The aim of the following review is to share some knowledge on rowing machines. To be informative and assist in you in purchasing the best rowing machine for your needs. Then for you to get the most from your rowing machine afterwards. After reading we trust you will understand the various types available, the pros and cons of each, and factors to consider when purchasing. Hope this helps!
Types of Rowing Machine
There are several types, each has points of difference. It is worth considering each before you decide on the model you are going to invest in. We mean invest because you want to get something back from it right? Below we give a brief description of each.
Air Resistance Rowing Machines
These are the variety most often seen on the gym floor. They generate resistance with a flywheel (fan), which means the harder you work, the greater the resistance experienced. These are generally the most common rowers available and are suitable no matter which level you are currently at. The often-stated downside of these is the level of noise they generate. The fan cutting through the air creates a whirling sound.
Hydraulic Resistance Rowing Machines
Often referred to as piston rowing machines, and usually the most affordable and compact option. This machine uses a pair of hydraulic pistons to generate resistance. Usually the most budget-friendly option, also tending to be the most flexible in regard to storage space required. Many fold up, taking up little room, for easy storage.
Water Resistance Rowing Machines
Designed to imitate the experience of real rowing, intended for serious, experienced users. Using large water-filled tanks and internal paddles they create resistance as one rows. Draw backs include them being toward the noisier end of the spectrum as well as being expensive. However, there are often made of polished wood and can look more attractive and less functional than other models.
Magnetic Resistance Rowing Machines
These are final type of resistance available from a rowing machine that we will cover. They use varying levels of electromagnetism to apply resistance to the flywheel. Compared to the others, these are extremely quiet as flywheel has no contact with other parts. They can be manually adjusted using a digital console or a slide lever, depending on the model.
Rowing machines Vs. Other Exercise Equipment
By exercise equipment we are basically referring to other cardio machines that you would often expect to find at the gym. Such as exercise bikes, treadmills and step machines. This isn’t relevant if you have a specific goal or training purpose that you are focused on. For example if you are training to cycle across Europe then an exercise bike is obviously advantageous! Instead we are thinking about general fitness and health benefits.
Full body workout
The major benefit of a rowing machine is it provides far more full body exercise than the others. It engages major muscle groups in the upper and lower body. The resistance can be turned up so that you get a combination workout enabling you build muscle strength and tone. At the same time getting a cardiovascular workout, improving heart and lung efficiency.
High Intensity Interval Training
This makes a rowing machine a great option for High Intensity Interval Training. You can use the rowing machine to alternate between intense bursts of activity and lower less intense activity. This is a great way to build fitness and burn calories in quick efficient routines. It is harder to get resistance on a treadmill, and also to ramp up to periods of quick intense movement, as the length of the board and maximum speed are restrictive. Exercise bikes offer similar benefits for the lower body muscles groups. However of course do not work out the upper body at the same time as a rower will.
Another major point of difference is the impact on your joints. Rowing is low impact when compared with a treadmill or step machine as you don’t have the continuous pounding going on step by step. It’s a smoother and more consistent motion, so is easier on the hips, knees and ankles.
If you are simply picking one machine to improve your health and fitness you won’t find a better one size fits all machine. A rowing machine provides improvements in your total body strength, power, speed and endurance.
Buying Guide – Features to Consider when Choosing the best Rowing machine
Fair enough, so this is an obvious one! The cost is no doubt an important factor and you may well have a budget in mind. That’s why further down the page we have a guide by price. You should aim is to get the best “bang for your buck” in your price range. But also understand what the added benefits could be from trading up to the next price range. Plus if there are any individual features that are worth trading up for?
You could well be wondering why this is high up on the list? Well, for many readers the size of the machine, and therefore where they can store it, may be a limiting factor. Not everybody has a home gym, some may have to fit their machine into a spare bedroom. Therefore the amount of space it takes up is of importance.
Hopefully you have read our guide on the types of bike above and have decided which is right for you. There are pros and cons to each variety and these should be considered when selecting.
Console and Display
Most decent rowers come with a handy built in computer console. These have a display that tells you information such as time, distance, and calories burned. Additionally, some include the option to connect to apps so you can upload data and be able to track your progress. These options can be of great help if you are planning on producing a training program with specific measurable objectives.
Pre-programmed, automated workouts built into the machine that can be accessed from the console. Typically utilizing automated changes to target speed or resistance to mimic varying types of real-world situations. For example, routines such as sprints or intervals that focus on increased heart rate and fat burning. Other programs include workouts focusing on strength building high-resistance routines or endurance routines requiring you to operate at mid-level intensity for longer periods. If you are looking for ways to keep your workout varied to elevate boredom and increase motivation, choosing a piece of equipment with built in programs can be a great way to do so.
A consideration relevant to the taller amongst us, by stride length we mean the distance that the seat is able to slide backwards. This distance can vary by machine and you need to make sure that you can fully extend your leg on the backwards “stroke” movement to get a full work out.
Most people will fit within the majority of weight limits on exercise equipment. Especially on rowing machines, which typically have fewer and simpler moving parts than others. However, make sure you do not get caught out. Often warranties can be voided if a machine is damaged by someone falling outside of the advised limits. Always check on the off chance and avoid a potentially costly mistake.
