-Range Rowing Machines
Mid-range rowing machines generally cost between £100 and £750. They use magents and air for resistance compared to high-tech water resistance machines.
This kind of rowing machine offers more features than the cheap models, such as having more choice over resistance options and some pre-set workout routines, but you won’t get the high-end durability and high-spec monitors and tracking options you’d get with a more expensive model.
Cheap and mid-range machines also have shorter seat rails. This is the rail that moves you back and forward on the machine as you row. Double-check the seat rail on the rowing machine to ensure you have enough space to stretch your legs all the way.
High-End Rowing Machines
High-end rowers are for people who have the money for them. Some rowing machines cost over £750 and what you get for your money is a quiet but sturdy machine. The best rowing machine offers different resistance levels and tracking monitors to track your workout and display different exercise metrics.
Some of the more expensive rower choices even come with multiple forms of resistance. You could buy a rower with both air resistance and magnetic resistance to vary up your exercise routine.
There are also smart rowers that connect to apps to let you “race” against other people, join online coaching programs, and keep track of individual user accounts to store your personal preferences and records. That kind of flexibility is worth it for someone who has several people using the same machine.
How Much Space Do You Need For a Rowing Machine?
As effective as a rowing machine is for working out, they do take up a lot of space. They are some of the most space-consuming equipment you can buy. The average rowing machine measures in at 2.5m 0.6m (8 feet by 2 feet), so you’ll need ample room to set one up.
Make sure that you consider the room layout and anything else in the room besides the machine. You need to have enough space next to you for your arms and elbows. There should also be some space between the fan and the wall.
If you don’t have a room dedicated to gym equipment in your home, and have to store the machine away, you should ensure there is enough space to do so.
Consider looking for a foldable model for easy storage. If you don’t have much floor space, consider storing the machine vertically in a cupboard.
Key Features and Essential Specifications Of Your Rowing Machine
There are several things to consider when choosing a rowing machine, including;
Do you want a manual or an automatic rower? Most machines are manual with a digital display that runs on batteries. It’s worth checking how your machine is powered. You should keep the rower by an electrical outlet if you have to plug it in.
Even the cheapest of choices will likely have some basic display monitor. These monitors show things such as time, strokes, distance, calories, and RPM. Spend more on your rowing machine to get more personalized and detailed information such as average times.
Expenisve machines have smart capabilities that let them connect to apps on your phone to track your progress. Some even have fun little games where you have to outrun something, which means you’d have to pick up the pace and keep it going, in order to survive.
Some machines have built-in interactive coaching. Coaching can help you perfect your rowing technique and reach your goals.
Like most exercise machines, some rowers offer pre-programmed workouts. These workouts simulate rowing in different conditions. They offer a variety of workouts to switch things up or exercise specific muscle groups more.
Some machines are foldable. Being able to fold your machine is a must if you want to store it away when not in use.
It wasn’t that long ago that buying a rowing machine with a high weight capacity wasn’t worth it. They were too expensive. The good news is that there are plenty of options for bigger people these days. Keep in mind that cheaper machines are likely to have lower weight limits. High weight capacity machines are still more expensive but are now more affordable.
Make sure the seat is big enough to be comfortable. It would also help if the seat was designed to suit your body shape and had a lot of cushioning for extended use.
As mentioned before, the seat rail determines how far the seat moves back. You’ll need to double check the seat rail if you’re particularly tall (over six feet) to ensure that there is enough space for you to complete a full stroke on the machine.
Some models have wheels for easy transport.
Some models have fixed foot rests . Others have Foot rests that swivel in place to reduce pressure on ankles and knees.
The handles should have a foam grip and feel thick in your hands. It should be comfortable to hold, yet provide a surface which won’t slip out of your hands.
How to Use a Rowing Machine
If you’re looking to buy a rowing machine, you should learn how to use it properly. As effective as resistance rowing is, it’s only worth it when done properly. Rowing with poor form not only offers poor results, but also increases the risk of injury.
Our rowing machine buying guide wouldn’t be complete without advice on how you can achieve the best rowing performance.
Sit Up Straight
The first step is to sit up straight. You shouldn’t hunch your back when doing resistance rowing. Being hunched over means your shoulders do all the work, which could cause an injury.
Keep Your Arms Under Your Chin
As you pull the handles towards you, make sure they don’t reach up to your chin. To get an excellent stroke when rowing, you should bring your hands up to just below the chest.
Don’t Drop Your Knees
Sit at the machine properly. If you have your knees dropped to the sides of the machine, you won’t work out your hips and inner thigh. Your knees should be in line with your hips at the end of the stroke.
Strap Yourself In
Be sure to strap your feet to the pedals properly. The strap should be just above the balls of your feet and there should be enough room to flex your toes.