You want a exercise machine that is going to last, right? Well consider the frequency that you are going to use it. How rigorously you expect to be rowing. Your current body weight. Then ensure that you select something that will last you. One can easily make the mistake of buying something at the lower end of the price/quality scale. Only for it to break down just after it comes outside of warranty. With you then having to fork out again to replace it.
Manufacturers provide buyers with written guarantees promising to repair or replace components within certain time frames. Often, only deliverable when defects in material or workmanship appear under conditions of normal and acceptable usage. Warranties should include guarantees covering every part of the machine, including electronic components, the frame, mechanical parts, and wearable parts including seats and flywheels or fans. They should include guarantees to provide labour associated with repairs. Warranties should be very important part of choosing a rower. Representing a substantial monetary investment, which buyers intend to utilise regularly over the course of many years without undue breakage or failure. Make sure all parts are covered under the warranty. Specifically seat, electronics, and frame, as these are most likely to ware, plus of course labour.
Ideally, you’d wish to be able to contact the manufacturer for assistance should you need to. There are various ways that you can do so. These often include instant communication methods like direct phone assistance and online chat. They should also include email communication plus social media contact through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. One can utilise support methods getting assistance during initial assembly, learning more about built in functionality, plus getting help with repairs under warranty. Often people may never take advantage of the support available. However it is reassuring to know it is available should it be required. Whilst looking at purchase options, it is worth assessing the support options coming with your product. Don’t get caught out with a shiny new rower but no help when you get stuck working out how to put it together!
The informational resources that manufacturers provide to teach you about assembly and use. These include online FAQs, guides, and manuals. Often manufacturers publish tutorials and videos online to assist in setup and assembly. They should also to demonstrate proper use of your rower. Exercise machines come in varying degrees of difficulty to assemble. They are often quite straightforward to operate. But knowing you have the material to assist you to hand, can give valuable peace of mind.
Unlike some other exercise equipment such as treadmills you are in constant control of the speed at which a rowing machine operates. Therefore, if you are injured or tired you stop rowing and climb off. However, while many have flywheels or fans enclosed, some rowers have open access to moving parts. It is possible for clothing or even fingers (yours or someone else’s) to get caught while the fan or flywheel is still spinning. If there is a chance of this, for instance if you have small children, keep this in mind when choosing your machine.
The overall quality of a rowing machine is subjective. With one person placing importance on different criteria sets than another. Someone that exercises at home when the kids have been put to bed will value low noise levels more than someone putting the rower in their garage. At the same time someone who rows on the river during the summer and is using a machine to stay in shape over the winter, may want a machine that most closely replicates their on river rowing action.
Our advice is to give thought to all of the factors described above. Rank them or apply values to them for your own personal situation and objectives, then see which models align to your needs.
Our Top Picks
Best Rowing Machine Under £250
- Compact and foldable with inbuilt wheels make storage simple
- 10 levels of magnetic resistance
- LCD display screen with count for time, distance and calories
- Smooth and quiet rowing action
- Max user weight relatively low at 100kg
- Build quality average, more robust machines available
Suitable for: Good entry level machine for home use. The storage potential and quiet mechanism mean this is a great machine if you plan to use in a room in the house rather than a home gym or garage.
Best Rowing Machine Under £500
- Robust gym quality machine with max user weight of 130kg
- Chest strap for heart rate monitoring
- Advanced computer with pre-programmed workouts
- Comparatively heavy, so although it can be folded may not be easy to move
Suitable for: Great for home or garage gyms where storage is not an issue.
Best Rowing Machine Under £1,000
- Extremely durable commercial gym quality, max user 135kg
- Very smooth row action from nickel coated steel chain and air resistance flywheel
- Excellent computer console/monitor
- Can be separated into two pieces for easy storage
- High price tag (although reflects quality)
Suitable for: Top level piece of kit for those looking to take rowing seriously. Off season fitness for rowing team members, high spec home gym or private club.
Best Rowing Machine For Home Storage
- Space saving technology and built in wheels ideal for home use
- Over-size pivoting pedals for comfort
- Decent monitor tracking all of the relevant data with 20 workout apps
- Doesn’t provide heart rate data
- Not as robust as over models – trade off for space saving
Suitable for: Serious home user that is short on storage space.
Read full detailed review here
Best Rowing Machine For Low Noise Levels
- Top in class for low noise level of the mechanism
- Very smooth action
- Folds upwards for efficient storage
- Weight limit of 130kg and feeling of durability is at the low end for the price point
- Console layout not a strong as other machines, although has relevant metrics they are harder to read
- Lacks pre-set workouts
Best Water Rowing Machine
- Very good looking piece of equipment, made of hardwood, either Ash or Honey Oak
- Eco-friendly, built from sustainable wood, for each tree used in construction 2 are planted
- Smooth water mechanism makes rowing sensation as similar to real rowing as possible
- Simple construction of hardwood and water means the parts are extremely hard-wearing and long lasting – reflected in generous warranty
- Wood and water machines are an expensive option
Final Word on Finding the Best Rowing Machine for You
We hope you found this article helpful. If we have aided you along the path of selecting the best rowing machine to match your needs, you are getting the most from your exercise routines, and your fitness goals are on track, then we have fulfilled our objective. Happy rowing!
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